Networked Neighbourhoods is about to start work in three localities for the Big Local Trust.
The Trust (which is currently in the process of becoming legally established) has an endowment of £200 million to be invested in up to 150 neighbourhoods over the next ten years. These are areas of relative need that tend to have been overlooked in funding programmes.

The local funding schemes will enable people to make their communities better places to live in, now and in the future, by helping them develop the skills and confidence they need to identify priorities that matter to them and to take action to change things for the better.

Our aim will be to underpin and catalyse objectives like skills, confidence, community action and so on, by using connective technologies to establish digital community platforms. Whilst we have some ideas and options in mind, we’re not starting with any fixed idea of what each platform will turn out to be. To underline this open mindset, we’re using the phrase ‘local online channels’ as our working language to begin with. We’ll be working with what we find on the ground, responding to local needs and agendas and the people who are willing to take part. We’re looking forward to this opportunity to strengthen and possibly adapt the model of an online neighbourhood network.

We will be working in three areas:
• Gobowen, St Martin’s and Weston Rhyn villages (Shropshire)
• Littlemoor (Weymouth and Portland)
• Lumbertubs (Northampton).

Our research has shown that local digital platforms can contribute in various ways to quality of life, by stimulating neighbourliness, sense of belonging, sense of empowerment and readiness to collaborate with agencies.

We have always acknowledged that the areas covered by our case study sites were relatively affluent, with high levels of educational attainment. We see no reason why local online channels should not have comparable success in less affluent areas, although there could be a need for community development work to get things going.

What’s gratifying about this project is that the Big Lottery Fund has backed that belief, and has backed our approach which combines community development, with a social media savvy and a drive for social innovation.