Local pubs and blogs could help build a Hyperlocal Chamber of Commerce

I love it when stories join up … or rather when I can spot ways to join them up. It’s seems particularly relevant when they are about network building.

The other day I wrote about RSA research into how local stores (particularly B&Q in this case) can act as local social hubs, and also about RSA work networking local Changemakers in Peterborough.

Now Tom Matchett has blogged his ideas for a Hyperlocal Chamber of Commerce, which would further catalyse social connections between local businesses and residents, to the benefit of both.

I’ve chatted to Tom over the past few weeks about that, and also about his previous work on how local papers can combine traditional print with online publishing of their content and that from citizens reporters.

In addition, there are models emerging for “reverse publishing” content from hyperlocal blogs in small local advert-heavy publications, and maybe sharing some revenue with the bloggers.

Tom’s idea for the Hyperlocal CoC goes a step further, by adding into the mix one or more local business hubs, then running events and other activities to build a stronger local social and economic community. He writes in his blog The Digital Bohemian:

The Hyperlocal Chamber of Commerce will be established as a social enterprise exploring and developing methodologies to create new (and strengthen existing) hyperlocal business and community eco-systems.  It will build through engagement, education and collaborative activities to establish commercially successful, sustainable hyperlocal business models.

The project will then roll out on a broader scale with supporting educational collateral from the initial pilot projects documented online and on film. As a key part of its modus operandi we will try to work closely with existing hyperlocal bloggers to assist them in creating a sustainable financial model to support their activities and drive long term commitment to their work in hyperlocal.

The first two proposed locations for the initial pilot schemes are Highgate Hill and Stroud Green both of which are very local spaces to me, this is important at this stage as it will fit very well with my other commitments in terms of consultancy work.

The first venue will be The Old Crown on Highgate Hill, which has limited footfall during the day (and so space for meetings) coupled with a lively and diverse clientele in the evenings. Tom adds:

My questions are, what if we could use their space as community and local business convergence hub in the daytime that would create new very localised business and community networks? Additionally, what if you could build around this and other hubs to build networks and develop models that are then self-sustaining?  How can you engage hyperlocal bloggers, businesses and the community to create a co-promotional media and marketing network?  How do you make this a “win” project for all parties involved?

I suggested to Tom that he might like to apply to join RSA, where the social entrepreneurs network should provide further support – as well as connections to the projects I mentioned earlier.

I was very impressed by the range of enterprising projects I heard about when I went along to a Spotlight event at The Westminster Hub recently. I shot some video with the help of RSA staff member Clare Reilly, as you can see here. We didn’t get sound level right on all the interviews, but I think you’ll get a sense of the enthusiasm and optimism.

There’s more information in the cleverly put together time-lapse video on the RSA vimeo channel.

Chatting with RSA staff at the event led to an invite to meet up with the Fellowship team, led by Michael Ambjorn, and talk further about social reporting. I think there could be scope for staff and Fellows to collaborate in reporting on both projects and events.

Maybe I can make some further connections to the work I’ll be doing with community network builders in Manchester, that I wrote about here. What’s the similarities and differences between using reporting for network building in an organisation like the RSA, and in local communities? Or in developing a Hyperlocal Chamber of Commerce?

One of the most interesting spin-off conversations with the Fellowship team was about how Fellows and staff could use social media to recruit more Fellows. If you are interested in RSA Fellowship, there’s information here.

I digress … but that’s the nature of networky storytelling. Follow the strands, and you usually bump into interesting people and ideas. If you can’t make use of the connection immediately, blog a piece and it will come in handy later.

Maybe that’s the difference from some other forms of more journalistic writing, where there’s greater pressure to come up with a hard angle. And maybe it’s why I bridle at over-labeling reporting in communities as citizen journalism.

Hmm … social reporting as networked narrative? Which I find has brief a Wikipedia entry … and will lead me on to other ideas ….

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