Welcome to the BeNeighbors.org development wiki. Originally code-named "Neighborly," this is a proposed social enterprise and open source coding project.
- Read on below and be sure to join our online working group.
- Review our one pager (PDF).
- Register to watch our input webinar on-demand.
- Contact Steven Clift to request more information or to volunteer.
The working domain name for this project is BeNeighbors.org (BeNeighbours.org). We also own Neighbor.be and NeighborCircle.com.
E-Democracy.org has almost two decades of experience with local online participation via our public Issues Forum model. This includes our very popular Neighbors Forums which cover areas with 5,000 to 20,000 residents reaching over 15% of households in some areas.
BeNeighbors.org will be the dynamic block-level private online group exchange among nearest neighbors that complements and by design helps support, potentially help fund traditional public online engagement hosted by us, our friends across the Locals Online field, and community, civic, and media organizations based on their results as outreach partners.
Be Neighbors - Do you want to ...
Would you like to build connections with your neighbors?
- to make your block safer and prevent crime
- to "break the ice" and meet your neighbors
- to communicate easily as a group with the neighbors you know
- to share experiences and tips answering "who can recommend a good plumber"
- to connect with other parents nearby organize fun activities for your kids
- to organize a spontaneous neighborhood block party on an especially nice spring day
- to prepare your block for emergencies and disasters
- to do any of the scores of block activities we've identified
- and find connections to community solutions and online groups in your broader area
BeNeighbors.org is a simple idea - use online tools to connect people to their nearest neighbors. (While protecting their privacy and helping the community.)
How it might work
This experience is simple:
1. Sign-up - Including your full street address.
2. Get Listed - You are listed in your personalized directory of nearest neighbors (site participants) around you covering 25 to 100 people. You are in the physical center of your directory. Target members: "neighborly" people open to private small group connections using real names for real trust
3. Connect - Use your neighbor directory to connect with others (login required, reciprocity ensured). Determine how you want to connect one to one whether by telephone, e-mail or a web form, encouraging neighbors to friend you on Facebook or follow on Twitter, or none of the above.
4. Exchange - Easily share information (about a break-in on your block), ask questions (who can recommend a good plumber), etc. in private group setting with those in your neighbor directory. Post via e-mail or web. Read via e-mail or web. Topics you start are restricted to just those in your circle. You own the topic and may delete it or comments at anytime. You may only comment on topics started by people in your directory as well.
5. Explore Locally - Based on your location, find other opportunities for broader public engagement from wider community e-mail lists and neighborhood blogs to aggregated place-based government and community information and links connecting you to civic life. BeNeighbors.org seeks to introduce you to broader public life with you at the center.
We are seeking a mix of volunteer engagement and funding to first develop a proto-type and beta effort in pilot communities.
Benefits - Public and Community Service Examples
While BeNeighbors must provide real value to everyday people to attract use, we've been gathering contacts across government and non-profit public service providers (let's call them potential "Solution Partners"). These "silos" of community service could strategically benefit from this horizontally designed service and are likely not in a position to build critical mass participation for a similar system in isolation.
If you would like to be a lead contact from a specific sector, please contact us.
- Crime Prevention - Neighborhood watch, block club formation and communication, ... note benefits to insurance companies if networks assist in reducing crime
- Disaster Preparedness and Community Recovery - Neighbor contact directories, communication
- Emergency Preparedness and Response - Rapid communication, particularly with text/SMS alert options
- Health Care and Long-term Care - Neighbor support for healthier "aging in place" and neighbors facing major health challenges
- Energy Efficiency - Exchange on successful energy use reduction actions among those with often similar homes (go beyond the numbers to how you changed yours)
- Environmental Sustainability - Shared use of tools, reuse of household items - down the block rather than across town, block-level community tree planting and "citizen" forestry (note our connect with TreePeople in LA)
- Senior Care and Inter-generational Connections - Reducing isolation of seniors in their homes and connecting people across generations
- Small Business Promotion - Recommendations exchanged on very local, often independent service providers
- Transportation - Opportunities for carpooling, car sharing emerge
- Local Food - Opportunities for garden sharing, splitting Community Supported Agriculture shares and other bulk food sharing emerge
- Diverse Community Cohesion - "Ice breaker" opportunity that introduces people of different racial, ethnic, and social groups who live very near each other.
