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So here’s the basic message to my square mile.

September 20, 2010

So the story so far is that I have realised an online space is actually central to putting my hypothetical idea into practice and that, right now, I am trying to decide exactly what platform to implement – quickly! – so that I can just get on with it. I’m tempted, on some advice, to start with a simple blog format… but I have bouts of worry that if I do this I may lose some people if I discover I need to migrate to some more ‘devolved’ platform.

Platform dilemma or not, most of the other vagueness that came in the wake of my resolution has now been dispelled. Let’s just regard it as part of the design process. Moreover, help is on its way because I am attending two events – one tomorrow (Tuesday) and one on Saturday. Both of these bring together groups of people, with their own local projects and online spaces, most of which I didn’t even imagine existed when I wrote my ‘…starts here, now’ declaration a few weeks ago. Isn’t the web fantastic on so many levels? Tomorrow it’s Growing the Big Society – hosted at the Communities and Local Government department and convened by the Community Sector Coalition. On Saturday it’s the London Neighbourhoods Online unconference, hosted by Ofcom and organised by Networked Neighbourhoods.

I think I’ll be hyper for weeks after that lot!!

The other thing is that I think I’m close to having a sane and concise proposition to put to local people. Conceptually, it’s about getting down to something that could be put on a flier, or in a short letter – doing just enough persuade people to come and view the site, whilst ensuring they have some prior idea of what it’s all about. At the moment it fails the literal flier test… it’s too long and too formally constructed. But it’s close to what I want.

Here it is below – and I would be really grateful for any feedback about how I could make it better and shorter – whether that’s comments from people who are active in this field (some of whom I may meet in the next few days), or from people who are new to all this and can give me the benefit of the ‘I haven’t a clue what you’re on about’ test. Let’s see if I can render this down into something really effective, and which also reflects some consensus amongst my newly discovered hyperlocal peers.

An invitation to visit Oakfield Square.

Are you interested in getting to know a bit more about your neighbourhood and maybe meeting a few more of the people who live there?

Do you sometimes feel you would like to do a bit more for, and with, your neighbours – but realise that you only have a small amount of time to spare, and that you don’t want to over-commit yourself, or to seem a bit odd or pushy?

How do you feel about the idea that there are things we could do for each other, or things that we could organise for ourselves, that might lead locally to

  • more fun
  • more help for each other and sharing
  • a better local environment
  • a stronger sense of security and belonging?

My name is Nick Buckley and, because I’ve been thinking a few of those things myself, I’ve set up a very simple website that you can visit at to meet other people in the area and to discuss these ideas with them… considering what we might do together.

You are probably wondering what counts as a neighbour or a neighbourhood. Earlier this year I read about something called Your Square Mile. The idea, rather than try to put the world right, is to start with the square mile you live in. You also look for other people in that square mile and work with them. ‘Making things better’ means whatever works for those people together – things you can see, experience and touch, rather than arguments about ideas.

So that’s what I’ve done – I took them at their word and drew a circle around my house, with an area of one square mile. And now I’ve set up the website to share news, information and dicsussions for people who live or work inside that circle, or have some other responsibility for what happens there. I hope that it will lead to things happening offline, in the real world, with events and activities.

I didn’t want to set myself up to own the connections for ‘Wilmington’, or ‘Dartford’ or ‘The Tree Estate’. Everyone has their own circle of course, and to be honest we can worry about what to do about all those overlapping circles once we’re better connected. The same is true of all sorts of organisations and people who already do things and run things inside this circle. I’ve called it Oakfield Square, because that’s a recognisable place – with the school and the park – without being an ‘official’ area.

I don’t know where this all leads – it’s not for me to say, or to push some plan or agenda – for now I’m just happy to connect to some new people and listen to them.

So what happens now? If you are even slightly interested in being better connected or more involved locally and, ideally, if you live inside the circle on the map, then you should visit …url here… and read more, make yourself known, start talking to other people, and suggesting projects or ideas that we could tackle.

Right from the start there will be some local information and news on there, together with links that you might find useful. You can imediately start adding your own links, news and issues.

You will also find some ‘Questions and Answers’ from me about the background to why I am doing this, what people in other parts of the country are doing, and how it all fits in with (or without!) central and local government.

One last thing. You are probably wondering what’s in this for Nick? It’s a long story – but what I can say is that I’m not selling anything, nobody is paying me to do this, I’m not representing a political party or trying to become a politician, and I’m not secretly trying to push some religion or other.

I hope to meet you on …url here…  some time soon,

Nick Buckley.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2010 10:13 pm

    Nick – I like this. Yes, there’s lots of words but they ‘say what’s in the box’, so to speak. Good luck!

  2. September 27, 2010 9:30 am

    Hi Nick, I’d seen your blog earlier and David Wilcox reminded me of it this morning on his Social by Social blog.

    As you’ll see from my link I did something with a newish social network platform called SocialGo for my own area and for a more parish specific website, a CMS product called Concrete5.

    We’d been faced with a similar dilemma recently when attempting to attract interest to our local community led plan. In the end the simple message was:

    What do you like? What don’t you like?

    “Aged 0 – 100+ ? Then have your say about things that concern you in your local area. The Community Plan gives everyone the chance to develop a vision for their community, identifying positive and negative issues. “

    • njbdartford permalink*
      September 27, 2010 9:42 am

      Thanks Jeff – I really appreciate your taking time to suggest a line that has worked. I’ll also have a look at SocialGo as, literally this morning, I’m teetering on the edge of plunging into Ning.

  3. September 28, 2010 4:28 pm

    Hi Nick,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and thought to share what a friend and i have been working on as it seems to perfect for your initiative.

    Wowsociety (www.wowsociety.com) allows anyone to join helpful people who share their interests in “neighbourhoods” that can be local or global. The focus is on bringing together people with a common interest to help one another by sharing skills, knowledge or items within whatever scope you define.

    It’s early days for Wowsociety and would be thrilled to get pioneers like yourself to contribute to our goal and get others involved.

    Give it a try and let me know what you think – i’m all ears.

    Take care,
    Wahome
    http://www.wowsociety.com

    • njbdartford permalink*
      September 28, 2010 7:52 pm

      Thanks – I’d heard mention of you a couple of times recently. I’ll look you up.

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