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Encouraging Community Investment

Posts: 25
Location: near Bellingham WA
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I live in a 'community' that isn't a community.  It's merely some land that got divided into a bunch of plots and slapped itself with a 'community' label and created some bylaws for its residents.

There is no resident investment opportunities.  It's more like a place to store our stuff and sleep while we live elsewhere.

Currently, there is a website with an alloted business advertising space.  Few people know that it's there, and it's not all that inspirational, nor does it allow for socializing.

There is a bulletin board on our local corner store (gas station store type foods).
This is more often used, but still doesn't allow for socializing.

Food is purchased in the towns that are 20 minute drives away.
The nearest public transport option is 5 miles away via a too dangerous to bicycle road.  Parking area for it is unsecured and relatively costly.  Also, the bus times are of limited use, starting too late for people to use it to get to work, and ending before most people leave work.  And if you miss a bus, you have to wait an hour to an hourandhalf for the next one.  If you miss the last bus, you're screwed.

When the gas prices suddenly rose a while back, many residents moved out.
As the gas prices rise now, more residents are looking to move out.
If a severe economic downturn were to occur, this place would be akin to a ghost town.  Except it was never a town to begin with, not even a village.

Basically, there are no local resources.

Except that there are.
It's just that noone here knows about them yet,
and much of the resource potential hasn't been created here yet.

My first step towards trying to encourage community investment here is to request a forum to be created for it.  (If the community 'government' doesn't want to create a forum using their resources, then I will try to find someone local who has enough computer knowledge/experience and who would be willing to create and run a forum, probably at my own cost.)

For now, I am drafting up a letter of request to put into their Suggestion Box.
I'm not interested in trying to sell anyone on Peak Oil, or other such things.  I figure that a better approach would be to sell them on the benefits of community investment by its residents.

If you were drafting up a similar suggestion/request.  What would you include?  What would you focus on?  What would you be cautious of?  Any other considerations?

The following is my first draft, but I'm nowhere near satisfied with it.  Feedback would be appreciated.

I was wondering if you have considered setting up an electronic forum type page for people in the [GLC] to converse or discuss topics on.  A way for people in the community to connect with other people in the community based on mutual interests, concerns, or resources.

For example, with the gas prices increasing, being able to connect with others in this community who would like to do ride sharing would be a benefit.

Another example, connecting gardeners together, both as a learning resource, but also as a possible means of promoting something like a mini-farmer's market type thing, where local gardeners can offer their extra foods to others in the community.

Or a forum could even provide a way of finding local resources within the [GLC].  A person looking for a resource, such as a painter, a babysitter, to borrow a book, or to learn a skill, can advertise in the forum what they are looking for (or what they can provide as a resource for others).

I believe that setting up a forum like this could help increase the community feel of [GLC].  This means that residents would begin investing time, emotion, and maybe even money into the community.  This would improve the economic resiliency of [GLC] as a viable living area when/if economic times gets hard.

((unsure of ending))

Again, feedback would be appreciated.
Posts: 25
Location: near Bellingham WA
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Ok, I've decided to take a different approach.

I decided that I didn't want to be limited to the specific 'community' I'm in.  I'd rather include the entire area that leads off the same main road.  So now I won't be writing a letter of suggestion to the community 'government'.

Since I don't have computer skills, I started a simply yahoo group.
Now I'm working on what info will go into a flyer that I can put at the corner store and the clubhouse and a few other small places.

I'm thinking of asking questions like:
Do you know...
* [person] at [address] sells fresh eggs on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 12pm-5pm?
* which neighbor you can go to for clothing sewing or mending?
* which of your neighbors can show you how to do [skill]?
* which of your neighbors is looking for people to play board games with?
* which of your neighbors would like to share transportation costs and time?
* which of your  neighbors is looking for part time help?
* ....[more bits of info/questions]....
* which of your neighbors could use YOUR help?
. . . . (your expertise, your knowledge, your skills)?

