So much brilliant community action has huge local impact but on a national scale is like a tree falling in the forest ‐ on average, beyond its circle of impact no one knows it has happened.
Infrequently, expensive central government and NGO initiatives case-study the good and the bad but the case studies languishes in documents or buried in the depths of stultified corporate websites.
Why can’t people get heard? The local media are on average not great at helping local campaigns ‐ there are exceptions but i speak to loads of activists who despair of getting accurate useful coverage in the local press. TV and radio are remote, very time constrained and their regulated ‘balance’ often means giving undue airtime to the thing an activists is trying to change. And all local media are in financial difficulties.
This lack of local voice reduces local impact and is a net welfare loss for society as a whole.
For the local activist it’s hard to get leverage beyond a word of mouth circle. So awareness of your issue is often trapped in the immediate area and doesn’t propagate to a higher authority that might be able to help. If you are stuck with poor public services in your ward its hard to let people further up the chain know.
And at a national level we all lose out by not being able to find the solution to a problem when we need it in our area. If I have a campaign in Kettering that is attacking a nearly identical problem to the one solved in Kirby i can’t find it. And have to relearn all over again.
I’m delighted that NESTA is determined to tackle this problem as part of their Neighbourhood Challenge programme. At this morning’s launch Phillip Colligan was careful to cite the hyperlocal web and other social media as a component of modern community organising. Also at the launch, Alan Rosenblatt called for widespread leverage of social media in a form of social advocacy to bring influence to bear on policy makers and to mobilise the community. I’ve used the local web, facebook, YouTube and twitter for many years to support community action in Kings Cross. It isn’t magic but it presents a twenty-first century interface to a nineteenth century system. If you do traditional community action with modern values and media people are more willing to get involved.
And it’s just the sort of thing talk about local does. We got a great email yesterday from one of our trainees proudly telling us that he has now integrated YouTube and Twitter into his wordpress.com site for a tiny village in Wiltshire. Peter is a stalwart in campaigning for his community and in his 70s. We”d love to help people reading this in the way we helped Peter just drop us a line via firstname.lastname@example.org
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