Neighborhood blogging is recognized by a growing number of community-minded folks as a valuable practice. Often referred to as "hyperlocal news sites," neighborhood blogs are a way to connect with fellow neighbors, to share information relevant "on the block," and to grow a sense of neighborhood spirit. Check out this article in the Washington Post for a diversity of perspectives on the art and practice of neighborhood blogging. Not as much has been written about what it takes to reach that point within a neighborhood when a group of neighbors is actually expressing interest in blogging together, and acting upon this desire. Here in Sarasota County, through the SCOPE Neighborhoods Initiative, we find ourselves asking: What does it take to generate active engagement in neighborhood blogging?
These days we are realizing that to reach a state of readiness for the creation of a joint neighborhood blog, it may be helpful first to establish a "neighbor-blog" - a personal blog set up by at least one resident, written from the perspective of this person as a neighbor.
This past week, "resident community changemaker" Mary Butler of North-West Newtown set up a neighbor-blog that is a great example of a "neighbor-first" orientation. You can link to her "Hi Neighbor" blog here. The introductory post reads as follows:
Hi my name is Mary Butler. I was born and raised in Newtown and now I'm back in Newtown, living in the house I grew up in. For the past year or so, I've been working about a mile from my home at SCOPE, and when I had the opportunity to work where I live I was ecstatic. These days, I'm all about the neighborhood. Our neighborhoods tell a story of who we are and where we come from. Our neighborhoods build a stronger community, not the other way around.
Today in communities across the country, more and more neighbors are getting back to their roots of having a sense of belonging right where they live, in their own neighborhood. There is a movement focusing on the fact that citizens are the primary asset and activators of assets in local communities. Studies show crime rate goes down when neighbors know one another. People live longer when they are connected and involved in their community. Who knew?
Sounds good, but then ask yourself, how many of your neighbors do you really know? Are you like me and just say HI NEIGHBOR, but it ends there? Well when I asked myself that question, I realized I knew very few of my neighbors, so I am on a mission to find out what is in my neighborhood, who is in my neighborhood. I would like to discover all the assets and hidden treasures that my neighborhood holds. How old is my neighborhood? Was my older neighbor Mrs. Barbara the jubilee lady? You know, the lady that gives out candy to all the kids, on their way home from school. I wonder who else is out there.
Over the past couple of months, I've started walking twice a week in my neighborhood. Through this journey I am connecting with my neighbors and finding out what they care about. I'd love to have neighbors to walk with me! In the spring, we will be starting a neighborhood garden in my yard too. When my dad bought our house back in 1978, he bought the lot next door so we'd have more space-now I want to use that space to connect with other neighbors who like gardening as much as I do. We are also starting a newsletter to keep my neighbors informed of what is going on in our neighborhood. There are so many possibilities to discover. I will keep you posted on my neighborhood journey who knows what I will discover next. Newsletter coming soon...
Sounds friendly and welcoming, right? Yes. AND...take a closer look, and you will see the community changemaking "finesse" revealed in this post:
- Mary introduces herself as a neighbor, and explains why neighborhood matters to her.
- She gives a "shout out" to research (without coming across as a science snob), underscoring the significance of neighborliness as it relates to enhanced quality of life.
- She demonstrates self-reflection and exposes her humanity, so as not to suggest that she is an "expert neighbor."
- She offers her own process as a possible way to become engaged.
- She expresses curiosity and gives it texture by sharing particulars, by "wondering out loud."
- She ends with an open invitation, and a sense of anticipation.
I'd say that's resident-led community-building at its finest.
Other SCOPE-affiliated "resident community changemakers" have also established neighbor-blogs; "La Casa Chica" is another local example. These do not necessarily represent the views of SCOPE, but rather are examples of residents taking seriously their identity as "neighbor," and exploring the medium of blogging as a promising means of connecting with fellow neighbors.
Do you know of other neighbor-blogs "out there" in our community of Sarasota County? If so, we hope you'll let us know! It could be neat to explore ways of virtually networking as residents, across neighborhoods, through blogs.
And who knows, maybe once you begin to venture out into the "neighborly frontier" of the blogosphere, you'll decide to become a neighbor-blog pioneer yourself!