NEIGHBOURHOOD WEBSITE SHORT-LISTED FOR NATIONAL AWARD

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NEIGHBOURHOOD WEBSITE SHORT-LISTED FOR NATIONAL AWARD

By Emma Foster, Community Newswire

TECHNOLOGY Website Haringey, 05 May 2009 – 16:53

A campaigning neighbourhood website for the community of Harringay, London, has been short-listed for a national award.

Harringay Online has made the finals of the National eWell-Being Awards, managed by the UK Centre for Economic and Environmental Development.

The awards aim to celebrate the social, economic and environmental benefits of information and communication technologies (ICT) and promote the most innovative uses of ICT.

Harringay Online was set up in July 2007 and was one of the first neighbourhood websites to be set up using social media technology.

It aims to strengthen the community of Harringay in the north London borough of Haringey.

The site founder Hugh Flouch said: “It’s great that a site like ours is recognised. It makes a real difference in our neighbourhood and the more people hear about it, the more likely other similar sites will be set up elsewhere.”

The site has around 1,500 users, which is around 10% of the area’s population. It contains a range of blogs, groups, discussions, videos, a collection of photos from as early as the 1860s, local information and event listings. It also campaigns on local issues.

Hugh continued: “I set the website up after leaving a busy career and finding I had some spare time. I began campaigning on a local traffic issue and went from house to house and spoke to lots of local people about it. While campaigning on this I found that people didn’t feel very informed or connected so I decided to set up a local social networking site.

“My first motivation was about empowerment – people can’t deal with issues on their own but if you connect with other people authorities have to listen.

“I quickly became aware that the site fitted in with the Government’s agenda on getting people engaged in local political dialogue, empowering them to shape their local area, developing a sense of place and building social capital. I didn’t want it to come across as being too worthy and turn people off, so I made it like a virtual cafe. I describe it as more like a Sunday paper than a Financial Times.

“People can take from it what they want – they can set up groups on things that interest them like gardening or knitting, find out what’s going on and connect with people who share their interests. The idea is that when people come on for the light-hearted stuff they will learn about some of the more serious issues and perhaps sign a petition or just find out more about one of our campaigns.

“The website has had a few notable successes in its campaigns – the first one was when a rash of betting shops were planned for the town. We orchestrated a campaign against them and the council then turned down every application. The magistrates’ court subsequently allowed them to be built but we influenced the outcome as much as we could.

“Another was when a website user found a traffic redirection plan hidden in a planning application. We collected about 1,000 signatures to scrap this plan.

“We’re really pleased about this award. It’s important for small voluntary organisations like this to have some recognition. Awards like this underline to existing and potential members that this is a quality undertaking.”

The winners of the National eWell-Being Awards 2009 will be announced at an awards event at the Royal Society of Arts in London on June 17.

Haringey Online is run by a advisory group of around ten local people who aim to make sure the site continues running and help decide what it should include. For more information about the website go to http://www.harringayonline.com.

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