Starting an online community for your street is easier than you think. You know how to find and reach the people. Many residents already speak to each other. And it benefits everyone.
Robert Putman, in Bowling Alone, found the single difference between a prosperous region and a defunct one was the level of social capital (bonds between residents).
If you want to clean up the litter in your street, don’t grab a broom, build the bonds between members so they wont drop litter on your street. It serves to reason, if you want to improve the value of your home, you should increase the social capital of your street. You can do this easier than ever with online tools.
Where to Begin
Start simple. Create an online forum, blog or e-mailing list. Every member must be able to submit a comment/opinion within two clicks. Registration is optional. There are plenty of free options.
Now before you announce your community to the work you want to seed some content, identify early issues and highlight the top opinions.
Invite 3 – 5 people on the street to discuss some issues on your community. It might be upcoming events, graffiti, noise or topics relevant to your local neighbourhood. Focus on the future, not the past.
Growing your Membership
Now you need to grow your community membership. There are three ways of doing this.
- Go door to door. Write handwritten notes to members you want to join, explain how they can join and the big issues that you want their opinion on. This is quick and effective.
- Talk about members. If people believe they’re being talked about, they will join. Keep it constructive.
- Ask your existing members to invite people they believe support their views on the community. Start a poll and encourage support from other members of the street.
Bonding and Developing your community
Congratulations. If you’re community is getting some regular discussions and active members, it’s time to develop the community. Try to target some positive action. Like an informal barbeque for members to meet, a meeting at a local hall, a group petition on an important issue to your local government rep or resolve a common problem (e.g. parking, litter, derelict buildings).
Aim to have as many discussions as possible. Create specific forums/groups for certain issues. Identify areas of expertise members have on some issues. Learn the connections members have with each other.
Have fun stuff in there too. Resident of the week nominations. Amazing community stories and why not a gossip column?
Then Start The Local Newsletter
Now finish by creating the local newsletter. Be unique, don’t spend too much time on bad news. Focus on the good news. Here’s your tagline: no news isn’t good news. Good news is good news.
You can incorporate elements of hyper local. Interview residents on debates. Include pictures/stories from members.
Share Control of your Street’s Community
Once you’ve got this going, share power. Let other people have control of the community. Let anyone contribute an article to the local newsletter.
Update: Paul Johnston sends the fantastic example Harringay Online.