Belonging and a Better City

I’ve been having trouble finding my mojo this year. Last year I was lucky enough to be involved in some great initiatives in the city. They weren’t all smashing successes but that’s ok. Failing is fine – learn and move on.

After my recent participation in the Community Engagement Task Force it became apparent to me that all of these incredible initiatives were engaging the already engaged. That’s a big problem.

I love hanging out with the true believers. Passion inspires passion. The problem is that we need more of these folks. Many more.

Where and how do you start to build passion?

A few months ago I met a brilliant guy named Michael Lewkowitz. He was interested in the election and why people weren’t feeling engaged so he did something pretty cool. He knocked on every door on his street and he talked to his neighbours about it. Michael’s excercise left a pretty big impression on me (and likely his neighbours).

Not long after the election Glen Pearson told me about a small street (not even in his riding) where a bunch of neighbours had gathered in a living room and asked Glen to come talk to them about politics.

I just found out recently that there is a group that gathers to jam on guitars in people’s living rooms.

So let’s start building where people have an interest already. Some people have a hobby, some have a club and some have a physical community that they belong to. Many of those people look for a good way to keep in touch and the web is awash in different tools for folks to use. But like our normal society these virtual gathering places are scattered and can be very difficult to find.

I’ll call this a Community Portal for now but here’s the idea:

  • a platform that allows any community or community of interest to have a free website
  • flexibility for the groups to customize and brand their sites
  • include all of the features that you’d expect to find in a web 2.0 site – news, events, blogs, social media links, galleries, etc
  • all of these communities feed back into a home page that highlights all of the energy that already exists in the community
  • partner with sites like LondonFuse and bring in an RSS feed of entertainment/event postings
  • make the whole thing location aware and mobile
  • build in a reputation system to reward contributions and reduce abuse/spam
  • tagging for groups and posts to cross polinate great events between groups (You might also like …)
  • open source the end product so that any community in the world can leverage the work
  • branding and advertising to bring this idea into the real world and into the other social media platforms

It’s not a comprehensive list of features but it’s a start.

Can small things like this build a sense of belonging? Does belonging build engagement? Does engagement builds a better city?