Socially valued role of neighbor

One of the major role domains described by Wolfensberger (SRV monograph, 3rd (rev) ed., p. 30) is that associated with one’s residence or domicile. One of the socially valued roles within this domain is that of good neighbor. What good things of life can this valued role potentially open the door to? Such things as a place to call home, belonging within a relatively small-scale social body, positive interactions with neighbors, friends, opportunities, positive expectations, respect, etc.

Social roles include certain responsibilities and behaviors (SRV monograph, p. 25). What behaviors and responsibilities are part of the valued role of good neighbor? Greeting the neighbors, not being noisy, keeping the yard clean, not being nosy, visiting the neighbors, inviting neighbors over, offering to help neighbors (e.g., pick something up at the store), etc.

In my experience, residential service programs can too often and too easily use the role language of neighbor about service recipients (e.g., in a group residence or staffed apartment), but without service recipients actually filling the valued role of good neighbor. One litmus test is, does the service recipient actually receive any of the ‘good things of life’ from the valued role of good neighbor? Another is, do they carry out any of the responsibilities of the good neighbor role? If so, how often? We can also consider the role communicators (e.g., setting, social juxtapositions and grouping, activity, language, appearance, etc.): do these individually and together communicate the role of good neighbor for a particular person?

Good neighbor is a valued role that can open the door to some of the good things of life, but it does not come automatically. Remember John McKnight’s warning: “One wonders how it is possible, in a small town of 5,000 people, to find a typical house and have five residents live there for ten years without any effective community relationships. Yet human service systems designed to provide what are called ‘community services’ often have managed to do just that” (John McKnight, ‘Redefining Community’ in The Careless Society: Community and its Counterfeits, NY: Basic Books, 1995, p. 116).

One Response

Subscribe to comments via RSS

  1. Written by Greg Dietz
    on May 6, 2013 at 10:55 am
    Reply · Permalink

    After having recently analyzed the “good things” for a discussion on Social Role Valorization, this piece really stood out to me because it is a key example in illustrating how certain people in life (namely those of “valued” social status) take certain things for granted.

    McKnight’s thoughts on residential homes within a community hits the nail right on the head. It is easy to say that people will be moving into a home in the community, but how much are these individuals truly a part of the community? Surely if service workers are the only “neighbors” that these individuals have, is it really serving them and their needs?

    These individuals should be getting opportunities to meet those who live around them, visit local stores, events, and community functions, and truly become a part of the town or city that they are living in. As Wolfensberger stated in his theme revolving around interpersonal identification between valued/devalued people, “the less people identify with each other, the less likely they are to want and do good things for and to each other” (p.119).

    With this in mind, if individuals are not given the chance to be a part of a close-knit community, are not offered the opportunity to create meaningful and natural relationships, and are not extended the chance to be a good neighbor, those living around them are likely to build up a proverbial fence, keeping individuals who are “different” out of their lives. If a setting is going to be called “residential”, then with that title should come all of the good things that go along with residing amongst others.

    Wolfensberger, W., (2004). A brief introduction to social role valorization: A high-order concept for addressing the plight of societally devalued people, and for structuring human services (3rd ed.). Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University.

Subscribe to comments via RSS

Leave a Reply