The Young Foundation was funded by the Big Lottery Fund to run the Digital Activism project from April 2011 to March 2013. This project followed on from a number of past projects looking at community empowerment in neighbourhoods, including Future Communities and Local 2.0.
The Digital Activism project was developed as a response to the apparently low number of campaigns focusing on issues in a local area that worked with and galvanised people online.
We worked with six small organisations that wanted to use digital tools to campaign on issues that mattered to them. We supported them to develop and run web-based campaigns using free and low-cost web tools. The overall aim was to learn more about the role social networking sites and other digital technology can play in the campaigns of individuals and small community organisations.
We supported Women’s Networking Hub in Birmingham on Shelve It! a campaign against the displaying of lads’ mags within view and reach of children. Campaigners used social media and web tools to mobilise people across the West Midlands and beyond to rate their retailers and share the rating on a ‘porn map’.
In Hackney, we worked with Hackney Citizens Advice Bureau with the Hackney CAB Crowdmap campaign to raise awareness of the impact of housing benefit changes and to provide advice and information on where to get help. Hackney CAB Crowdmap used social media and web tools to collate stories of people affected to build a picture of the impact on the local area.
We supported Mothers Against Gangs in Harrow to develop their website and social media use to reach out to more local parents with children at risk of joining gangs or gang activities.
In Leeds, we supported Leeds Older People’s Forum with activities to gather opinions of older people on the accessibility of Leeds City Centre. As part of the campaign, over 60 over-60s came together in a flashmob in Leeds’ Victoria Quarter.
We worked with Southwark Organising’s Community Organiser for Peckham to create an online space – Action Peckham – to gather and share issues facing the local community.
We also supported Holloway Neighbourhood Group to engage with local people to understand the range of issues they face. Debt was highlighted as an issue, and a campaign to raise awareness of high interest lenders and provide training to individuals to use tools such as Freecycle and eBay was set up.
Our practical work culminated in a toolkit designed to help community organisations use the free and low cost web tools already widely available:
Amplify: Local campaigning in a digital world (Hostick-Boakye, S 2013)