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Belonging and Social Media – Guest post by Aminur Rahman

June 10, 2010

We have been speculatively looking the looking at the correlation between peoples sense of belonging to their area and locally focused social media activity. In the future, with the right data, we hope to look at this more rigorously. Until then we have simplistically focused on the relationship between local authorities social media activity, and survey results for a sense of belonging.

So, the local authorities with the relative highest percentage of residents saying that they felt they strongly or very strongly belonged to their immediate neighbourhood were Eden District Council (with 75.1% of respondents saying they strongly or very strongly felt their belonged to their immediate neighbourhood), and in joint second place were Derbyshire Dales District Council and South Hams District Council, both at 74.3 %.

The relative lowest percentage of residents responding strongly or very strongly to feelings of belonging were London Borough of Tower Hamlets at 42.8%, Reading Borough Council at 44.4%, and London Borough of Barking and Dagenham at 44.8%.

So,  do we find anything significant when we compare these six areas? The results are clearly far from conclusive, but merit discussion:

  • Councils with the highest percentages seemed to have very easy to find council started social media activity: check out the Eden Council website which has the Chief Executive’s blog, Web Team’s Blog, the council’s twitter account and youtube account links on its homepage:
  • Those with the lowest percentages, did not lack locally related social media activity out there in cyberspace, but seemed to have less social media started specifically by the council.
  • Councils with the highest sense of belonging seemed to use social media to encourage collaboration and openness rather than simply ‘using Web 2.0 in a Web 1.0 way’ (ie to simply disseminate information rather than taking the opportunity to engage with residents.)  For example check out the Eden District Council YouTube channel which empowers residents to become involved in public scrutiny processes and to specifically seek the views of residents. Tower Hamlets YouTube channels seems to only disseminate information rather than pointing to ideas on how to increase interaction between the local authority and residents.

When hope to do something more comprehensive on this in the future. Belonging is something the Young Foundation has been interested since way back. For a hypothesis we might start from the point that, if there is a correlation, the causal relationship would be that strong sense of belonging would result in more locally focused social media activity.

Aminur Rahman is an intern at the Young Foundation.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 10, 2010 4:39 pm

    Measuring “sense of belonging” in real time would be a wonderful way to measure engagement. If this could be widened to include happiness, then this sort of tool would in my view be invaluable. There’s been a lot of talk recently around measuring the impact of social investment – it may seem facile to suggest it – but isn’t this the answer?


  2. June 10, 2010 4:52 pm

    Hi Mike,

    Absolutely, watch this space in terms of measuring wellbeing – we’ll have something on that from our Local Wellbeing Project towards the end of the summer.

    We want to interrogate the relationship between social media and various outcomes some more. There’s going to be some interesting data coming from with a couple of excellent papers already published

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