A new place for neighbourhood help

Artikkelikuva: A new place for neighbourhood help

Neighbours want to help each other, but many find it difficult to ask for help. Student Housing in the Helsinki Region (HOAS) and M2-Kodit tried out a digital neighbourhood bulletin board via which people have offered help, such as music lessons and shopping assistance.

Changes in a person’s life, such as the beginning of studies, a relocation or falling ill, often expose the person to loneliness and make them wish for their neighbours’ help. At the same time, many residents would like their own housing company to be more communal. An app for neighbourhood help aims to fix both problems.

Commu and Muotoilutoimisto 2Loops are implementing an application where residents can ask for and provide help within a closed group. The pilot’s objective is to build a sense of community and create a culture of sharing within housing companies. In the pilot, the Commu application, which has previously proven popular in neighbourhoods and local areas, is adapted for use by housing companies.

The KotiCommu app is being tried in two rental apartment buildings: a HOAS building in Kamppi and an M2-Kodit building in Oulunkylä.

“Many people move to a new city at the beginning of their studies, starting their studies without a social network. In student apartments, resident turnover can be high. Exchange students, in particular, can need help and communality in their new city and culture,” explains Director of Customer Relations Pia Jaakola from HOAS.

Guitar lessons and waste food provision in the same stairwell

In the spring, 2Loops surveyed residents’ views on the communality of housing companies. According to the results, 81% of the respondents would like to help their neighbours. So far, the KotiCommu app has been used to offer, for example, guitar lessons and dog walking assistance. People have also been donating goods, such as cat food.

At HOAS, the application has proven to be the most popular among people around the age of twenty, while at M2-Kodit, most of the users have been in the age bracket of 40–50. This shows that offering help in the neighbourhood is not just one age group’s thing. 

The application has received considerably more offers than requests. Based on the survey, people find it challenging to ask for help. At HOAS, 48% of the respondents would like to ask for help, but at M2-Kodit, no one was enthusiastic about submitting a request. Many stated that they do not want to bother their neighbours. 

A designated channel specifically for neighbours

KotiCommu serves not only as a channel for neighbourhood help but also as a channel for communication within housing companies. For example, the application can be used by a residents’ committee or housing company board to remind residents of shared sauna slots or yard cleaning events.

“The building completed in Oulunkylä was yet to establish a shared communication channel. We figured this would be a good starting point for trying something new. In terms of content, KotiCommu is different from social media channels, but its user interface is intuitive to learn,” explains Sustainable Development Specialist Kaisa Nisula from M2-Kodit. 

“The pilot has helped us understand the behaviour of residents in housing companies and what kinds of technological changes we need to develop the product further. Based on the feedback, we are confident that many housing companies will benefit from KotiCommu,” comments the founder of Commu Sami Ekmark.

The pilot is part of the Circular Green Blocks project’s Sustainable Neighbourhood pilot programme. The pilot programme’s aim is to try and co-develop solutions that bring necessary everyday services closer to residents and make everyday life easier.

The Circular Green Blocks – Sustainable city quarters as circular economy business promoters project (9/2021–8/2023) promotes circular and sharing economy in residential blocks together with housing companies, businesses and the City. The project is being implemented by the Helsinki Region Environmental Services Authority HSY, Forum Virium Helsinki, Aalto University and Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Union’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

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