How do you measure community? Is it the friendliness of the locals? The Neighbourhood Watch schemes and committees that strive to make the place we live in safe? The clubs, societies, schools, playgroups, cafe on the corner or the fundraising for good causes?
The area in which you live probably has more going on than you know about. So how do you find out what’s happening?
The local newspaper, perhaps, is the obvious starting point for picking up news about where you live, but have you thought about launching you own news service – a hyperlocal blog – for your village, estate or town?
Occasionally, there are issues that affect the few streets in which you live, but would not interest your local reporter.
This is where a hyperlocal website can fill the gap.
According to Wikipedia (apologies. I know …), the definition of a hyperlocal website is that it can:
Focus on very specialized topics—stories and issues of interest only to people in a very limited area. So, for example, school board meetings, restaurant, community group meeting and garage sales can receive prominent coverage.
So while a missing cat or dog wouldn’t even make it to the news in brief column of the evening paper, it would undoubtedly be covered in the hyperlocal blog, complete with photograph and contact details of who to contact.
The blog may also contain lists of local doctors, library opening times, playgroups or children’s groups, how to contact local councillors – all the things that those living in the community live.
In October 2010, I launched a hyperlocal blog for the village in which I live. Called Common People, because it is known in the area for its commons (I’m not being rude to the inhabitants), the blog covers some of the stories or events that take place there.
I’d been thinking about doing it for some time, but it was only when Dan Slee, a local government officer in Walsall, goaded me by saying, “If you don’t do it, someone else will” that I created it. He knew that would make me set it up.
It’s all done voluntarily, carries no advertising and aims to be a community forum. It’s updated once or twice a week – occasionally more – and there is a growing and vibrant Facebook page that attracts lots of conversation.
From a fundraising walk and controversial planning issues to photographs of Christmas tree decorations that feature Pelsall landmarks, it’s varied – and quite often, the stories that are carried on the site are picked up by the local evening newspaper.
It’s a hobby, a work in progress and a part-time distraction. But it has got me more involved in the village where I live and I love encouraging conversation between the villagers. There are many more hyperlocal bloggers doing sterling work in their communities. Could you do it, too?
I’d recommend it – go on, give it a go!