The positive portrayal of neighbourhoods

08 February 2018

The reputation of an area can affect just about everything from house prices and investment to the pride of local residents who live there.

The portrayal of an area is often linked to the perceptions of people living or working in an area, including estate agents, researchers, public sector officials and journalists.

There is some evidence that living in an area with a negative reputation can impact upon the opportunities and wellbeing of local residents who live there.

Negative perceptions of a neighbourhood can sometimes come from those who don’t actually know the area very well, with some residents believing negative perceptions don’t reflect the reality of their area.

Recent research undertaken by a collaboration of researchers based at the NIHR School for Public Health Research (SPHR) showed that when residents in neighbourhoods with a negative perception took steps to create a more positive image, it worked.

The research was part of the Communities in Control study, which is evaluating the health effects of the Big Local programme. This study adds to the research about effective ways to support greater control and impacts on health, which is why it is so important.

The study looked at two areas between 2011 and 2016, and focused on newspaper coverage. In both areas, nearly 40% of the coverage was negative for the neighbourhood.

Where areas took direct action to combat stigma, this seemed to be effective in promoting more positive images.    

The study found that actions to tackle reputation included a range of approaches: publicity work to promote good news stories in the media, festivals and cultural events to encourage people to visit or physical improvements to neighbourhoods to increase pride in the area.

At People’s Health Trust, the approach is about supporting the positive image and portrayal of neighbourhoods right from the beginning.

Working to create positive publicity can improve the image of areas through drawing attention to good news stories about what is happening and the ways residents are involved – it is also a great way to showcase what is happening locally.

The Local Conversation in Penparcau have built a strong relationship with the media and have a strong identity in the community, wearing branded t-shirts when they are out and about.

They have put a lot of thought and time into strengthening their identity, and often get positive media coverage highlighting the great work happening in the community.

Community events like festivals can be another way to encourage people to visit an area, connect people within a community and change the way that residents in an area identified with the places where they lived.

Residents involved with the Local People project in Foxhill, in Bath have also been working to improve outdoor spaces for the whole neighbourhood.

Residents created a wish list for improvements they wanted in a local park, and presented it to Bath and North East Somerset Council, who manage the park.

Council Officers were encouraged by the residents’ enthusiasm, and were happy to approve many of their ideas.

Changes included brightly painted seating in the park, which has become a central hub for the community and was promoted in the local media.

To find out more about the research, click here.



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