The winning city from Fortune’s Best Places to Live for Families list is offering its residents $200 to get to know their neighbors

Fortune Well June 28, 2023

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The winning city from Fortune’s Best Places to Live for Families list is offering its residents $200 to get to know their neighbors

You can throw a party, meet your neighbors, and get paid to do so—that is, if you live in Cambridge, Mass. 

The East Coast city stationed on the Charles River announced it will give away $200 to residents who apply and get approved for a block party in their neighborhood. The town officials are even waiving the application fee of $25. 

Creating opportunities for residents to gather socially after years of isolation measures became a priority for the city in the last year, says Iram Farooq, the assistant city manager for community development in Cambridge. 

“People miss being in community with each other,” she says.

 
Cambridge is prioritizing community connections

In this year’s Fortune’s 50 Best Places to Live for Families list, Cambridge, Mass., ranked no.1, topping the charts on metrics ranging from quality of healthcare, aging resources and education, to community connectedness. 

For people looking to relocate, a great place to live is more than the resources offered—a strong sense of community is among the top considerations. Cambridge officials are taking note and investing in strengthening their residents’ bonds.

“We realized the importance of the outdoor streets as part of our public space network,” Farooq says, adding that the number of block parties has risen across the community since the announcement.

Residents who get the block party permit can use the money for the event in any way they choose—such as for food, games, and even a DJ, Farooq says. 

The city also gives block-party goers supplies from its “Play Street Kits,” which city workers drop off and pick up, and contain a variety of games, like Jenga and cornhole, as well as tennis and basketball equipment.

 

Community is vital for health

Beyond the fun of having neighbors who also serve as friends, having people to lean on is vital for our physical and mental health. The effects of loneliness are comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. 

“Relationships don’t keep us happy all day, every day because nobody’s happy all day, every day,” Dr. Robert Waldinger, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School at Massachusetts General Hospital and coauthor of the new book The Good Life, previously told Fortune. “What they do is they build a bedrock of well-being. They build a safety net. They build a sense that I got people in my life when I need them.”

With unexpected crises always on the horizon, building community resilience through routine connection can serve as that safety net, Farooq says. 

“People are not necessarily able to cope on their own, so the question is, what is the support system that people can rely on?” she says. “There’s so much that a city or any kind of government can do, and then there’s the support that comes from our neighbors and our broader community.” 

To apply for a block party, Cambridge residents must submit a flyer and get signatures from 25% of the neighbors in the closed-off area. Once approved, let the games (and party favors) begin. 

“It is a very granular kind of intervention, and it’s small,” Farooq says. “Instead of it feeling like something that the city has come up with and is doing to or for people, it is really something that is relying on a partnership with the community.”


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