Any ideas on which kinds of questions/info to include to intrigue people?
I don't really know anyone here yet, so I can't really give specifics.
Posts: 5
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Starting with a (standard format) forum using phpBB3, that you can easily tweak, for the whole area not just for your local encampment, I support that idea. so yeah, agree with your second post intent. Maybe connect with the webmasters here?
Although yahoo groups has a messaging function, it's not nearly what you can do with a site hosted at a facility, similar to the ~10-20 a month with a php interface market rate. I saw the messaging function on yahoo groups as unnecessarily confusing, and use thunderbird instead, as the interface to view threads.

Its absolutely clear that communication is integral to allowing people who otherwise cannot get together easily (poor roads), to establish themselves more solidly. Like many people who see potential, however have been frustrated being surrounded by people who can only see what is in front of their face as if that is all there is (non-creative types), I hear you. There must be an equitable solution.
Posts: 25
Location: near Bellingham WA
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After setting up the yahoo group, and trying to get my daughter signed up on it through her gmail account, and seeing how clunky it was to deal with yahoo groups, I felt demotivated.  But then my daughter suggested a forum 'supplier' that she makes use of, and has been on other people's forums using that 'supplier', so I looked into it.  Yay...no yahoo group mess.

I created the forum and set up a few boards to give an idea of what I'm hoping will get local people to respond to.  I also feel much better about how it looks and feels.

So  now, I've still gotta work on the flyer thing.
Preferably with a less cheesy approach than those questions turned out to be. 
This means coming up with a tagline for the forum.  And noone to bounce ideas off of *cries*.

Ya know, it's kinda funny...sad, but funny...
I see so much talk about setting up communities and such, but everything is so generalized.  It kinda makes me wonder how many people talk about it, vs how many actually attempt it.  Or, maybe I'm missing the important stuff that I can't seem to find on my own.  Argh!!  And the places that seem like they might actually have stuff that I could use, want me to pay a high fee to take a course from them...and then hope that maybe they'll cover what I need.  Uh...No.

I won't take the Peak Oil approach.
I won't start off with the Transition Towns approach.
I'm not interested in arguing nor convincing people that this is best for them.
I just want to send out 'feelers' and let people know that hey...we're creating connections and potential resources for our area.  If this interests you, join in, if not...that's ok too.  (you = the people in this area)

Anyways, does anyone have any specific suggestions?
Right now I'm waiting for a book from the library to be available (end of the month).  This book goes into how to create a tagline and logo.  Hopefully this will help me get a flyer set up to distribute.
But I'm open to other ideas or resources.
Posts: 1601
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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One of the problems I see in rural communities is no central meeting place.  Sure a web based forum is accessible but only to those with computer access.
Do you have a place to mingle?
Posts: 24
Location: Fairfield, IA
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I think this is a good idea.  I hope you succeed in getting this community a reason and a resource to stick together.

I have a suggestion: don't worry about a tagline or logo.  You're not trying to brand a company or anything, just get people to talk to one another.  Focus on content not surface polish.

Getting people to use this forum will be tricky if people aren't used to using them and aren't used to talking to each other.  The point about a central meeting place is a good one.  Is there any place or time where some of your neighbors get together?  Do they go to the same church or do their kids go to the same school?  You might suggest this forum for that group's use too - in other words you can point out how they could coordinate soccer practice carpools or use it to plan the annual church pancake breakfast.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I get the impression you haven't talked to anyone in your community about this.  Maybe if you had a neighbor or two working with you it would be easier to get ideas  or get a broader perspective?

Finally, how about hosting a pot luck or something?  People gather around food, and the gathering itself could be a good community builder.
Posts: 25
Location: near Bellingham WA
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@Robert Ray,
On the forum I've asked for ideas on how to reach those who, for whatever reason, won't be accessing the forum.  But yeah, I recognize this as something to find a solution for.

Some ideas might be to create a newsletter to mail/deliver to them, which would include an updated directory.  Provide a contact phone number.  And eventually find a place to hold in person meetings, like maybe a pot-luck kind of thing.

The places that I'm aware of, for now, are:
A clubhouse in the 'community' I live in, that a resident here would have to reserve, but the 'community government' here might not allow it for that use.  (this gets complicated, heh)

A bar. (would put off the religious folks)
A church a block away from the bar. (would put off the non-religious folks)
A half empty building (this might be the ideal place if can rent cheaply or freely)
And a lot that sometimes gets used as a flea market kind of thing. (no covering)

There are people who've lived here longer than I, and might know of other options.  There's just not too many buildings around here that aren't on private lands.

