Later this month I’ll be doing some work with Gary Loftus and his new team of community builders at Forever Manchester, when we’ll spend a day exploring how social reporting can play a part in Asset Based Community Development.
As you can see here, I found some great stories when I reported from an ABCD conference that Forever Manchester ran with Cormac Russell and Jim Diers in November.
Community builders need to use a range of communication methods to find out and map what’s happening in an area, build connections, and help people communicate better themselves. I think there’s a good fit with the ideas and practices of social reporting, and also the development of digital literacy that I sketched here.
While planning what to do on the day in Manchester, I spotted this post by Mark Parker, who is both studying and practising community organising in Southwark. (There are some interesting differences between community building and organising methodologies, but network building is core to both approaches)
Mark and I have had some stimulating chats in the past – but this post really brought home to me the big gap between networking realities on the doorstep, and the more optimistic hopes we may have for networking civil society.
Mark makes the point here – and in a further chat we had – that many people that organisers meet do not have computers or mobile phones, and may just have landlines. Networking is enormously important – but online will play a small part for many people. Mark said to me:
It’s not just to leave the minority out of the network by focusing mainly on digital means. We must find ways of using the online experience to drive real face-to-face networks.
We need a sophisticated understanding of the impact that online networking, and practices like citizen journalism, may have in an area – as I touched on here.
I don’t think any of this downplays the importance of social reporting and digital literacy skills for community builders and organisers. As well as networking citizens using a range of methods, old and new, they will also need to bridge between the increasingly digital world of news and knowledge, and conversations on the doorstep.
As both local papers and local voluntary organisations close, and councils move to digital-first, the risks of digital exclusion increase. Building community will mean supporting those with least online access to create more effective networks with each other and with those who are more powerful.
Who you know has always been as important as what you know, and increasingly both of those are achieved online: or at least started online. Relationship-building still needs face-to-face, but the range of possible relationships can be greatly extended online, and maintained in part that way too.
It is difficult to develop projects with a group, when some members don’t have email, but others are sharing documents and tasks online.
As Mark mentions in his post, some community organisers will be receiving digital media training from Locality and izwe. I’ll do my bit of network building by introducing Gary and Mark, and then look for more opportunities to connect community and social reporting, citizen journalism and community building and organising.
One good opportunity may be at the Social Networking Below the Radar event being held next month at Big Lottery Fund.
- Forever Manchester
- Forever Manchester leads with the ABCD of community building
- ABCD Europe
- Crap detection and other essential network skills
- The many models of People Powered Change
- Cooking up the right recipe
- The challenge of networking civil society
- More rebranding of citizen media as “journalism”. Sigh
- Social Networking Below the Radar
See also Mark’s post for further useful resources