Building Strong Local Communities

We at Version One are becoming increasingly convinced that stronger local communities can help solve many of the problems we are currently facing.

When you think about it, most things that people truly care about are local issues. Do we have access to good schools? Is our neighbourhood safe? Do we have access to good stores nearby to do our daily shopping? Are there any facilities, sports clubs, not-for-profit organizations where our kids can go after school?

Making progress toward addressing these issues usually requires a combination of factors. First, some of the local projects need funding. Second, they need a community leader who will take the initiative to find a solution. And they need awareness within the community (you need to know that somebody is working on it and needs your input).

Several tools already exist to help local communities become stronger. Current examples are Nextdoor and Facebook Groups on the social networking side and GoFundMe on the fundraising side. We wonder if there is an opportunity for a product that combines a few of the features that these platforms offer into a powerful tool to build, manage and fund local communities.

While we don’t have an exact product in mind, we think that the tool should have a few characteristics:

  • A strong, frequent use case. The tool will only be as successful as the strength of the network, so it is important that we keep users coming back on a daily/weekly/monthly basis.
  • It needs to put local community leaders front and center. If you don’t have a strong moderator/curator/leader, the whole initiative will likely fail. With that said, we feel that adoption and engagement will be greater with a bottoms-up distribution, as opposed to a top-down approach.
  • The platform needs to make sure that the participants and conversations are truly local and are not getting taken over by people from outside of the local geography. The platform also needs to make sure that the conversations on it stay productive (instead of becoming very aggressive and partisan like with many other social media platforms). You might have recently read about Front Porch who has achieved both things by strict user controls (need to provide an address) and strong community moderation.  
  • Being able to fund specific projects (instead of “just” advocating for them) is a very powerful opportunity. I imagine something along the lines of DonorsChoose with the hope to attract both local funding as well as funding from outside of the community.
  • If the platform can serve as some type of feedback tool for local politicians, it would augment its reach.

Those are our initial thoughts, and we’d love to get any feedback. Who else has been thinking about this? What tools already exist out there (besides the ones I mentioned)? Do you agree or disagree that slicing and dicing the product around local communities makes sense (vs. using more horizontal products like GoFundMe)?

Looking forward to hearing what everyone thinks. And for more thoughts on social platforms in general, here is our book:

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