Core Components

The model

Connecting generations to address social needs

  Core Components of Intentional Neighboring

Intentional Neighboring doesn’t just happen when people live next door to each other. Years of practical experience and research have led us to identify eight core components (three foundational values and five essential design patterns) that comprise the key underpinnings of the Intentional Neighboring paradigm.

Each component represents a critical difference from “conventional” practice. When some component is missing, it diminishes the power of Intentional Neighboring to transform a collection of housing into, as described by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation: “an extended family neighborhood with a shared purpose: supporting one another through the challenges of growing up, growing old, and growing together.”

Download list of core components (pdf)

  Foundational Values

The core of Intentional Neighboring is the value it places on the formation and sustaining of caring relationships. Of special significance is the value it places on the relationships, and their contributions to well-being, created by both older adults and those considered most vulnerable—two groups for whom society has generally has low expectations. These values must be woven into the fabric of neighborhood life on a daily basis.

Intentional Neighboring involves embracing three foundational values:


Embracing the power of relationships

A core belief underlying Intentional Neighboring is that everyone has the capacity to form caring relationships. Through these relationships, well-being is fostered for people of all ages, even in times of change, crisis, or suffering.

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A child hitches a ride with a disabled veteran "grandparent" at Hope Meadows.

Reframing vulnerability

Where there is Intentional Neighboring, residents who are vulnerable are viewed as friends, neighbors, and family – as caring and contributing community members.

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Older adults are engaged in the commmunity

Older residents are engaged in the community

Older residents are obligated to engage regularly in a variety of supportive activities (mentoring, tutoring, gardening, etc.) while also being a caring friend, neighbor, and surrogate grandparent. Engagement, viewed this way, becomes a way of life and enables older ...

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  Design Patterns

While shared core values are critical to the success of an Intergenerational Neighboring initiative, other key characteristics also contribute by creating an organizational “scaffold” upon which a network of relationships can emerge and proliferate. We call these distinctive features design patterns, following the lead of architect Christopher Alexander. Design patterns are broad guidelines that can be implemented in various and often innovative ways. Together they form an intuitive template for creating opportunities and supports for successful interaction and long-term flourishing, and when implemented flexibly and creatively, can resolve the natural tensions entailed in forming community out of diversity.

There are at least five design patterns which appear to be integral to Intentional Neighboring:


A key focus on vulnerability

Vulnerable families and vulnerable individuals provide the organizing focus of the community -- its reason for being. This focus provides a source of identity and community cohesion where residents become problem-solvers rather than recipients of services.

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Presence of three or more generations

Neighborhoods are designed to include residents spanning at least three generations. Complex interactions and relationships developing among three or more generations give rise to a more robust culture of Intentional Neighboring.

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Embracing diversity

Diversity is deliberately cultivated. It enhances the quality of Intentional Neighboring, helping to generate creative solutions to complex problems while reducing stigmas, stereotypes, and intolerance.

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Physical design facilitates relationships

The physical design dimensions of a community based on Intentional Neighboring are vital as a context for the formation and development of caring relationships across and within generations, and among a diverse population.

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Transformational leadership

Intentional Neighboring requires transformational leaders – people who empower residents, including those who often are stigmatized because of their challenges, to become active partners in working to accomplish the neighborhood’s mission.

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