Hugh Flouch on Neighbourhoods 2.0 and hyperlocal #mps09


Listening to Hugh Flouch, of networked neighbourhoods, talking about Neighbourhoods 2.0 and Hyper-Local. Hugh runs Harringay online – which has 2,000 members out of a 17,000 person ward – scaled up, that’s better penetration than most TV stations. 

The hyperlocal eco system is growing, with various systems from commercial to non-commercial, and content produced by the many or by the few. Local sites are increasingly becoming the place where people go to find local information.

Gartner (the big analyst company) see citizen generated local sites as being highly significant in the future. Hugh cites the following as areas of interest:


  • Empowerment
  • Engagement
  • Social captial
  • Citizen capacity
  • Wellbeing
  • Better local information
  • Satisfaction with local area

Kings Cross and Harringay online both provide good examples of how local sites can focus community action and engage with local democracy to effect change. They have co-ordinated everything from local parties and festivals, to sporting activities. Hugh is now working with Capital Ambition to look at the impact of local sites on neighbourhoods: What makes them successful (or failures!) and what the implications are for councils.

Web 2.0 is heralding ina new era with a different sort of relationship to local services – a move away from a “vending machine” model to a more collaborative working style, based on the new principles: Out goes command and control (and opacity). In comes Participation, Empowerment and Transparency.

A good discussion ensued. Is social media / web 2.0 all good? Will councils really give up the command and control model? 

For me the issue is the transactional cost of sharing information. Local papers used to (and still do) hold local bodies to account, but they have finite bandwidth, and their own economic challenges. Web 2.0 enables user generated content to supply a larger view of what is happening, and a broader accountability. There are pros and cons to that. The pros being a more iterative form of design and interaction than traditional ‘commissioning’ enables, the cons being the potential ‘mob’ nature of the web, which doesn’t reflect the traditional one-person-one-vote form of democracy.

Hugh sees the new (web 2.0) interacting with the old (council bodies and council sites) in a collaborative way, each doing what they do best. 5 councils are already engaging in building “virtual town halls” – which is a widget-based (which lead to me trying to explain what a widget is – somewhat painfully :) ).

Indirect quote of the day, from a police officer: “I’m allowed to roam the streets with a machine gun, but I’m not allowed to use Facebook at work.” – There’s a long way to go with council services use of the web…


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