Marion's CCTE Blog

Friday, December 16, 2005

IE Project- A Recap

As I’ve blogged about throughout the semester, I dedicated my IE project to helping West Siders for Responsible Development. The community group has been fighting to stop Extell Development Company from building two high-rise towers on Broadway near 100th Street. While the group had incited several protests and attracted a growing number of local residents, they have not fully tapped the power of social software to help advance their cause. My goals were to help the group spread the word about Extell’s plans, to help them recruit the support of more UWS residents as well as community outsiders, and to identify communities confronting similar challenges in order to join forces or gain insight based on their experiences.

Board members were thrilled that I wanted to help them create more of a web presence so that they could connect with more Upper West Side residents and community groups. I started by creating a wiki that includes the following: background on West Siders, a link to their Bloomberg petition, contact information for city officials, sample letters to city officials (in English and Spanish), recent news stories about the group, information about recent and upcoming events, and an overview on how individuals can get involved. Board members agreed that the information in this resource was necessary and much more extensive than the information on their blog, which they used to post occasional announcements. They were concerned, however, about the risks of using something that’s open source. Their current plan is to transfer the information from the wiki I developed onto their blog. In the meantime, they have committed to activating the links on their current blog. They also decided to create a master mailing list and data bank so that they can increase their online activity (to date, most of their communication with members has been through direct mail).

My other efforts have been less successful. With the help of Jonah, some Web research, and a few NY Times articles I recently blogged about, I have identified some local organizations that are confronting similar development issues. I proposed that West Siders for Responsible Development join forces with these opposition groups to stop all of these projects. If these groups unite in their struggle to resist irresponsible development of this kind, they will likely have more power and influence. While my primary contacts at West Siders agree with this, I’ve had trouble establishing connections between these groups.

I am proud of my efforts thus far to introduce West Siders to the potential benefits of social software. At the same time, the process of change has been slower and more frustrating than I anticipated. If a primary goal of this project was to learn firsthand how hard to is to build networks and foster change using social software, that goal was certainly achieved.

Thanks for a great semester, everyone! See you online…



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