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Over the Fence
Anthony Corso | Stratford Court

The Art of Neighboring is at the forefront of a national movement to renew local communities through “neighboring.” The book reminds us of the value of pursuing relationships with people who are neighbors and suggests that citizen participation as practiced in many communities seems ineffectual beyond reacting to a single issue that unites some neighbors at a point in time.

The Art of Neighboring offers a new approach based upon the following observations: Lofty fences, some real—some imaginary, act as impairments separating and isolating individuals and families from one another. Such isolation impedes “neighboring” or ongoing communications and the evolution of a community environment. In many cases the situation persists despite persons living next door to one another for 10 or 20 years!

Proponents of “neighboring” regret the situation and offer examples of creative solutions and recommendations generated by “neighboring” programs. The programs frequently originate as a joint effort of spiritual leadership and a governmental jurisdiction. The “spirituality” context seems to originate from a redefinition of conversation as one that arises from a profound relationship among individuals--a recognized need for trusting, open conversations and an intense respect for the thoughts and suggestions of others. If conducted in this context “neighboring” has proven to nurture solutions to many community problems, generate ideas, policies and programs for improving community life and has led to significant physical and social improvements.

Ken Blanchard, the noted author of One Minute Manager, maintains that neighboring is more than a problem solving technique. In numerous cases it has proven to be a contributing factor in the enhancement of an “authentic community.” Blanchard, states, “Building relationships with our neighbors leads to better communities, better cities, and ultimately a better world.”

There are countless reasons why “neighboring” with its demand for high-quality, effective communications can be difficult. We are all individuals with different ways of viewing the world, different biases, objectives and vulnerabilities. We so often judge what we hear based upon our own experiences and predispositions.

Effective communication begins with mutual respect, a give-and take exercise that should ideally conclude with a better understanding than was present at the beginning. This requires accepting the transcendent quality of others, and their innate value and capability to contribute.


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