Virtual Neighbourhoods, Virtual Nations
Local Councils Making Communities

NET 24 - Case Study - Jo Byron
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Internationally, the methods used by local councils to engender a sense of community are very similar. The content is always informative, diverse and extensively inclusive, the sites themselves display some level of interactivity and the presentation usually includes graphics of local scenery or images depicting various aspects of local life. All of the websites researched included the following subjects and/or facilties:

Specific community groups i.e. youth, gay, women, senior citizens
Councilors online
Local services, from 'libraries' to 'water supply'
Commmunity societies & clubs i.e. gardening, historical societies, film
Downloadable forms & publications
Vision statement
Council meetings
Current local community issues
Local businesses
News and events

Most of the sites let their users know what their goals/visions are and what they hope to accomplish for the community. The better sites give contact details with names and titles, as well as telephone numbers, which "humanises" the site, thus creating a more approachable environment.

All the above items are ways in which residents may be stimulated to take interest in their immediate locale and become involved in community affairs. Outright requests for online feedback from the council encourage participation, so do online synchronous and asynchronous chat forums. Even the standard email contact has its merits in promoting an online community. It too is a means by which citizens contact their council to give
their opinion - and (ideally) the council then feeds back these opinions to the community via the website.