Hedy Graber from Migros about the #neighborhood initiative

by Christian Beck

Mrs. Graber*, are you a good neighbor?
You’ll have to ask my neighbors about that (laughs). What I do know is that I have great neighbors, reliable in all aspects of life, from watering flowers to philosophical discussions and of course in more serious cases. Being a part of this neighborhood is a privilege. Every person, whether young or old, contributes themselves and their opportunities to this amazing neighborhood.

What characterizes a good neighbour?
For me personally, it is the good feeling of knowing that – when it matters most – I can trust the people who live with me under the same roof. For me it also means a balanced measure of closeness and distance. I believe that the quality of good neighborliness is especially evident in challenging times. I have felt that in the last two years of the pandemic.

“This basic trust is important for a well-functioning society”

The Swiss have a rather distant relationship with their neighbours. This shows a representative study by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, which was commissioned by the Migros Culture Percentage and presented on Tuesday. Isn’t this realization really surprising to you?
Comprehensive and representative results are now available for the first time on how neighborhoods in Switzerland are doing. One result shows that almost half of the population belongs to the “distant” type. Despite their desire for a natural distance from their neighbors, they maintain a loving relationship. But the survey also shows that people generally trust each other. This basic trust is important for a well-functioning society. This finding from the survey makes me personally very happy.

Even the corona pandemic has not noticeably changed neighborly relations, as the study further shows. Isn’t that a bit worrying?
No, from my point of view it is not. The survey shows that there is basic trust in the neighbourhood. This high confidence is very valuable because it represents a potential that can be activated at any time if necessary. For example, when I give my neighbors the house key if they want to house guests, or in crises like the pandemic. The respondents stated that they had a much closer relationship with their neighbors and that they supported each other. Remarkably, after the peak of the crisis, this close relationship was reduced and for most it is now back to the way it was before.

There is also an urban-rural difference: people living in rural areas are satisfied with the current situation, while urban dwellers would like more contact. Can you have empathy?
Yes, that’s understandable to me. Over the past few decades, we have grown apart spatially and socially. In contrast to single-family houses in the countryside, we increasingly live in multi-family houses, next door to people with whom we have something in common beyond the same residence. This trend will be reinforced in Switzerland with increasing densification. In the future, we will (must) maintain more and more peripheral relationships with our neighbors, which cannot be mitigated by a spatial buffer zone such as a garden. So we have an increasing interest in getting together with our neighbors.

“As a retailer, Migros is an important place in the neighborhood for many people”

This study was not simply commissioned. Migros-Engagement now wants to launch the so-called #neighborhood initiative. What is it?
As a retailer, Migros is an important place in the neighborhood for many people – so it is important for her to be a good neighbour. For this reason, Migros Culture Percentage commissioned the major survey on neighborhoods in Switzerland. The results of the survey have confirmed Migros’ commitment to launching the #neighbourhood initiative, which will contribute to a good neighbourhood. The #naboinitiative consists of three different sub-projects.

And what do these three sub-projects look like?
We started on August 1 with a raffle for 500 Migros gift cards worth 500 francs for small neighborhood projects. This will be followed by an idea competition in autumn 2022, which will support larger neighboring projects with a contribution of up to CHF 50,000. For the first time, the Swiss population has the opportunity to influence which projects are to be supported and implemented. Because a pre-selection of the submitted projects will go to a public vote.

And the third sub-project?
The #neighbourhood initiative ends in May 2023 on Neighbors Day. I won’t reveal more about that yet.

“Even loose and distant relationships need a little care now and then”

The #naboinitiative is accompanied by a campaign from Rod Kommunikation (personal.com reported). What is the message of the campaign?
Even loose and distant relationships need a little care every now and then. So you can also rely on the neighborhood in the future for small and large emergencies.

Why is Migros as a retailer committed to good neighbourliness?
Especially in an increasingly digital, urbanized and anonymous Switzerland, it is important to ensure that relations with our neighbors continue to be cultivated and not disappear. In addition, the meeting with our neighbors is becoming more frequent as a result of the increasing housing density, which also increases the potential for conflict. For the relationship to remain consistent, it requires the commitment of people who are committed to good neighborliness.

And what good does it do for Migros?
With Migros’ social commitment, we want to strengthen social cohesion. Migro’s founder Gottlieb Duttweiler campaigned for the welfare of the population with the Culture Percentage. So this commitment is in Migro’s DNA and makes it unique to this day.

Back to your neighborhood: When was the last time you were truly surprised?
When my neighbors spontaneously invited me to dinner the other day – but not for the first time.


* Hedy Graber has been responsible for the society and culture directorate of the Federation of Migros Cooperatives since 2004 and is therefore responsible for the national activities of the Migros Culture Percentage and the Migros Pioneer Fund, which were launched in 2012.

Migros is committed to society with 160 million francs a year. Founder Gottlieb Duttweiler launched the idea in the early 1940s and included the Migros culture percentage in the articles of association in 1957 as an independent business purpose. Since 1979, the Migros Support Fund and since 2012 the Migros Pioneer Fund have also been part of Migros’ social initiatives and thus part of Migros’ commitment.

The Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) is an independent think tank within business, society and consumption. The Trend Research Institute is the oldest think tank in Switzerland. The independent foundation is supported by the Migros Culture Percentage.

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