SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Nearly 150 communities in Missouri have a "community betterment association" of some type. The goal of the community betterment association can vary from town to town.

Some betterment groups are official members of the Missouri Community Better Association, and some are not. But generally, every town with a betterment association is looking to create a network of people who gather, learn, and share to improve the economic conditions, quality of life, and sense of place in their local community.

David Burton, a community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension for over 20 years, says encouraging active "neighboring" can meet all three community goals. Burton is at the forefront of a national movement that recognizes the importance of neighboring in community development.

"At least in Greene County, the goal of our neighboring project is to encourage the development of engaged neighbor relationships, foster healthy neighborhoods, develop grassroots leaders, and fund neighborhood connectors in underserved communities," said Burton. "Research supports that this grassroots approach to community development can make a real difference."


As part of the Engaged Neighbor program with MU Extension, Burton promotes the growth of a Missouri Good Neighbor Week. There is an upcoming training to learn more about the vision for Missouri Good Neighbor Week (Sept. 25 – Oct. 1) and how you can play a role in helping communities and organizations in your county celebrate this idea of engaged neighboring.

The first training is June 16, and registration is open online at

According to Burton, there are steps that community betterment groups can be taking now to promote neighboring and also to help make neighboring a statewide focus. Examples include:

·       Create neighborhood-focused events or activities in your community.

·       Find a way to celebrate Missouri Good Neighbor Week in your community this fall.

·       Get organizations and businesses to reward (or highlight) examples of good neighboring.

·       Host book studies on neighboring or sense of place books in your community.

·       Get local leaders registered for Neighboring 101 on the MU Extension website.

·       Take your own actions and serve as an example of a good neighbor by learning the names of your eight closest neighbors, using their names, and connecting with them.

MU Extension will host an online process for Missourians to report neighboring acts and nominate outstanding neighbors as part of Missouri Good Neighbor Week. Awards will then be announced and distributed via county or community partners.


Helping to create healthy, engaged neighbor relationships is an essential part of community betterment. But being an engaged neighbor is not so much a program as it is a lifestyle.

 "Government and other groups cannot force people to become engaged and active neighbors. People can't even be forced to be friendly neighbors. But a community group can set the table for people to be educated about the value of neighbors and even encourage neighboring connections to be made.," said Burton. "It is a low and slow process."

University of Missouri Extension has various resources online ( and classes like Neighboring 101 and Neighborhood Leadership Academy that can help an individual take steps to become a more engaged neighbor.

There are even great books available on the subject of neighboring.

"No matter the classes you take and the books you read, you eventually have to take action and make changes in your own life. Find some time for your neighbors and even turn off Netflix, get up off the couch and go to your front yard to engage with the people living behind the eight closest front doors to yours," said Burton. "The choice is up to you, and your success depends on making choices in favor of developing neighbor relationships."


Burton says numerous studies show that most American's have stopped engaging with their neighbors and also trust other people less and feel lonelier. Burton says it is a dangerous combination for our communities, our nation, and our health.

"Some of the research shows dramatic impacts from this lack of neighboring," said Burton. "What if I told you that the decline in America of trust for our neighbors is costing you $16,000 a year. Would you be interested then?"

What if you learned that crime in your neighborhood or small community could be decreased by 60% just by taking the time to get to know and build relationships with your immediate neighbors. Would you be interested then?

"What if I told you that this resistance to knowing and having relationships with our neighbors is leading to an epidemic of loneliness in America, and feeling lonely has the same impact on your body as smoking a pack of cigarettes a day," said Burton. "Would you be interested in becoming an engaged neighbor then?"

Burton says he is out to change the narrative about neighboring in the American culture and across Missouri. A "good neighbor" is not someone who is quiet and leaves you alone. Instead, a good neighbor is someone who is actively engaged in their neighborhood and community and in building positive relationships with others.

"What if I told you that you can make a difference in your community? Begin by taking small steps in neighboring over an extended period we can change the narrative," said Burton. "Would knowing that you can make a different make you want to be an engaged neighbor?"


Neighboring is the art and skill of building relationships with the people who live in the closest proximity to you. Being a good neighbor offers tremendous health benefits, leads to reductions in crime, reduces loneliness, improves communities, and improves your quality of life.

University of Missouri Extension is at the forefront of a national movement recognizing the importance of neighboring in community development. MU Extension offers a "Neighboring 101" class along with annual neighboring events as a way to raise awareness and encourage others to focus on neighbors.

The annual events include LAWN (Lawn Art With Neighbors April 23-May 8), Won't You Be My Neighbor Day (March 20), and Missouri Good Neighbor Week (Sept. 25-Oct. 1) in the Springfield area.

To learn more about our "Engaged Neighbor" program or the impact of neighboring, go online to or contact David Burton by email or telephone at (417) 881-8909. "Becoming an Engaged Neighbor" can also be found on Facebook.



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