Posted by: William Perrin | September 5, 2008

Local campaigning online

Almost every community has a campaign on the go – they define and unite communities like nothing else.  Both positive and negative campaigns unite more than they polarise, whether raising money for a childrens playground or campaigning against a noisy pub .  And all campaigns need a voice – online publishing is by far the most cost and time effective way of supporting a local campaign.

Here in London’s Kings Cross, we have run dozens of campaigns through our community site www.kingscrossenvironment.com. The site (run on Typepad) acts both as communications push and a store of reference material about how the campaign has run.  Specific campaigns will often have their own category on the blog, or if we can, each post will carefully link back to a chain of prior posts.  We are normally transparent in how we run a campaign – we post letters to people and their replies.  The biggest local campaign has its own ‘daughter’ site on the same Typepad account at no extra cost, using a similar template.  The daughter site prevents the parent site being swamped with campaign messages.  We also use video hosted in YouTube and embedded in the blog by posting the embed code.

We can update people such as government or council officials, politicians or journalists on the camapingn by just sending them a couple of links and letting them read their way in.  If helps you pass the ‘nutter test’ you often have to go through when brushing up against officialdom or the corporate world.

The Cemex campaign was one of the first I ran in 2006.  Cemex is the world’s biggest concrete company and they have a noisy run down plant in Kings Cross.  I wrote a letter to the UK President, rang their switchboard to get a few names and emails and posted the basic info.  As the campaign grew i gave it its own category so i could find all the posts in one place and send the link to others.  I made some video clips on my digital camera, stuck them in youtube and eventually embedded them in posts.  Sending the links to the video clips to the Council’s noise officers helped them build an evidence base without having to make loads of visits to the site.  Eventually the Council came down hard on Cemex who cleaned up their act remarkably well (see here).  This wasn’t an entirely online campaign of course – i had to get on the phone, go to a few meetings, keep a noise diary etc. but the online element made me impossible to ignore and gave me leverage.

Having a history online and fully visible helps me reactivate the noise complaint with the Council when Cemex start to misbehave (as they are doing at the minute).  To my amusement i now star in a Cemex UK environmental awareness video for their staff.

Would be very interested to hear other people’s experiences of online campaigning in their communities – what works, what doesn’t.

William Perrin

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