Updated: Nov 3, 2020
If you're one of approximately 1/3 of the global population who lives in a multi-resident apartment or condo building, we're willing to make a few bets about your relationship with your neighbours:
You're on a first-name basis with fewer than five other people in your building.
It feels really awkward to knock on a neighbour's door - whether to ask them to borrow a cup of sugar or to turn the bass down when you've got work the next day.
You feel at least a slight pang of fear if you receive an unexpected knock on your own door.
If any of the above sounds familiar, you're not alone. The culture of condo life in many big cities has been aptly described as "strangers living in little boxes in the sky". Social isolation is being recognized as a modern epidemic with serious mental and physical health implications. Ironically, in buildings where people are living in close proximity; sharing elevators, amenities, and the sometimes too-thin walls between their units; it is often more difficult to build community.
I've lived in condo buildings from my university days to my adult life with my wife and two children. I've always enjoyed the convenience of a managed property (no snowy driveways to shovel or flooded basements in the harsh Toronto winters!) and amenities like an onsite gym. But I've always felt that the lack of even basic community in buildings was a missed opportunity and a practical inconvenience when neighbours require an easy way to communicate with each other.
I started and managed a Facebook group for my building and have grown the membership to the point where it became a useful resource for everyone who engages with it. While it started off as people complaining to each other about property management issues, it has allowed many surprising acts of community: from the Mom who organized Trick-or-Treating in the halls of our building, to a bookcase full of donated books in our lobby's community library. When COVID-19 confined us all to our units, we saw even more of the potential for community, as people volunteered to help elderly and immuno-compromised neighbours to get groceries.
Unfortunately, Facebook, WhatsApp, and even the resident portals used by many building managers have some major limitations when it comes to nurturing the specific kind of community that can exist within a building. Even Nextdoor, a growing social media app that is specifically designed to connect neighbours, has a major blind spot when it comes to multi-resident buildings.
We started Naborino, because we believe that every multi-resident building contains an amazing potential community of neighbours. They just haven't found the tools and incentives they need to overcome the cultural and practical barriers to connection. We recognize that not everyone wants to become friends with the diverse group of people who decided to live in their building, but that there's are many benefits to establishing even a basic level of trust and familiarity.
So how are we going to motivate diverse groups of people, from different generations, lifestyles, and cultural backgrounds, who appear to have nothing in common but a mailing address, to sign up for a community app?
The answer is a powerful concept called "social e-commerce" and we can't wait to tell you more about it in our next post.