Meet Ryan Harris: Sydney’s Advocate for Friendly and Walkable Neighbourhoods

by Little BIG

Ryan Harris is a lifelong Sydneysider who’s all about making his city a better place. With a love for walkable neighborhoods and the social life of urban spaces, he feels most at home in Summer Hill. 

Ryan’s journey with Little BIG House started like many good things in life – by chance. Little BIG House’s acts of kindness during lockdown left a lasting impression, from jazz trios playing outdoors to chocolates left at his door—these gestures made him feel connected to a community.

Now part of the Management Committee, Ryan helps explore ideas for community events that cater to different groups and needs. For example, he envisions casual food events like sausage sizzles with an open-mic for neighbours to flex their musical talent in a relaxed and social environment. He loves the idea of neighbours having an excuse to get together, have a casual chat and connect in a fun and low-pressure way.

Ryan with members of the Management Committee

When he’s not busy with community projects, Ryan works as an urban planner. But if he had to pick a fantasy job it would be running a fashion business. He’s fascinated by personal style and loves people-watching to see how people express themselves. He’s an avid reader, especially of books that touch on social issues like recent favourites “Empire of Pain” about the opioid crisis in America and “Wellness” by Nathan Hill, a satire about modern marriages. He also loves exercising outdoors while listening to music and has been learning guitar from a neighbour, with Future Islands “For Sure” being a favourite tune. And yes, he’s a Swiftie—an unexpected fandom triggered by receiving a friendship bracelet at work.

Ryan cares deeply about cities and how they can be great places to live. He is politically engaged and sums up his motto on policy issues as “make life easier for young people.” He pursues this mission in his own career by focusing on making cities more walkable, ensuring access to housing and job opportunities, and fostering a healthy built environment. Ryan is more than just a resident of Summer Hill—he’s a dynamic force for community spirit and urban vitality. Whether he’s planning a local event or admiring its public spaces and street style, he’s always thinking about how to make life better for those around him.

Here’s more about Ryan:

I’ve been part of the Summer Hill community since…

2019. I originally lived in Summer Hill between 2014 and 2015 but returned to live in the Flour Mill five years ago.

My favourite thing about the Little BIG House / the work the Little BIG Foundation is doing is…

It creates opportunities for casual interaction among neighbours which is the foundation of deeper connection. That takes deliberate effort compared to other environments like work, school or hobby groups. It also creates a community of practice among the volunteers by bringing them together and upskilling them. I really admire the effort and warmth that Sarah, Maggie, Faith, and Susannah have  invested in the Flour Mill for those reasons.

The top thing on my bucket list is…

Raise a loving family in a beautiful home while enjoying a fulfilling career, maintaining good health and indulging in life’s pleasures. I wrote that on a notepad in a café in Oslo in 2018 during my first ever trip overseas. It still rings true to me and I have it framed in my apartment. I would add to it now that I want to savour and reciprocate the company and generosity of all the people who will animate those experiences.

I’m most grateful for…

My physical and mental health. Regular dinners with my grandparents. The respect, advice and humour of my friends. The opportunities for educational attainment and social mobility in Australia. The beauty, conviviality and amenity of Summer Hill. The small gestures of friendly neighbours and colleagues—a warm smile, a shared slice of apple, a wry observation, a casual compliment, an invite to drinks. Keeping warm on cold days. The internet. Music. I could go on.

The last little BIG thing / action I did for someone else or received from someone was…

At the recent sausage sizzle hosted by Little BIG, a neighbour spontaneously lent me a guitar when I said I wanted to learn my favourite songs. And I now do guitar lessons with another neighbour every week. Those unpredictable moments reduce barriers to action compared to when I try to plan and do things by myself. In fact, I am still shopping for the ‘perfect’ guitar (which does not exist).

As for my own gestures, I feel I could do more. I am consciously trying to be a warmer person this year. That ranges on a scale of smiling and making eye contact with people, to initiating small talk or inviting people to coffee or drinks.

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