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Strategy: Using the Internet to Network a Neighborhood

Visit to view some of the innovative and effective work being done on the Internet for social change. . . .

Visit to view some of the innovative and effective work being done on the Internet for social change. Cybersavvy citizens change communities by using the Internet to reconnect with neighbors and communities, and to participate in civic life. Contributing time, ideas, and money to communities and causes, cybersavvy citizens have a unique opportunity to participate in their neighborhood.

In today's fast-paced and busy world, attending community meetings or volunteering can prove challenging. People search for new ways to volunteer and help. Ideas range from starting an online community newsletter to posting information on any unusual or suspicious activities taking place in the neighborhood.

"Just as every strong neighborhood has volunteers who organize neighborhood associations, plan events, attend meetings, and look out for the neighborhoods' interests, every neighborhood also needs volunteers who can use the Internet to strengthen a sense of neighborhood and local community," said Jim Buie, creator of

Buie lives in Takoma Park, MD, a generally safe and quiet family-oriented neighborhood. "In 1997 we had a series of crimes over a short period of time that outraged me. My next-door neighbor was mugged walking home from the bus stop at 6:30 p.m. Their babysitter was mugged walking to their house at 8:00 a.m. There was a drug-related drive-by shooting one block from my home at 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon. Our state legislator worked with the lieutenant governor to have our town declared a "hot spot." The state police were brought in for a short time to re-establish order. At that time I had about 10 neighbor's email addresses. I sent out an email saying this crime wave was outrageous and we needed to organize a neighborhood patrol," said Buie. He quickly collected 50 more email addresses, sent out another email and within 24 hours had 30 volunteers for a neighborhood patrol.

"The sense of crisis passed after a few months and patrols dwindled. However, the email list has continued to grow among my neighbors to about 125 people in an eight-block radius. I recently used the list to try and reactivate the patrol and within 24 hours we had 20 volunteers. We get more volunteers every week. Maybe you don't have time to knock on someone's door, but because this is easy (emailing neighbors) and doesn't take much time and people are invested. It's a matter of convenience and ease. Caring for each other, mobilizing, and increasing participation and communication are just some of the fruits of neighborhood networking," concluded Buie.

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