- Education and Community Service - Opportunities to efficiently match tutors, mentors, etc. in extremely and close proximity to neighborhood youth - tapping Baby Boomer retiree capacity within walking distance
- Recent Immigrant and Refugee Integration and Support - Provide an open and less intimidating way for new Americans to connect with and come to understand their neighbors
- Sustainable Broadband Adoption - Create meaningful reasons for those less likely to connect to find measurable value in the Internet
- Rural Community Building - Dynamic nature of neighbor circle being based on "nearest neighbors" would connect relatively isolated households organically, could also connect year-round and seasonal residents
- Youth Employment and Experience - Make demand for babysitting, yard work, snow shoveling and other services visible to the parents of minors
- Community Building, Civic Engagement, and Social Capital - Building community capacity for communication, listening, understanding, respect for difference, openness to new residents, advocacy on shared goals (from a new stop sign to graffiti removal to pollution clean-up), etc.
- Neighborly Mutual Benefit and Support - Neighbors who know each other are far more likely to help each other in times of great need
This list may seem pie in the sky, but isolated examples of such activity are already taking place on our current Neighbors Issues Forums and many other sites in the Locals Online community. The question is, can we move from isolated cases by designing a sustainable system that creates the quality exchange required to make available everywhere?
Our experience with potential start-up funding sources like foundations, is that general community building or civic engagement infrastructure is far less fundable than offering a solution to related to their funding mission. Therefore, we seek "Solution Partners" that have models that operate at the very local level on any of these benefits (or others you help us add) to develop demonstration proposals to funders. Our goal is to combine a few funding accessible sectors in a beta phase to build a shared system none of us can get to critical mass participation in isolation on our own.
This effort is an experimental part of E-Democracy.org's Participation 3.0 Inclusive Social Media initiative. It was launched at the Minnesota Civic Hackathon on Dec. 12, 2009. Many code-a-thons later the effort continues.
- Neighborly Online Group - Join the two-way exchange among developers.
- Neighbor.be specification - Drafting
- Neighborly on GitHub - where the technical development is happening
- Block activities - things people have done somewhere with their neighbors
- Neighborly Input Survey/Beta Tester Sign-up
- Knight News Challenge Neighborly Submission - Imagining our volunteer driven idea as a funded initiative
A bit of fun ...
Depending upon how the system in designed, we may or may not need detailed address data (parcels, addresses points, government jurisdiction, etc.).
- Google Maps API - Converting addresses to estimated longitude and latitude via their GeoCoder
- YahooMaps GeoCoder API
- Reserve GeoCoder
- Minnesota Voter Registration and Polling Place Finder Data - A way to extrapolate addresses generically and potentially to make registration easier for those who are registered to vote. As a political engagement project, we qualify under state law to use this data.
- MetoGis GeoCoder
- Minnesota GIS DataFinder - Data from the Twin Cities Metro area including various services.
- UK GeoCoder? - In case we want to experiment in our UK Issues Forum communities.
- geocoder.us A geocoder service that is free for noncommercial use.
- Projects Online Group - General volunteers (including non-programmers) are encouraged to join this all encompassing online group.
- Project Blog - Neighborhood-related posts
- Inclusive Social Media - Details on our "public" level of neighborhood-wide social networking in lower income, highly diverse neighborhoods.
- E-Democracy.org's new Participation 3.0 initiative is supporting coordination of the Neighborly effort and will inform our open specification process development.
- According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project about 8 million American adults or 4% of people belong to a neighborhood e-mail lists. Now that is the beginning of a movement. Growing interest in using blogs, Facebook, and social networking sites like Ning to connect neighbors further increases the momentum. Let's take it up to 8%, then 20% and higher.
- Social media in local public life - Extensive links to related projects
- Locals Online - International online community of practice for those who host local blogs, social networks, e-mail lists, community websites, etc.