Bringing Nextdoor to Northern Ireland

I recently spent a lovely week in Puglia – in the heel of the boot of Italy.  We spent a few days and nights in Monopoli – a little seaside fishing town packed with history, culture and atmosphere.

One of my favourite aspects of Monopoli was that in the evening as the heat of the sun started to subside – hundreds of people came onto the streets and walked around chatting to each other.  All generations – and everyone chatting.  Even though I couldn’t understand the conversations, I was struck by the wonderful sense of community generated by this activity.  I felt like I was in the midst of a really friendly hive of bees!

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Now that is probably an odd way to start a conversation about a new social media platform – particularly as I noticed that no-one was on their mobile devices – not even the local teenagers – but I have always been of the view that social media is a set of tools – and it is up to us how we use them and how much we allow them to influence our lives.  I also believe that people are increasingly using social media to make real-world connections and to do good.

I wonder how many of you reading this know the names of 10 or more of your immediate neighbours?  I know that I don’t – and if it weren’t for having children, I would know even fewer than I do!  I know more than that in the wider area (Ballynafeigh) in which I live, but I don’t spend much time visiting my neighbours – I tend to know them in other spheres – particularly through work.

Nextdoor.com (the US site)  is a new kind of social network.  If you are reading this from the US, you are probably already familiar with it – as it is used in over 60% of neighbourhoods there.  Even some of my Dutch friends will know it, as it launched there a few months back and is growing fast.  A good friend in London is working to develop it there, and she asked me if I would be interested in dintroducing it in Northern Ireland.

It is a network based on neighbourhoods – you can only use it to engage with your near neighbours.  People use it for all kinds of purposes, from organising community events: to buying, selling and giving stuff away; to finding babysitters, reliable tradespeople and dog walkers; and to help keep their communities safe.  It is very local,safe and personal.  A ‘Founder Member’ invites (and verifies) neighbours who can in turn invite others.  I love how it connects the virtual world to the real world really effectively.

I am very excited to find out how it will be used in Northern Ireland and how it will help us to build safer and stronger communities.  Public bodies – including the police and local councils – will be able to target information at a very local level (for example patterns of burglaries or a change in the day that bins are collected) and engage with neighbours from those communities.  At a time when resources are being stripped back, it is a free and effective tool for communicating at the macro level.  I wonder if it could help build relations between students and more settled communities in our city?  Perhaps we can find effective ways of communicating across ‘interfaces’ and between neighbouring communities.

Nextdoor was founded in 2010 and has received significant investment to help it grow and develop.  I am confident that it will grow quickly across the UK.  With younger people having to live more transitory lives these days it is nice to think that they could link into the Nextdoor network wherever they are living and use it to help them to feel part of a new community.

Why not check it out online or download the app?  If you’re interested in being a Founder Member in your area (in Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK), drop me a line.  If you work with a public body or local business that is interested in trying  these tools, use the form below to get in touch.

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