The Hyperlocal Power Gap
We’ve spent quite a bit of time over the last six months working in Fairstead, King’s Lynn as part of Local 2.0. We set about working with the local neighbourhood management partnership, which includes local people, to develop a hyperlocal website to get local people talking. Modelled on the phenomenon that is Harringay Online, it’s now up and running.
http://www.fairstead.org has been developed using Ning. It’s been up for a couple of weeks now and we are in the process of properly marketing it to local residents. It’s really exciting and I think Fairstead has the characteristics of a place where a hyperlocal website should flourish: developed local networks, geographically distinct, strong sense of belonging, good community infrastructure and people who already online, using social media.
I am anticipating lots of challenges ahead, but I am optimistic that they will be overcome. On a broader point, I am also really eager to prove that organisations can stimulate the development of hyperlocal websites like Fairstead.org.
It will always be more desirable if residents develop hyperlocal websites on their own accord, but there will be lots of neighbourhoods where it doesn’t happen – either because the capabilities don’t exist or because people are not willing to do it on their own.
In these neighbourhoods local residents need to be supported and encouraged to use the tools that are available to them to develop a collective voice. If hyperlocal is left to purely organic means, empowered communities will become more empowered and better able to claim increasingly scarce resources.
Councils, housing associations and community organisation like Development Trusts will all have some form of community development function already. These workers – alongside the army of Big Society Community Organisers – will be essential to ensuring that hyperlocal enhances access to power at the local level.
We’ll be writing more about this in the coming months.