All over the country, hyperlocal websites are bringing people together to get involved in improving the place where they live. Using basic technology, ordinary people are setting up websites and forums that strengthen their community and, at minimal cost, give it a powerful online voice that can bring about change.
The motivation for setting up a hyperlocal website varies. Sometimes the aim is to campaign on local issues, sometimes people want to get organised and sometimes it’s simply a question of having fun talking about day to day stuff on the web.
One of the first hyperlocal sites was www.kingscrossenvironment.com, which offers an example of how effective such local collaboration can be. The concrete supplier Cemex has a plant in the area that residents felt was a noise nuisance. They uploaded very basic video of noisy activity happening early on a Saturday morning and sent it to the chief executive and the noise officer at the local council. Action was taken and the plant is now considered to be behaving responsibly.
Kings Cross Environment was set up by resident William Perrin as a central resource to keep track of different types of community action taking place in the area. It proved so effective that Perrin went on to launch Talk About Local, a project that provides resources and training to give communities all over the country a powerful online voice. The crowdsourced map at OpenlyLocal gives an idea of how quickly the phenomenon is spreading.
Hyperlocal websites are as individual as the communities they spring from. In Leith, the emphasis is on environmental issues. In Stoke-on-Trent, Pitsnpots monitors and reports on the activities of the city council, strengthening democracy in the area. In a remote part of Derbyshire, three small villages are linked by Parwich.org, a central hub for exchanging local information that combats rural isolation. And at the award-winning Harringay Online, you can find residents having lively online discussions about anything from council cuts to how to restore a tiled hallway.
As the Talk About Local website says: ‘Community websites and forums make it easier for people to become involved in changing their area. The web can lower the barriers to finding basic information and make it easier to have your voice heard.’
For more information, see www.talkaboutlocal.org
The Online Neighbourhoods Network Study, a research report focusing on three citizen-led websites in London, can be downloaded here.
You can see a short video here of William Perrin talking about ways in which the web can empower local communities.