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Catalyst analysis – Is community connection hardwired?

The Catalyst social & environmental research program provides an ongoing monitor of consumer sentiment towards a range of issues facing society.

Our guest analyst and Director of community-based events company Silver Lining Strategy, Stu Speirs, is a strategist who has helped develop some of Australia’s best-known events over the past decade. Stu used August’s Catalyst results to investigate consumer sentiment towards their communities. Stu’s thoughts on what the data tells us are as follows.

Is community connection hardwired?

When it comes to mental health and general wellbeing, there is an ever-growing body of evidence that points to the critical importance of community and feeling connected to those around us. To that end, as we endure a global pandemic with no obvious endpoint, this month’s Catalyst analysis focuses on two key, five point scaled questions:

  1. How connected do you do you feel to your local community?, and
  2. I am proud of my local community (five points scale of extent to which they agree with that statement)

Whilst the correlation between the two data points was particularly strong (r=0.72), what stands out to me initially is that 10% more Australians felt proud of their local community (60%), than felt connected (50%) to it. This suggests a halo effect exists where some, whilst not necessarily actively connecting with others, feel positive about it. By extension, that would likely indicate a feeling that if they really needed support and connection, they could find it locally.

That halo effect suggests that we can all make a difference to that feeling of pride in our local community. Leaving excess lemons out on the nature strip for passers-by, offers of assistance and a lending hand through community noticeboards, messages of hope written in chalk on the pavement, a story in the media that highlights a kind gesture or initiative, these are all ultimately small gestures, but would undoubtedly add to the sense that there are others around us that care.

To provide deeper insight into these results, we analysed and split the data by age, gender, geography, employment status, household income and whether the respondent was a parent.

There were three key points that stood out.

  1. Those that were full time employed felt the most connected (60% “very connected” or “connected”) and proud (65% “strongly agree” or “agree”) of their local community. This finding was consistent across cities, regions, age brackets and our other variables. 
  2. Parents were also markedly more positive in their responses with 56% feeling connected, and 64% feeling proud.
  3. Despite having very different experiences of the pandemic, not only during the sampling period (August 18-22), but since the onset of COVID-19, the comparison between our five capital cities and regional areas did not yield particularly different sets of results. The one exception to this being those without full-time employment in Adelaide were distinctly less positive that the rest of the nation.

Points 1 & 2 above suggest that those that have connection with others hard-wired into their lives via employment or having children, are better off. Does this pose a question around who we support in our society? Are those without full-time employment in need of more support than they are getting? How can we as a collective provide that support?

Whilst I ponder those questions I’m off to draw a big love heart in bright red chalk on my local pavement…

by Stu Speirs, Director Silver Lining Strategy

Get the monthly Catalyst data release here.