Who took part in the first survey and where did it take place?

For the research project "The World Down My Street", we conducted a household survey in the spring of 2019. We spoke to 568 participants from four Berlin neighborhoods. A heartfelt thank you again to everyone who took part in this first survey!

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Our four neighborhoods differ in terms of urban location and characteristics: how people live (e.g. in apartment blocks or single-family houses), how long they have been living in the neighborhoods, whether they or their parents were born or grew up outside Germany, or how much money they earn. With the help of these different neighborhoods, we want to see whether the place where one lives plays a role in social support in day-to-day life.
We have renamed the four Berlin neighborhoods Apolda Springs (neighborhood in the east and periphery of the city), Borkum Rock (neighborhood in the west and inner-city area of the city), Coswig Gardens (neighborhood in the east and inner-city area of the city) and Dorsten Heights (neighborhood in the west and periphery of the city). These made-up names were chosen to preserve the anonymity of the locales. In this way, we hope to avoid putting the opinions about these neighborhoods front and center. Instead, we aim to find out for whom what opportunities and options (for overcoming challenges) available in the neighborhood are important in everyday life and for whom these result in advantages or disadvantages.

What did we investigate?

Problems we face in our daily lives are at times major and at times minor, and can include emotional stress or material hardship. The aim of the survey was to understand how the residents in the different neighborhoods dealt with challenges. What role does one's own neighborhood or other areas of the city play in this?

In the following sections you can read some of the answers to these questions. In addition, we will explain why the current survey on the COVID-19 crisis is important and expand on the previous findings.

How do respondents deal with everyday challenges?

How did people talk about challenges?

Despite the fact that many people today own a smartphone, in our survey almost 80% of all significant conversations exchanged social support for dealing with challenges face-to-face.

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This finding is relatively consistent across all age groups. Even those under 30 years of age exchange social support in person. Moreover, our respondents perceive digital exchanges (video chat and written chat) as being less helpful when it comes to support. Respondents who had a personal exchange rate their conversations as "very" helpful (51%), "rather" helpful (40%) and "not" helpful (7%). However, if you look at people who communicated digitally, the picture shifts: here, only 37% describe their conversations as "very" helpful, 49% as "rather" helpful and 10% as "not" helpful at all.

Where did people talk about challenges?

Another finding concerns the question of where people obtain social support in the face of challenges. One might assume challenges are mainly dealt with in one's own household. But the truth lies somewhere else. Only 35% of our respondents were exclusively at home when they spoke with other people about their problems. In the broadest sense, our respondents were on the move throughout the city or even elsewhere the world when they received support to help with challenges

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Most people make use of places like restaurants, pubs, cafes, bars, or the homes of friends, family, or colleagues. In other words, respondents found support mainly outside their homes. It is important to emphasize that people usually do not seek out social support intentionally, instead support often occurs by happenstance. Often a supportive conversation arises while we are doing something else: for example, when co-workers fall into conversation during a coffee break.
How important was the neighborhood for the exchange of support? Only 25% of those interviewed found social support within the neighborhood. 85% of those who left their home, found support within Berlin while 75% left their own neighborhood.

Who did people talk to about challenges?

The majority of our respondents spoke most often with good friends about their own challenges (40%). This was followed by members of the immediate family (26%) and partners (15%). Professional contacts (such as doctors, social workers or teachers) (8%), work colleagues (5%), casual acquaintances (4%) and the extended family (2%) are less likely to be the people with whom challenges were discussed.

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Taking a closer look at the individual neighborhoods, the distribution is slightly different: In Apolda Springs (east, peripheral location), the contacts mentioned are mainly members of the immediate family (33%), followed by good friends (25%) and partners (15%). In contrast, good friends play a much greater role (51%) in Borkum Rock (west, city center) than the immediate family (20%) and partners (15%). In Coswig Gardens (east, city center) good friends (40%) were also mentioned more often than the immediate family (26%) and partners (15%). In Dorsten Heights (west, peripheral location), good friends (34%) play a similarly important role as close family members (31%) in the exchange of support.

Why the survey amidst the COVID-19 crisis?

The preliminary findings from "The World Down My Street" project enabled us to show that prior to COVID-19 it was important for people to discuss challenges face to face. Our respondents found this exchange to be more helpful. They often received support from good friends, but also from family members, professional contacts or colleagues. They most often exchanged this support outside their homes, for example in restaurants, cafes or at work.

We believe that due to the lockdown and contact restrictions since March 2020, many of those opportunities have disappeared without substitutions in their place: people from different households were for the time being not allowed to meet up. Clubs, pubs, schools and aid organizations closed down. Meetings took place online or were cancelled.

In addition, many people have remained fearful for their health, jobs and livelihood. How are people in Berlin coping in such a crisis? How did they deal with the fact that their city and everyday life changed so drastically?

We believe this situation has been incredibly challenging for many Berliners. This survey is the first step in making this more visible. With your support, we plan to bring the findings to the public through lectures and news articles, and to this end your participation is greatly appreciated. Every completed questionnaire helps us come closer to this goal.