Anyways, yeah, working on that one.
Posts: 25
Location: near Bellingham WA
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The tagline is to help express what the groups is for, what their purpose is, in a short, clear, but interesting manner.  For now I'm using
"Cain Lake Resiliency - local residents creating local resources".

Today I put out a few strips of paper with that tagline with the forum and email address.  This went onto a little bulletin board where people put ads up.  A person can just grab a strip and take it home with them.  But the tagline helps catch their interest long enough to at least look up the forum.

It may not be marketing a business, but it's still marketing.

Regarding a meeting place, my post to Robert Ray goes more in depth.

I admit that I don't know anyone around here except for about 6 houses.  Of that 6, I only really get to talk with 2, and only one of those recently.  I've lived here for 6 years.  I'm an extrovert.  People here keep to themselves, putting up walls of privacy.  Needless to say, the isolation has been driving me crazy. lol 

Earlier this week I talked with the one neighbor I see fairly regularly.  She's all for it.  She's also sending out word to the people that she knows around here.  One of the women she knows, that she believes will really get into the idea, and has been around for about 20 years, is also supposedly a woman who tends to organize things and gets things done.  Both of these women are very busy with other projects dealing with their children, though.

So for now, it's at the very very beginning stages.
It's going mostly by word of mouth, with the start of the 'flyer' slips mentioned above.

Earlier today I talked with one of my daughter's friends and her mother.  The mother is excited by the idea, but doesn't know how to use a computer.  Her daughter said she'd show her, heh.

I decided to go ahead and put out some flyer slips because I really need ideas other than my own.  I need someone to bounce ideas off of, etc.  My neighbor isn't the type.  She's more like, "tell me what you need, and I'll put some feelers out".  The other woman seems to be the type "tell me what  you want done, and I'll help you get it done".  And I'm more like "hey, here's an idea...anyone wanna take over from there?"

I'm told that the beginning stage is amongst the hardest.
You don't yet have access to resources that'll help out later,
and you're left doing most of the initial steps on your own.

What I had hoped for, with the whole intentional community and transition town efforts commonly mentioned in permaculture forums, was that maybe there would be something a little more helpful than "set up a meeting so the members can talk".  That's what I'm trying to do now.  Set up an area where people can talk.

But if I were to, at this moment, just put out a flyer calling for a meeting, it would go unnoticed, and/or ignored.  The small handful who might respond would feel that it wasn't worth returning.  Right now, people just aren't all that invested here, particularly with the gas prices increasing.

But if I were to start building some connections, which the forum will help provide, then I would a) have creative resources to make an interesting flyer, b) have a wider word of mouth range, and c) be in a better position to set up a community building potluck/meeting.  AND...I wouldn't have to do it all by myself.   

I had hoped to make use of any people in the "intentional community / city repair / ecovillage forum" who've gone through the process.  Drawing from someone else's experiences helps to prevent wasting time trying to reinvent the wheel, so to say.

And, perhaps my efforts here will provide insight for someone else who may later try something similar.

Thank you, (and thanks to Robert Ray) for your suggestions for what to take into consideration. 
Robert Ray
Posts: 1601
Location: Cascades of Oregon
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A common goal creates a cohesiveness.
Our rural area was brought together by a heavy handed decision by the local County Commissioners and it polarized our community to take action. Three mad housewives created a group that has become politically effective and powerful.
The group that started has developed into a strong group that not only addressed political issues but  has helped the Local Parks and Recreation, Grange,St Vincent DePaul, local community kitchen, and service organizations with donations of money time and volunteers.
A call for donations from the community for donations for a yearly yardsale for the last five year period the two day sales events have made as much as 10,000.00 dollars at one sale. The money was used for legal fees in our fight with the County and to donate to others.   
The group was victorious in our fight.
You have to throw the first pebble into the water on a project that a small group can get behind and keep it spreading.
Unfortunately with any group there will always be the few who do most of the organizational work and that can be a mental and physical drain on them.
Good Luck
Now I am super curious what sports would be like if we allowed drugs and tiny ads.
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