I know they used to say that a week is a long time in politics – these days an hour can change everything! Well a week is also a very long time when you are working for an exciting new social media platform. Not that it hasn’t been highly enjoyable – I am learning so much!
So let me say that in my haste I was a little over-enthusiastic in terms of getting people signed up. Nextdoor is in its Beta (test or pilot) phase in the UK. My colleagues in England are a few weeks ahead of me, but there are some steps that need to be taken to build the network here, ahead of a UK-wide launch in September.

First there’s the maps – and that has been super-interesting! Working with some really smart mapping specialists, I have been building up a network of the Belfast communities. Nextdoor are very keen to ensure that the neighbourhoods using it are the communities that people actually identify with. So ‘little’ things like interfaces and electoral boundaries can make it tricky for those who don’t know the city to create these maps. Let’s face it, it is tricky enough for those of us who do know the city!

Gillian Bergeron from Nextdoor HQ in Silicon Valley

Next there are great people called ‘founding members’. In Ballynafeigh that person is me, but I’ve already identified 25 or so people who are keen to start a network in their community. To be a founder member you need to live in the community, and have an interest in connecting people. Once we’ve agreed your map you start inviting neighbours. It is a little scary at first as you wonder what you are doing and whether anyone will think – like you – that this is a good idea! A neighbourhood needs to grow to 10 members before it becomes ‘launched’ – so it is great when those you invite invite others.

Then you start getting used to the app – where you can post events and invite others to them; buy and sell stuff or give it away; ask for or make recommendations for a baby-sitter, local plumber or coffee shop. You can chat with individuals or the whole community. Nextdoor is a safe and secure network, and your data will never be sold on – so it is private for your community.

As the network grows I will be working with public bodies to get them on board – including (hopefully) the police, Housing Executive and local Councils. This allows them to target information very locally, and will allow neighbours to have a direct link to them.

In the past week I have had a bunch of meetings – and had the pleasure of showing Gillian Bergeron (above) from the office in Silicon Valley and Ashley from London, around Belfast. I’ve dealt with a stack of enquiries and my initial post attracted huge attention! I can’t wait to see what the next few weeks have in store. I am learning so much and enjoying it hugely. I am particularly interested in how Nextdoor can help strengthen communities, and build links between them.

So if you are really keen to get involved – contact me about being a founding member in your area. If you’re not sure yet, look out for my posts on Facebook and Twitter about the growth of the neighbourhoods – or I can come and have a coffee with you.

Northern Ireland’s first Nextdoor Neighbourhood – Ballynafeigh


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