"The truth will set you free. But first it will piss you off."

Gloria Steinem

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Growing Number of Voices: Could They Become a Chorus?

More Community Facebook Pages

The response to my previous post has been outstanding; there is obviously a strong desire for urban revival in the Delaware Valley.  I am pleased to highlight other urban activist Facebook pages in this post, asking you again to learn about them and get involved with them.
I have been searching Facebook for pages focused on local community improvement, limiting myself for now to boroughs in the Schuylkill Valley.  I am sure that I am overlooking some, as the search criteria caught only those pages with the names of local communities.
There are a huge number of Facebook pages that focus on a specific community, and that is just looking at local possibilities.   I attempted to count the pages containing the word “Norristown,” for example, but eventually gave up.  I love the many local pages like “You Know You’re From [your borough] When...,” or “[borough name], The Good Old Days,” but I don’t list them here.  They have their own focus, and are worth checking out.  You could learn something; I know I have.

Even using a borough’s name in a Facebook search can yield confusing results.  There are, for example, several cities named “Bridgeport” that have one (or more) Facebook pages.    It’s Bridgeport, PA, however, that you should check out.  It’s a discussion group that attempts to both inform borough residents and encourage communication about the community.  It's an an excellent source of community news.

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Pottstown and Norristown have the most pages devoted to community issues.  Emblematic of its current situation, Phoenixville appears to have none.  Did I miss any?
Pottstown’s activist Facebook pages demonstrate a commendable structure, in effect dividing up the work.  Crime in Pottstown has an obvious focus, and presses hard and often about the issue, featuring photos and facts.  First Suburbs Project takes a look at the several issues affecting our older urban neighborhoods, utilizing an excellent thematic structure.  There aren’t just rants, they are well-presented essays.  Both Talk Pottstown and Golden Cockroach (I mentioned them last time) spur community activism as well as discussion.
But Here’s The Best Part:  They ALL communicate with each other!

Can the Norristown activist groups say the same?

No borough should be too small to host an activist page.  Royersford has one; it’s called Royersford Residents for Revitalization and Renewal.  No one has posted on it for some time, and I hope the group still exists.  Let’s give it some encouragement.

That’s five more Facebook pages about which I offer the same advice I did last time:

Like them, join them and make people aware of them.

Once again, if you know of any relevant Facebook pages that I have not listed, contact me, and I will add them to my “links” section.

Facebook is Not Your Only Option

As much potential as I believe Facebook has for urban activists, exposure on it can have a downside, as many have discovered.  There is always a need for redundant channels of communication, and one may have just made its appearance.  A recent segment on the TV show 20/20 offered it up, and word is spreading on Facebook.  I am pleased to help.  The social site (and app) is called Next Door, and here is the link:  Nextdoor.com.  I recommend you check Norristown blogger Shae Ashe’s post on it.  He points out how useful it could be to develop community networks.  Here is the link his post: 

Next Door markets to local communities, and emphasizes privacy and security, two high priorities.  I’m no techie, and have not explored its offering in any detail.  At this point I view a Next Door “private network” as complimentary to a Facebook presence, not as a replacement.  I say this because while the “local neighborhood” focus with both privacy and security sounds good for the local community, it does not seem to promote communication between communities or organizations.  That, of course, strikes a note of concern for me, because the whole basis of my pitch is open and frequent communication between communities and the people dedicated to improving them.  The last thing community activists need is to retreat further into their own neighborhoods, shutting out contact with others.  Facebook has helped to overcome that old problem, and should continue to be exploited, with care.
I need to learn more about how this “private network” might function, and how the protections it seems to offer would aid intra-community communication.  If any of you are considering experimenting with it, let me know.

One final (for this post, at least) point.  You will notice that my Links section is arranged by borough.  Next to every activist site I have so far discovered I have placed a link to the relevant borough government site.  I do this for the same reason I list the activist sites themselves:  Communication.  Your borough’s website should be your first stop for local information, although definitely not your last.  Find out what’s happening, and inform your friends.  I read frequently about failure to spread the word around a community about upcoming events that are important to it.  If that is the fault of the borough site, get on them about it.  They make it easy, and give you the phone numbers to call!

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