Members in the spotlight: Neighbourly Lab

This month’s members in the spotlight are Neighbourly Lab.

Based in central London but working nationwide, Neighbourly Lab aims to use data, evidence and inspiration to increase social connectedness and community participation. A key focus is the roles of technology and social infrastructure – and creating projects at scale which can then be replicated more widely.

Recent projects by Neighbourly Lab have included a research project ‘The Magic of Local Community WhatsApp Groups’, which looked at how neighbours, community groups and volunteer networks used the messaging app. A key finding was that unlike some other forms of tech such as social media which can polarise opinion, local and grassroots-based WhatsApp groups facilitated greater face-to-face contact and increased social connections. You can read more about the project here.

Neighbourly Lab have also been piloting a behaviour change programme, called #ThankYouDriver as part of their Essential Mix project in parts of London to encourage greater kindness, through ‘micro-interactions’. Micro-interactions are small verbal exchanges which are low on effort, but cumulatively have been shown to improve feelings of wellbeing and reduce loneliness. Working with bus operators and Transport for London (TfL), they developed signage which encourages greater engagement between drivers and passengers, such as saying “hello”, “thank you” or “goodbye” as passengers get on and off. The results of the project are due to be reported later this year, but they are looking promising already.

Neighbourly Lab joined the Belong Network to share their recent research, especially the recent WhatsApp project. They are currently talking to councils about how to activate and support neighbourhood groups and would love to expand this work and would love to hear from anyone who is interested. They are also launching a programme about the way shops can play a bigger role in increasing social connection in communities and would love to hear from any retailers or people with experience and ideas in this area. In general the Neighbourly Lab team would love to meet like-minded people, hear about the work that they are doing and form new partnerships.

Tanya Popover, Neighbourly Lab Operations Manager, said: “Researching and understanding social cohesion is important because we believe it can significantly improve the quality of life of people. For example, when one feels rooted, appreciated and connected to their community, they can achieve more in their personal lives but also they can elevate the whole community. Meeting and networking with others working in the sector is important for Neighbourly Lab because we are all about sharing and collaborating. We believe that communities can excel only if we are united and learn from each other.”

If you are a member of the Belong Network and have a project or piece of work you would like us to share with other members, please contact