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About one year after the city-wide launch of Hoplr in Deinze, 3,772 households (22.6%) have registered. Uniquely, this government’s Service Dashboard is managed by the Local Community Centre. This translates into communication with a strong focus on care, social cohesion and neighbour help. Looking for inspiration? In this article, you’ll read how the city of Deinze uses Hoplr for its transformation towards caring neighbourhoods.

  1. Launch Hoplr neighbourhoods in Deinze
  2. Neighbourhood communication to promote caring neighbourhoods
  3. Online community development work
  4. Hoplr neighborhoods in Deinze figures

Launch of Hoplr neighbourhoods in Deinze

In March 2020, the city of Deinze launched Hoplr in 5 neighbourhoods, as part of a pilot project. The city council wanted to see whether Hoplr could actually contribute to social cohesion within the local communities. Or as alderman for social affairs, Conny De Spiegelaere, described it: ‘warm, caring neighbourhoods where neighbourly interactions create a beautiful dynamic’.

Shortly after launching, the arrival of corona underlined the importance of these caring neighbourhoods once more. Hoplr quickly became a breeding ground for citizen initiatives and spontaneous neighbour help. A side-effect the city council wanted to extend to all seventeen of Deinze’s villages without hesitation.

One year, many safely delivered invitations and a digital campaign later, 3,772 households (22.6%) have registered to one of the 17 Hoplr neighbourhoods of Deinze.

“After one year, more than 22% of the Deinze households are registered to Hoplr. The citizens of Deinze are sending a strong signal that they want to know their neighbours, that their neighbourhood matters and that they want to stay connected in an increasingly individualistic, digitised world.”

Julie Lambrecht, Centre Leader Zeventiendorpen

Neighbourhood communication to promote caring neighbourhoods

Because of its distinct social approach, the city of Deinze has appointed Local Community Centre Zeventiendorpen (which translates into ‘seventeen villages’) as the administrator of the Service Dashboard. Head of Department Eva D’haene and Centre Manager Julie Lambrecht use the Service Dashboard and its neighbourhood communication tools in their quest for caring neighbourhoods.

Clear messages about care, social cohesion and neighbour help allow citizens to take better care of both themselves and each other, including the most vulnerable members of the community. Generally, we can distinguish five message types that contribute to caring neighbourhoods:

  • messages that underline social cohesion within the neighbourhood;
  • calls to get involved in activities that include informal help, care, social connection, volunteering, etc. within the neighbourhood;
  • practical information about the services, possibilities, etc. provided by social services;
  • awareness-raising that makes citizens better able to look after themselves and each other; and
  • social initiatives from the local community, civil society or government.

Below, we share some of the beautiful messages that Local Community Centre Zeventiendorpen published in the Hoplr neighbourhoods of Deinze; hoping they may inspire you.

Call to get involved: ambassadorship 10,000 steps
Deinze is looking for ambassadors who will become members of a panel that concerns itself with getting people to walk 10,000 steps per day.
Call to get involved: volunteer work calling single seniors
Deinze is looking for volunteers who can make some social phone calls to single seniors
Social initiative from government: neighbourhood budget
Citizens from Deinze can share their ideas to help make life in the neighbourhood as enjoyable as can be.
Call to get involved: vaccination buddies
Deinze calls on citizens to help and chaperone people who may have trouble getting their vaccination.
Practical information: subsidy for informal caretakers
Deinze lets citizens know that informal caretakers may be eligible for a subsidy and where they can apply
Social initiative from government: chat box
Citizens in need of a talk can come and visit the chat box which connects them to a community worker
Call to get involved: clearing snow at a neighbour’s house
Deinze urges citizens to offer neighbours help with shovelling the driveway
Raising awareness: heatwave
Deinze shares an image that helps people prepare themselves and others for a coming heatwave

Online community development

Now that the Hoplr neighbourhoods have really been kicked off, the city of Deinze is looking towards a next step to further stimulate this transformation into caring neighbourhoods.

Within the knowledge centre, Hoplr offers guidance within three programmes, including ‘Inclusion and community care‘. Community Development Expert Anastasia will advise the city of Deinze on how to better use Hoplr to support community work.

Anastasia has a lot of knowledge and experience regarding fieldwork, community building and social capital. She can be called upon by local governments to map the DNA of the neighbourhood, and thus connect stakeholders: initiator with volunteer, help requester with help provider,… Moreover, she helps community workers make optimal use of Hoplr’s functionalities. Local Community Centre ‘De Bosrank’ has now made its entry on Hoplr, using a verified community worker account.

Deinze’s Hoplr neighbourhoods in figures

After one year, the 3,722 Hoplr neighbours of Deinze have published 5,664 posts and 24,745 comments. Almost 65% of the online community actively participated in the conversation. Others merely read along, learning more about the stories of the neighbourhood.

By default, these neighbourhood conversations are not visible to external parties (the city of Deinze in this case). But Hoplr does allow users to explicitly share their messages with the local government. For example, if they are looking for help or follow-up. As such, citizens of Deinze have already shared 39 care questions, ideas and reports with the Local Service Centre: an initiative to distribute neighbour help flyers, a warning about burglaries, etc.

“Rarely have we seen a request for help go unanswered on Hoplr. Questions that are sent to the city are followed up within our services and correctly handled within the neighbourhood. We have seen some very nice and positive reactions to this.”

Eva D’haene, head of Zeventiendorpen about Hoplr in ‘Impuls’ magazine

Finally, thanks to the Service Dashboard, the city of Deinze has immediate access to many volunteers. Via their profile, Hoplr users can indicate in which ways they are able to be of service to the community. This varies from helping with tax returns to repairing bicycles. No less than 80 users have activated neighbour help in their profiles. And 68 Hoplr members want to be contacted by the city for volunteer work.

The city of Deinze has inclusion and neighbourhood care in its DNA, and now also in its Hoplr communication. Local Community Centre Zeventiendorpen is paving the way for caring neighbourhoods through neighbourhood communication. We are looking forward to the continuation of this inspiring cooperation, undoubtedly with a number of exciting neighbourhood projects in the offing. Or, as Mayor Vermeulen likes to describe it: “Hopla, with Hoplr!”

People photo created by katemangostar - www.freepik.com

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