Here is a process for starting your own Street Group. There are many possible tools and methods, but we will suggest a fairly simple process that we know works. We hope you choose to use the process we are developing, and to be connected with the Street Groups that Street Groups Limited is supporting. However, you are free to do whatever you like, and you are free to use whatever process you choose to establish your own independent groups.
Someone needs to stand up and say we'll make a Street Group and carry it through.
There are wrong ways to do it. John S Veitch, has done that, and has a tale of failure to tell.
Engage with the established residents. For them online connection is new and perhaps suspect. They already know a lot of people. Do they want this change in their lives? It's a real question for some. People who've lived in the area for a long time may feel the least need to join your effort. On the other hand new comers may be very keen to become part of the larger community.
The first problem is to identify the area you intend to cover. Our present thinking is that one group covering 200 houses is getting too big, and that 30 houses is getting too small.
A street, particularly a main road is a significant social barrier. A street group tries to cross that barrier. A block group is better connected over the back fence. People in a block group can't easily see each other. However, from a geographic point of view, a block is easier to define. Street Groups Limited recommends street based groups with the advantage that you have sight of all the houses included.
Street Groups Limited has successfully used Online Groups, to run street groups. There are many software options. We feel that open source alternatives should be the first consideration for community projects. There are usually many local volunteers who will help you with the details.
Try to find some like minded people to support your effort. A small team will make the job so much easier. There may already be some sort of organisation of local people operating in your area, perhaps for many years, but off-line. Consider an alliance with those groups. They might need your help to be more effective online. A Neighbourhood Support Group might be a good starting point.
Make sure you know how your software works. You'll need to explain to many people how to register as a member of the group, and how to leave the group if they choose to do so. Make sure you understand the process yourself.
Drop a leaflet at every home telling them what you plan to do and explaining that someone will call and explain the process to them. Give enough detail, so that those who are keen and skilled can register themselves immediately. You might find you have 2 or 3 unexpected allies right on your doorstep.
Get face to face with people. Don't worry about trying to SELL the benefits of joining the Street Group. BE the person they would want to talk to, talk to them, be a friendly neighbour.
"What we need is to carry on this discussion online. I can send you an invitation? What email address should I send that too? What name do you want to use."
Encourage the use of real names. Nicknames are fine, but real names convey a sense of trust which neighbours appreciate.
Impress on people the need for a little bit of active support. They need to join the group, they need to pay attention to the early discussion. If that doesn't happen, the group has no energy and no enthusiasm and building it after that will be a long hard slog.
Small practical offers or requests have been the stuff of the groups we now have.
Talking about letter box damage or burglary has been a minor part of the activity.
Organise a small gathering. This might not be entirely spontaneous, but if two families plan a meeting in the park and one or two other families arrive, it's a success.
Join some online groups or lists to connect with other people engaged in this sort of work.
Search Google for local groups that are established near you.
Neighbourhood Support New Zealand Incorporated may be a source of help.
As this site develops there will be more and more support here.
What happens on the Internet is usually public, searchable, and perhaps always available. You can't both hide and also be present. People are choosing more and more to use real names rather than nicknames or nom-de-plumes. They are choosing to communicate more openly because openness works. People are entirely free to come and go. Each of us is the result of past choices. With a "click" we make choices about our futures.
But there is a good case to be made for private Street Groups. The problem then is leadership and maintenance of the membership.
Because of openness and randomness, the conversation will go where it needs to go. You DON'T have Control: You might try to guide it. But control remains with the members. Your group will be as good or as bad as the conversation that develops. Randomness will in time bring an issue to your door, and then you'll discover what value the group has.
Group forming online is very easy. Building strong effective groups is very hard. In the beginning at least most people will choose to remain silent. You need 3 to 6 people who are willing to keep some small conversation going on, even one letter a week will do. Try to achieve small practical things. Try to demonstrate good leadership. Good leaders are hard to find. Online Groups are an excellent place to practise. You won't always be right, learn to listen.
The ordinary social rules of the community apply. Very seldom do people need to be told what those rules are, or when someone has abused them. In our experience abuse is rare.
The amount of money needed to sustain an online group is minimal. The responsibility for providing those funds should be shared, and Internet banking makes the collection of those funds simple and easy and is self documenting. Most Neighbourhood Support Groups run without a bank account.
Most online groups run with no formal rules. The ownership and authority of the person who started the group is usually acknowledged. People are generally sensitive enough to normal social rules to behave well in online groups.
However, there is a need for formal agreed rules, or a constitution of some kind. Street Groups Limited is developing such a constitution. This provides members with some protection by agreed processes in case of disputes, and the groups with a means of closure if the group disbands.
There also need to be a procedure that enforces a regular change in the leadership of the group, preferably an annual change of positions in the committee, introducing someone new, changing the Chair, giving some long serving member a rest from duty. Each group needs to continually provide for the training of and the replacement of it's leadership.
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