Fine but show me how the web can solve ‘real’ issues.

There’s a great story over at Pete Ashton’s blog about how his post on the use of street advertising by the Birmingham Rep got a response from the senior staff involved (of both the Rep and the advertising company) and resulted in a solution, an apology and even a donation to charity.

Now the title of this blog post is more to bait comment than suggest that the defacing of a work of art isn’t a ‘real’ issue but I think it might be less of an issue than the systematic decay of the streets where my Mom lives in Alum Rock. I did three things to try to get some movement on this. I wrote to the local councillors for the constituency, I made a request through and I blogged about it. The letter got a response to say it was being looked at, the request got acknowledged by very quickly but with no progress two months later and the blog post got a single comment.

So what’s going on here? How do I work the web in such a way that produces the kind of swift action we saw over the Rep’s adverts?

7 thoughts on “Fine but show me how the web can solve ‘real’ issues.

  1. You’re comparing apples and stepladders though, aren’t you?

    Pete got an advertising company to come back and wash a stone whereas you want the council to knock down some houses and fix up the area around your mum’s house. That’s always going to take longer.

    In your blog post you say “I don’t actually know what the plans for them are but I seem to recall that subsidence issues meant most of the street had to go.” It sounds like just the sort of meaty issue that Help Me Investigate would want to get their teeth into.

    Can we find out who knows what the plans are for the houses and more importantly how to influence the speeding up of their demolition? I’d be happy to help you try and find out.

  2. Couple of things spring to mind:

    1) the Rep issue is one that is very PR led – and was mentioned in a place where the people who could “do something” were listening (or monitoring).

    2) It’s much more “easily” solved.

    A much larger community effort would be required to pressurise Councillors to act I think — something which the web can help to organise but is unlikely to do alone in this instance. In fact, unfortunately pressure organised online is unlikely to work until it reaches the people who can effect change — which is probably via the MSM.

    I’ve been doing a little bit of blogging on where there are a lot of examples of residents grouping together to change their local environment for the better. Hopefully online organisation can start to make this easier, but I doubt there’s ever going to be a “fixmyarea” site that produces quick results.

  3. I’m sitting on this for a bit before writing a response / analysis but this really was like shooting fish in a barrel. If it hadn’t been sorted within the week I would have been astonished.

    The “real issue” for me, btw, is that we allow unregulated advertising on our streets. You can’t hang a billboard anywhere you like but you can etch your brand in the pavement? That’s a campaign that if I were to pursue it (and I may) would not be won in 48 hours.

  4. Not sure this is a web issue. The web can carry the communication; but you need to think through what would make people care about the issue, and how to help them communicate that to the Council ? How about a NING ?

  5. You would also need to hand out flyers to passers by explaining the problem and how to use the NING, and that their action could change things. It’s a mixture of media – voice,print and web ?

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