If we want people to #buylocal, we really shouldn’t #freelocal

I’ve been battling away, and learning a lot at the same time, around the principles enshrined early on in the project chester.website, which made its appearance in late January 2015. You can find a summary and overview of the last nine months or so here.

I posted on the subject of shopping locally – and owning locally – wherever this might be possible, quite early on in that period.

I even wrote stories about my experiences of deliberately, and enjoyably, doing the former.

At the same time, my journey took me to question the dangers of becoming so proud of one’s own parish that the outside world would be blocked out – inefficient for business development, and almost certainly fairly catastrophic for culture and society’s long-term wellbeing.

One of the key drivers of the project, as a result, was – and still is – sustainability: both sociocultural and financial. A social model, then, and a business model to make it last. As someone very wise said to me recently, how to make hyperlocal – above all – a long-lasting community asset, designed from the beginning to live way beyond its creators.

One of the ideas I had ran as follows. That is to say, a tiered type of association to a highly local community hub, based quite obviously on the Guardian’s now year-old Membership scheme:

mylocal.wiki/ … involves the promotion of different kinds of local communication. A kind of para-journalism, if you like: just as para-medics save lives, so para-journalists save communities.

But it’s not just a question of serious democracy: enjoy & debate events allow you to do many grand things with and in your local community. From tasting fine wine, cheeses and food from your area to debating the controversial and fascinating issues of the day – whether regional, national or global – being part of enjoy & debate means being part of a growing conviviality in democracy.

enjoy & debate provides three levels of association:

  1. enjoyer – this is free. All you need to do is turn up when and if an event attracts you (some events will have a charge to attend)
  2. debater – a nominal monthly fee of 1 GBP allows you to form part of teams who will debate the issues of the day
  3. organiser – a monthly subscription of 5 GBP means you prepare, structure and define the terms of events

That was one of very many ideas in the primeval soup.

Another was a cooperative structure of equally tiered relationships (you can get a feel for early development in this link). And so it is that I come back to this idea now, in the light of a brilliant example from Bristol: The Bristol Cable. Way before hyperlocal was a gleam in my eye, The Bristol Cable was not only creating and implementing business model, it was doing fantastic news stories on the back of it.

So if you’re interested in any – or all – of the above with respect to your own projects, either here in Chester or elsewhere in the UK, you have a grand opportunity to get the information first-hand from The Bristol Cable at an NUJ/@C4CJ event to be given on 8th October 2015, in Cardiff. I’m definitely going to be there, myself – and if, in the event, you decide to go too, do please get in touch with me via email on mil@pobox.com, or simply tweet me @chestertweet or @zebrared.

I’d love to share experiences, thoughts and ideas. And not just virtually and online – face-to-face too!

One final thought; and back to the title of today’s post as we think it. I started very enthusiastically in late January of this year to promote #buylocal/#shoplocal. It’s been hard for me to maintain the momentum; people will have noticed I’m sure.

One of the main reasons is that buying locally via small shops and establishments is usually – not always, but quite often – a bit more expensive than buying globally from those transnationals and big brands. In my case, for sure it’s the case, because my only source of income is writing and training – and certainly in the former circumstance, people are used to getting their written content pretty much free wherever they go. A suggestion then, relating in particular to hyperlocal news: if you believe so very strongly in the principle of #buylocal/#shoplocal, why not apply it – as, for example, The Bristol Cable does so brilliantly – to your news and socially-networked platforms too?

If we want everyone, even out-of-pocket writers, bloggers and journalists, to be able to easily choose to #buylocal/#shoplocal, we really shouldn’t do #freelocal anywhere – not even with our news …


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