Meet Your Neighbors Online Week, UK Neighbourhoods Online Study, Neighborly

A three-in-one post with neighborly goodness … Week

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 Locals Online community practice we host is exploring a “Meet Your Neighbors Online Week.”  Catch up via the Got Neighbors? discussion. We have a number of volunteer opportunities.

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 (and .org). We also have, 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!

For more context:

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:

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.

6 thoughts on “Meet Your Neighbors Online Week, UK Neighbourhoods Online Study, Neighborly”

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    Hi Steven, whilst your comment re real names looks pragmatic, perhaps ‘impact on those in power’ is only part of motivations. We may want impact, some kind of more subtle influence or just plain recognition at first amongst ourselves. We may wish to question where power should lie and whether or not, and to what extent it should include us. If people are enabled to join in, even when only comfortable being anonymous, isn’t that more inclusive? They always have the option of revealing identity later when they are more comfortable doing so. Dancing to the tune of those in power can seem like a slippery slope. Can’t our own (DIY or DIO – do it ourselves) tune be better than anything the bureaucrats and anyone in power with less than open minds can come up with?
    Phil Green

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