Socioeconomic mixing

We’ve linked before to articles by Reimagining the Civic Commons, a group that does important en interesting work. In this case, they share some of the work being done around socioeconomic mixing and introduce a longer report on the topic.

[S]ocioeconomic mixing, a technical term for the simple yet powerful idea that interactions among people of different backgrounds, when facilitated in multiple ways over time, have the potential to bridge divides of race, income, geography and belief.

In downtown Memphis two parks adjacent to the Mississippi River became the Fourth Bluff, “a series of connected, vibrant and dynamic civic spaces. The goal: to intentionally design, manage and operate these spaces to welcome people of all races and backgrounds.”

In Akron, Ohio, people living in three neighbourhoods along the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail are being connected through permanent and temporary features and regular programming to establish the park as a “place of civic pride and play, bridging multiple diverse neighbourhoods and fostering economic development in Akron’s downtown.”

As the article reminds us, research has proven time and again that “time spent face-to-face with people from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds engenders more trust, generosity, and cooperation than any other sort of interaction.” And that people who have access to more shared spaces like parks and public libraries are more trusting of others and happier with their neighbourhoods.

The authors present 6 insights for diverse and welcoming public spaces; from a focus on the quality of civic assets to adopting socioeconomic mixing as the desired outcome that can be measured and maintained.

To put it simply: the more we inhabit space with and interact with others who have different lived experiences, the greater our capacity to develop the individual connections that create greater access to opportunity, increase empathy, reduce loneliness and improve health. All of these are important building blocks of an equitable and socially resilient community.