In groups we trust

As citizens lose trust in institutions across Europe and the US, they’re placing more faith in family, friends and other peers. The trend’s set to revolutionise the way households, living spaces and communities are organised, built and run.

As levels of institutional trust continue to tumble, individuals are increasingly seeking out the physical and emotional support of their peers. More and more people are surrounding themselves with a trusted “framily” of relations, close friends, neighbours, work colleagues and members of shared interest groups. And greater value is being placed on interpersonal relationships and communication, social leisure and peer-driven decision making.

Covid has accelerated the trend. Local communities and online friend networks provided vital physical and emotional support for those in lockdown, and were acknowledged for doing so.

The Community Spirit trend has major implications for the future. It’s set to impact where, and how, people are going to live; what they’ll need to do so; and how they’ll want their communities to be run.

At Next Big Thing we predict three major developments coming out of the trend.


1. Household composition will be transformed

More and more people are starting to see the value of shared living space. After decades of shrinkage, it looks like household size is about to rise again. A desire for communality is one of several factors driving growth in three generation households. Flat sharing is set to increase too, not just among the young or low income. And co-living and Live Work Play spaces will prove more and more popular, especially among the hugely pro-community Millennials. Think dorm-style developments, streaming subs-driven entertainment rooms and shared kitchens, with consequent opportunities for retail and restaurant sales and sponsorship.

2. Local neighbourhoods will take centre stage

People are placing more value on their day to day environments and work/life balance. Combined with a rise in home working, this will drive citizens to take greater interest in their local neighbourhoods, and seek more influence over them. This will pave the way for walkable ‘15 minute cities’, rising bicycle and e-bike sales, and greater citizen involvement. There’s likely to be more space on the High Street for local entrepreneurs, and more sharing of goods between neighbours. Organisations will need to ‘act local’, as residents prove warier of ‘outsider’ companies. But there will be more opportunities to drive local loyalty by sponsoring neighbourhood amenities. The trend could also drive a shift away from cities towards more suburban and rural living, as people begin to value good local amenities over an area’s proximity or transport links to big population centres.

3. Communities will become more autonomous

Today’s technologically-enabled citizens are increasingly protesting government, institutional and business influence over their lives. For many, this is manifesting in an attempt to take back control over local institutions and planning. As this grows, we’ll see more place shaping: close citizen involvement in local development. Some co-living spaces and neighbourhoods will develop into self-sufficient ‘bubbles’, determining everything that happens within their boundaries.

The more influence residents gain over their neighbourhoods, the more they’ll seek power for them. This could drive growth in citizen-led autonomous communities, from prepper groups and micro-communes to Seasteading communities and even city states. Networks that develop between these communities could have a huge influence over national and global politics.