14 May Social Innovation Led by the Community Will Promote Sustainable Cities
Social housing communities, and the residents of those communities, are often overlooked resources in transitioning cities to a circular economy system. Social housing refers to a system that provides housing for below market value to residents, and circular economics refers to a system that reshapes consumption and production in cities to promote resource efficiency. By excluding the residence of social housing communities from decision-making processes a major impactor of resource efficiency is being overlooked: human behavior.
Human behavior is not so easily manipulated. One reason that people practice certain behaviors is the social norms in their environment. Another is being included in efforts to promote change. An example of this later and less researched approach, commonly referred to as the bottom-up approach, would be a housing board creating a recycling program, which then leads to higher levels of recycling in the housing complex. The evidence that points to this bottom-up approach being effective indicates that people want to be included in community systems and that this could be the key to impacting human behavior in cities.
When residents in social housing communities can vocalize which issues are important to them, they are likely to become more involved in that initiative. Participating in community decision-making not only improves resource efficiency, but also improves the quality of life of residents. Additionally, topics that residents choose to focus on for socially innovative projects likely include issue areas that will improve their health and wellbeing. For example, residents in a community may point to a lack of fresh produce in the area. This could lead to the development of a community garden where people learn skills, use their consumer power locally, have healthy options for food, and help prevent against a food desert.
Socially innovative community-driven projects have the potential to transform cities into more sustainable systems. Housing associations of social housing communities are in a unique position to change human behavior by empowering residents to charge social innovation projects. The result would be a healthier and more sustainable city.
To learn more about socially innovative ways to promote wellbeing in cities and to see the publication that inspired this post, follow this link: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2210670721002110