Boy, it’s been a busy few weeks. On top of work I’ve also been involved in a local campaign to stop a large Sainsbury’s being built in the heart of Stoke Newington, North London.
The campaign is not an anti-Sainsbury’s campaign or an anti-big name brands campaign. The area is recognised for its diversity and independence and we (residents, workers and business owners) are worried that a development of this size will destroy the neighbourhood. There’s more at http://stokeylocal.org.uk if you’re interested in the issues.
The thing I wanted to focus on was the campaign’s use of technology. Once the proposed development went public, a meeting was hastily organised by a concerned local resident. 40 people turned up at that meeting and from there the technology took off.
Using technology to coordinate the campaign has really worked for us. It’s helped to overcome the issue of needing to be in the same place at the same time and even in just bringing people together as most of us didn’t know each other before.
The campaign has a long way to go and I’m sure there’s a lot more we’ll do using technology but here’s a bit of a starter:
After the first meeting was over, a Google group was created to carry on the discussion. At the beginning it was a useful way of everyone chipping in their ideas and thoughts and recording actions. After about two weeks there was over 200 posts and following the content was getting difficult. More on how we tackled this in a bit.
We had talked about restricting access to the group so that no one from the developers or associated companies could get into it but it was felt that the effort of policing the group just wasn’t worth it, and we wanted to be as inclusive as possible.
After a few days came the website. I think it looks great http://stokeylocal.org.uk. As the developers were very slow in putting any information about the development on their own website we tried to make sure that everything residents and business owners would need to know was on Stokey Local. (Even when an official website did go up it had been copied and pasted from another development with lots of the important info unchanged, including a photo of the site).
There’s also a really great Google map, showing (at least) 62 shops within a 0.5mi radius that sell similar goods to those that would be sold at a new supermarket. A powerful way of demonstrating the potential impact.
The website has grown even in these three weeks to include a forum, contact details of all the key players and as a place to start discussing possible alternatives.
The forum was important because the Google group just started getting too big. Having a forum meant we could split the conversations into distinct subjects, making it easier for other people to contribute and follow what had already been discussed.
[ETA - The main person that's been updating the site pages has told me that he's using the WordPress for Android app to keep it up to date on the road.]
Twitter has been really important in this campaign. There’s quite a strong local community of tweeters so it has been one of the key ways we’ve shared information about what’s going on. There’s an “official” @StokeyLocal account, we use the tag #StokeyLocal.
There was a funny moment about a week into the campaign when we discovered that the key developer had his own Twitter account and had been using it to moan about the NIMBYs over at one of his developments. He’d also been using it to reply to people’s rants about the developers/ Sainsbury’s without saying who he was. Once we found out it was him, he foolishly pretended it wasn’t and then deleted his account. A Google search of the Twitter user name clearly came up with his real name. He never reappeared. I’m tempted to offer my social media services
It was important for us to create a Facebook page to reach the people not on Twitter and perhaps not around to see our “real life” campaigning. Facebook.com/StokeyLocal was easy to set up and we use it to put up new blog posts from the main Stokey Local site, articles that appear in the press, photos of the development and whatever else we come across.
There are 3 admins of the page at the moment so we’re always able to respond quickly and cover if anyone’s away. The Facebook page isn’t the main home of the campaign by any means but is a really useful way of letting people know about the campaign and where they can go for more detailed information.
People have started to create videos, showing very powerfully just how people feel about the development, like this one that was filmed outside the consultation presentation: