A three-in-one post with neighborly goodness …
Did you you know 7% of American adult Internet users are members of neighborhood e-mail lists or forums? That is over 10 million people. That’s great, but why not 20 million?
The goal is to celebrate online places where you can connect with your neighbors online by helping people find the spaces that exist or become inspired to start new ones in their area. Tentative date – first full week in February. Start small in 2011, then repeat big and better each year.
The domain name will be MeetYourNeighborsOnline.com (and .org). We also have MeetYourNeighboursOnline.com, but we need volunteers from Canada/UK/Australia/New Zealand etc. to lead efforts for those countries this year or future years before we can responsibly cover more than the U.S..
UK Neighbourhoods Online Study
The London-based Networked Neighbourhoods has released a set of extremely important studies on “the social impact of citizen-run online neighbourhood networks and the implications for local authorities.”
In the UK, the popular term “community site” is essentially a mix of online community news (place blogs) with our Issues Forum model using new terms like social networking. While most of the previous government funded UK “e-democracy” work focused on council-centric efforts, I see this new exciting work building on past Issues Forum research by the Oxford Internet Institute from 2005. Back then we were a complete outlier, now with our own citizen-based UK work building in Bristol and Oxford at the neighbourhood-level I feel like we have a home. (We are still a bit of an outlier because we insist on e-mail publishing options for strong inclusion and the use of real names as the cornerstone for building community trust, ensuring greater influence with elected officials, and it is a heck of lot less work for volunteers to run because people are more civil.)
Their materials are extensive and so important that I am going to list them all here!
- Research Summary (4 pages)
- Introduction, background and extended summary
- Research Report, Section 1: Social Capital and Cohesion
- Research Report, Section 2: Supportive & negative behaviour in local online spaces
- Research Report, Section 3: Empowerment, civic involvement and co-production
- Research Report, Section 4: Relations with Councils
- Research Report, Section 5: The future for Citizen-run Neighbourhood Websites
- Typology of Citizen-run Neighbourhood websites
- Council Survey Report
- The Research Context
- Guide for Councils: Video interview resources
- Guest paper: Broadcast media
For more context:
- Neighbourhoods blog of Kevin Harris -Report co-leader – Note his post on inclusion related to recent research of Keith Hampton a leading neighborhoods online researcher (we need more researchers to dig into this awesome field)
- Hugh Flouch – Report co-leader on Twitter, also Networked Neighbourhoods on Twitter
- David Wilcox – Blog post and video about report and launch event
- Catherine Howe – Blog summary of launch event
- Ingrid Kohler – Comments on report
- Damian Radcliffe – Presentation with 139 slides on hyper-local with strong neighbourhood analysis!
- “Networked Neighbourhoods” presentations on SlideShare.net
- London Councils – Networked Neighbourhoods Page (project funders I think, hence the focus on why this matters to local government)
- Guardian Blog Post on report launch
My closing comment – until they deeply compare real names centered online neighbourhood networks with those in the study, I think their position on aliases being a good thing is pre-mature. Our experience, our bias, is that without real names, the exchanges will have only marginal impact on those in power. You get power when you believe so strongly in your views that you put your name behind what you say. Without real names, local governments would not touch Facebook Pages period. Let that be a lesson. The “representativeness” criticism will dog online community participation until your legitimize the views as being from real people powerful because they generate respect and public opinion, not as if they are somehow a like a survey that lacks representativeness.
Neighborly – A Proposed Social Enterprise
While our current very public Issues Forum model serves neighborhoods at the scale of of 5,000 to 20,000 residents quite effectively with a mix of community life and civic engagement exchange attracting up to 15% household participation (thus far) we need to go the next step. We see a glaring need to support very small group, more private nearest neighbor connecting online (think electronic “block” clubs or dynamic resident associations connecting only 25 to 100 people) that can reach 50% of more of households on streets where we support emergent leaders with tools to organize.
We are developing proposals for a self-funding (over the long-term) social enterprise (read our one pager) that build on our 17 years of lessons and newer inclusion work. Strategically we want to connect Neighborly members into online public life spaces like ours as well as those hosted by partners with existing online public spaces. We seek a revenue generating model that supports broad inclusion serving low and high income areas alike where those generating participation through outreach share in the local sponsorship income in return. (No cherry picking wealthy communities and redlining the rest.)
If you would like to get involved in this open source-style project:
- Read the one pager (PDF)
- Join our online working group to volunteer
- Request a copy of our detailed pre-proposal concept outline – sent to a national foundation at their request
- Watch/listen to an input session webinar from earlier in the year
- Review our mix of wiki-based background materials – until we secure some funding, this will remain a “construction zone”
Because we build efforts that assume 90% sustained volunteer labor, we can be very open about our plans. If we felt that inclusive neighbor to neighbor online community building with quality engagement, greater safety, and civility for all without extensive non-profit, government and media partnerships was a viable commercial business, we would be taking a very different approach.