The Near Neighbours programme brings together people in religiously and ethnically diverse communities, to create relationships of trust and to help people transform their neighbourhoods for the better.
It was first set up in 2011 and is a partnership between Church Urban Fund and the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England. It is funded by the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Near Neighbours emerged from the recognition that some neighbourhoods in England have a number of different faith and ethnic communities living close to each other; however, these communities rarely interact with one another. In addition, these communities are also often located in areas of deprivation, with residents sharing common concerns for a better community. Despite this shared concern they don’t come together to talk or act on this as much as they could.
The programme recognises that it is local people, in local communities, that are the ones who are ideally placed to identify and develop solutions to improve their own neighbourhood. Thus Near Neighbours brings people together; breaking down misunderstanding and developing trust, and helps them to act to change their communities for the better.
To achieve this, the programme has three main strands of work. First it is working through co-ordinators based in local hubs, across several key communities in England. They are working to strengthen, develop and deepen networks and action in local communities.
The second strand is working through our national partners. Our partners contribute to the programme with training, expertise and resources. They develop the networks and capacity of local communities and organisations through sustainable initiatives that will continue to impact long into the future. This includes work with teenagers, faith leaders, women, young leaders, and community workers.
The third strand is a small grants fund, providing seed capital for local groups and organisations who are working to bring together neighbours; to develop relationships of diverse faiths and ethnicities and also to improve their communities. Any group or organisation can apply for a grant – it can be a faith group or community group, for example.
Near Neighbours will be working in the north in: Burnley, Oldham, Rochdale, Bury, Dewsbury, Bradford, and Leeds; in the midlands in: Nottingham, Leicester, Birmingham, Sandwell, Dudley, Wolverhampton and Walsall; and in the South in Luton and London.
This is a practical means by which we can follow in Jesus’ commandment for us to “love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-40). As we seek the good of our communities, we can love our neighbours by working together to transform our streets and cities. God’s call to Jeremiah is to “seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7).
In London, Near Neighbours supported the work of Sophia hubs who have been running a multi-faith business mentors project. This was to identify business people from the faith communities in Seven Kings and Newbury Park and train them to act as mentors to new entrepreneurs.
Local people started to get to know each other through exploring this common desire to regenerate Seven Kings together. Their work has been closely tied into a number of local Asian communities. Sophia hubs developed a relationship with local Hindus living near the church centre and have now a good link with the local synagogue. There were also several local Muslims they got to know through the project.
Their co-ordinator found that the project served to “hear about the ways faith connects with work and enterprise in different traditions and to begin to explore and dialogue together about what Seven Kings needs are and constructive ways forward.” Near Neighbours seed funding has meant that the project continues to thrive beyond the initial funding period.
You can get more information about Near Neighbours programme from their website: http://eauk.co/NearNeighbours You can also find Near Neighbours on Twitter and Facebook.
The Near neighbours small grants fund is open for applications from June.