Hello there and welcome to The Eleven, my monthly newsletter where I share my thinking, suggest calls to action, and give you a sense of my life in Portlandia. If you'd like to unsubscribe or change your email preferences, there are buttons for both of those options below. It's been a great month - I've been focused on work - giving seminars (see below); continuing to learn my craft; and helping friends and clients with their marketing efforts.
If you've been anywhere near me in the last year, or have been reading my newsletter, you'll know I've been doing my best to spread the word about NextDoor.com. I have been a fan of local all my life. I love the idea of the 20-minute neighborhood - being able to walk to everything you need in 20 minutes - which leads to less car use and having a lighter impact on the Earth. It leads to a lot of other benefits, as well. Not being in a car means you use other modes of transportation such as walking, biking and roller-skating. And while you're out you end up meeting your neighbors and catching up - sometimes learning important news that you wouldn't find out any other way. Knowing who lives around you also creates safety as everyone can keep an eye on things. This is what life used to be like in village days of yore. We've lost much of this familiarity as the United States has developed suburbs and we've designed our world to fit the car rather than what's best for our thriving.
Enter the internet and social media platform, nextdoor.com. Nextdoor is a combination of social media worlds that many of us are familiar with (particularly, Facebook). Once you've signed up (a simple process where you, a real person, living at a real address are verified) you suddenly land in the neighborhood you live in on-line. There's a newsfeed where you can see what your neighbors have posted, and you can also view the feed of your surrounding neighborhoods. For me, that's North Richmond, Portland, Oregon = 200+ members, and the greater area about 2,000 members. I can connect to the people on my block, or to all the people in about a mile radius around me.
What I've seen so far is a mixture of things. People use NextDoor to offer each other extra of what they have (fruit was popular last Summer), kind of like Freecycle, which I helped jumpstart in 2003. The conversations are about everything from people seeking recommendations for home improvements; bodywork; tech support; local events; to neighborhood-watch type notifications about break-ins; missing pets and the like. There's also a fair bit of discussion about how our neighborhoods are developing. Currently, in the neighborhood I live in there has been an increase in old houses being torn down to be replaced by much larger scale buildings and that's led to a lot of discussion of where we're headed as a neighborhood and city. These type of discussions used to happen on community lists and at neighborhood council meetings, but this new forum provides an opportunity to use collaborative technology at the neighborhood level. Without ads! Then, there are the yardsales and notices from the City and other odds and ends - things for sale; re-posts of CraigsList ads; homes for sale or rent; and new groups forming (the first of these I have seen is a local singles group).
There are many reasons why I am so gung-ho about Nextdoor.com. As someone who has been involved in high-tech for years, I am always excited when I see something come along that will Do Something Today to Right the World. I see this as that - a way for us all to get closer - to build community resilience through being in each others' lives more. To make local bonds rather than keeping up networks that take a lot of fossil fuel to maintain. NextDoor also dovetails with another passion of mine: Farm My Yard. Farm My Yard is an effort to connect homeowners who have yards with those who have urban farming skills and would like to grow food, but are lacking needed space. I also see Farm My Yard as a possible youth employment/business opportunity. In my dream I see teenagers using the Farm My Yard agreements and walking their neighborhoods to find a few yards to farm. This can and does lead to real income; vegetables for all; and less trips to the grocery store for everyone.
So, for me, it's all coming together - and, I hope, we're coming together. I see these types of developments leading to something fantastic in the future. Nextdoor.com is not perfect yet - it doesn't always correctly identify neighborhood boundaries; the tech support can be iffy; disputes are left up to neighborhood "leaders" who sometimes make questionable calls; and I'm sure there are other imperfections, as well. That said, for now, this is one horse I am betting on! And, I recommend, if you're not a member yet that you give it a try and see what you find.
For a better world,
PS: March 4th NYT Article on Nextdoor.com