It’s a growing movement
Creating strong community connections in the face of today’s social challenges can be tough.
Today there are many forces which strain the social fabric of society, increasingly leaving people feeling disconnected from each other and the communities in which they live. These include factors like relocation, technology, divorce, the aging population, employment, health, disability and more.
The challenges are so broad, and affect so many people in such a variety of ways, that it’s pretty obvious no single solution can meet every single need. There is no silver bullet. There is certainly no way for a single organization to provide the answer on its own.
The good news is that no single organization has to.
Community organizations, local governments, non-profits, and even traditional businesses are increasingly working together to create positive outcomes that wouldn’t be possible if they were just working on their own.
The benefits of collaboration are astonishing. Communities are based on networks of connections between individuals, so when organizations work together, their impact isn’t just additive, it’s multiplied. Doubling the size of a community, for example, multiplies the size of its social network by a factor of four.
(If you’re not sure what I mean by this, here is a quick example for all the math buffs out there. A group of 100 people contains 4,950 potential friendship “pairs” between all the individual members of the group. If you increase the size of the community to 200 people, you suddenly have 19,900 potential friendship pairs.)
Every time two communities work together, they have the potential to quadruple their impact.
Helping communities connect
One of the ideas behind Stitch is that the Stitch platform can be used by existing community groups to achieve social impact goals.
In some cases that’s helping them provide better social outcomes and opportunities to their existing members. In other cases it’s the ability to promote themselves to the broader Stitch Community, reach more members, and increase their impact.
In all cases, it’s about collaboratively working to increase social connections in a disconnected world.
To be honest, we haven’t done a great job of making it clear how Stitch helps existing community groups until recently. If you ran an existing community group and you visited the Stitch web site, you wouldn’t find a lot to indicate that Stitch was built for you, or how to get involved.
But that’s changing.
Over the coming months we’re going to be working with an increasing number of community groups and community-oriented organizations to increase their impact.
We’ll be doing a lot of work to explain how community organizations can benefit from using the Stitch platform, how their members can benefit from being part of Stitch, and even how they can volunteer to make a difference through the non-profit Stitch Community (wipeoutloneliness.org).
We think one of the best ways to do this is to tell some of the stories of how other community organizations are getting involved, particularly where those organizations are impressive thought-leaders who are already doing amazing things for their communities.
With that in mind, let’s introduce you to Mather’s from Chicago.
Mather, a Chicago institution
Mather is a legendary Illinois institution that has been doing amazing work building communities for over a decade. We first came across Mather when we launched the Stitch community in Chicago, and hosted three events at the various Mather locations across the city as part of the Stitch Fall Festival in October.
We were blown away by everyone we met.
Mather is a not-for-profit organization that has a lot in common with Stitch. Part of what Mather does is provide a wide variety of programs, resources, and entertainment throughout the Chicago area for those age 50 and better. In a model created more than a decade ago, people come together to learn in lectures and discussions, exercise, enjoy a meal, watch a cooking demonstration, take hands-on art classes, play music, listen to music, take a day trip, watch a film… well, you get the idea.
Mather’s mission is to create Ways to Age Well, and the programs at its three Mather’s—More Than a Café locations are designed to meet the needs and desires of older adults in a setting that the New York Times described as “a sleek meld of Starbucks, Bally’s, and Elderhostel.”
Each Mather’s—More Than a Café includes a restaurant that is open to the public—all ages are welcome. The programs and resources—including a fitness center—are for those 50 and better, with no membership required. Programs, entertainment, and fitness classes have low fees or suggested donations, and many programs and resources are free.
Those familiar with Chicago may recognize the neighborhoods where Mather’s—More Than a Café can be found: Chatham, Norwood Park, and Portage Park.
Other Mather neighborhood offerings include programming similar to the Cafés’ offered in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood and in Morton Grove, Illinois. (All locations are chosen based on their large populations of older residents.) In total, Mather locations served more than 40,000 people last year.
Mather & Stitch
Once the team at Mather got an opportunity to learn about Stitch, it became clear there were lots of ways the two organizations could collaborate to help create social connections for Chicago residents.
The three Mather’s—More Than a Café are a natural home for Stitch social events and activities in and around those neighborhoods, and Stitch Community Champions are now hosting regular get-togethers at the cafes for new members to socialize and learn about the community.
Mather community volunteers get the opportunity to participate in Stitch, and extend the sorts of activities they do beyond the walls of the cafes and into the community more broadly.
And each Mather location is playing a role in helping promote the Stitch community to their customers, with fliers & handouts on display at each location, along with collaboration on shared activities and events. In 2020 we’re planning for a range of Mather activities to be posted on to the Stitch platform to help reach the community more broadly.
Mather is excited about partnering with Stitch.net in order to reach more people, as well as to add a new dimension to how our current customers Age Well. The growing number of fun and fascinating invitations being generated by Chicago Stitchers — and the ability to issue one’s own unique invitations — opens up a world of possibilities for people who already enjoy getting together to learn, eat, exercise, and more.
Mather will be encouraging customers to sign up on Stitch.net and give it a try. Get ready, Chicago!Kate Paz, Mather
Want to learn more?
If you run or are involved in your own community group and would like to learn more about how you can use or collaborate with Stitch, please get in touch. The sorts of community groups and organizations we are working with include:
- Charities & non-profits (Mather, Vinnies, etc)
- Local libraries
- Local government and councils (stay tuned for an upcoming blog article about the leading work that Parramatta Council in Sydney is doing in the area of social connections)
- Health & wellness organizations
- Community centers
- Volunteer groups
- Research organizations
- and more
Each organization is different, with different capabilities and goals for their communities. But all have one thing in common: they all aspire to make life better for the people they care about.
Stitch can’t take on the challenge of solving social isolation alone. By working together with organizations like Mather’s, however, we know we’ll be able to move mountains.
Won’t you join us?