Building digital activism in Elephant & Castle
In June, we reported on a number of ways in which local communities were using digital tools to build local activism. Since that time, digital activism at the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle has grown, providing inspiring examples of how communities can mobilise effectively through the web.
The Elephant Amenity Network has continued to critique redevelopment plans put forward by the Council and private developers. For example, to present a unified voice about the community’s desires for the area’s future, the Network organised a Visioning Workshop in June 2011. Bringing together 77 community members, two individuals from the site’s private developer (Lend Lease) and seven politicians, the Workshop solicited and compiled community views on housing, shopping, jobs, biodiversity, design and transport. The Network has produced a Summary Report, which it intends to complement the London Plan and the Elephant and Castle Core Strategy for redevelopment.
The Network has also catalysed a host of other web-based civic activism in Elephant and Castle. The biodiversity research done to produce the Heygate Forest Map inspired another blog, Urban Forest, which aspires to “promote trees as an essential part of new developments,” “develop new methods of evaluation and asset management,” and preserve the urban forest. The blog also serves as a watchdog for protecting public space and highlighting mismanagement of greenery during construction.
Finally, Southwark Council plans to close public access to a route through the Heygate Estate. Community members have launched an online petition to gather 250 votes and have the matter discussed at the next Council meeting. They believe that preserving access to the site improves permeability and natural surveillance to ward off anti-social behaviour.
Each of these initiatives has not required extraordinary technical skill. But by posting blogs, maps and photos, the Elephant and Castle community has been able to enhance their reach and visibility. This is classic civic activism upgraded through the web.
Written by Veyom Bahl at the Young Foundation