Links to the best stuff
Community Toolbox ~ a vast resource
Ashoka ~ social entrepreneurs
Green Media Toolshed ~ great media training
The Control Game ~ spot fake involvement
Shelterforce ~ community dev articles
ZNet ~ articles on social change
National Civic League ~ citizen involvement
Civic Practices Network ~ lots of material
Community Development Discussion Listserve
Citizen Toolbox ~ 60 tools from Australia
Benton Foundation ~ media action
Rural Community Toolbox
Links for Building Democracy & Community
Creating Web Action Alerts
Training for Change
Information Sharing

Knock and drop
How do you tell everyone in your neighborhood about an event they should attend? Many neighborhood associations do a “knock and drop.” Block reps knock on doors to invite neighbors to attend; if no one is home, they drop off a leaflet. Other groups put up posters. Some photocopy machines can turn a leaflet into a small poster suitable for advertising in laundries, community centres, and libraries. If you want people to attend your event, the best approach is to ask everyone to invite friends, family, and neighbors.


A newsletter is one of the most common ways for organizations that have resources to stay in touch. Community newsletters range in frequency from once yearly to twelve times a year. Most are printed on both sides of an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet or on both sides of a folded 11 x 17. Printing is either by high-speed photocopying or “instant” offset printing. You may be able to defray printing costs by enlisting the support of local merchants, local government, or community organizations.

The big job in putting out a newsletter is finding people who are willing and able to write articles that others are interested in reading. To get good newsletter content, a group often needs to find and pay a writer who will seek out good stories and write them up. Simply asking group members for submissions often yields few or poor results. Besides a writer / researcher, you will need the skills of an editor, and people willing to arrange printing, and distribution. You will also need the services of a graphic designer to make your newsletter appear worth reading. Engaging newsletters look like newspapers, with narrow columns, photographs, and bold headlines.

You will also need people willing to arrange printing and distribution. Try to deliver your newsletter by hand — if you have block reps, they can easily deliver to their own block. Co-distribution is next best. This involves partnering with a local school, business, or community centre so that they distribute your newsletter with their own. Other distribution possibilities include schools sending the newsletter home with students, distribution in churches, literature distribution boxes in libraries, community centres, and other public places, ad mail, or a flyer distribution service. An emailed newsletter avoids the issue of distribution, but limits the audience to those who use email.

Local newspapers
Local newspapers can also help with information sharing, although you may find that a local problem gets far more attention than a local solution. Fortunately, some small papers are changing their idea of what should go into a newspaper. They are beginning to publish articles with a positive local focus that are well written and worth reading.

Telephone trees
A telephone tree is a fast, person-to-person information- sharing technique. It requires a coordinator, and a list of who -calls -whom. An outgoing message starts with the coordinator, who calls a predetermined list of ten activators. The ten activators in turn each call another predetermined list of ten people, who in turn each call another ten. It is important to make sure those at the base of the tree are reliable. The coordinator should check by occasionally calling people at the outer tips of the tree to ensure they’ve been contacted. One of the largest citizens’ groups in the US, Common Cause, initiates most of its actions through an effective national telephone tree.

Web-based networks
Google groups, Facebook, My Space, RBlock and many other online social networking sites enable users to set up interest groups and invite others to join.
Pbwiki lets you create an info website anyone in your group can add to and edit.

E-mail newsletters
Another way of staying in touch with citizens locally and in other cities is through an e-mail newsletter To start an email newsletter, put some interesting material on a web site, then invite people to subscribe. You can bulk email the newsletter to subscribers by entering their addresses as on the “Bcc” (blind cc) line so that addresses remain invisible. The big advantage with of email newsletters is that you pay nothing for printing, distribution, and color photos. The other way to do an email newsletter is to put all the content on a website, then email subscribers the web address. You can also build up a searchable archive on the site and hotlink to other interesting material. The main advantage of web delivery is that people without email can view the newsletter at community centers and libraries with public web access.

Autodialer networks
For a few hundred dollars you can buy an autodialer that will send short messages to answering machines. The system uses a computer and database directory to digitize voice messages and then send them out automatically. Operating on one line, during weekdays, a single machine can deliver a one- minute message to 6,000 people per week. It’s best to send messages to people who have said they wish to receive them, and to send the messages during the day when they will hit reach answering machines or voice- mail.
A community group can also "cold call" people with bulletins or short messages they might reasonably assume people would want to receive. To obtain numbers for cold calling, buy a phone CD which contains millions of current names, addresses, and phone numbers that can be pulled off block by block. Because everyone gets their telephone messages, autodialers are useful for guaranteed delivery and for messages that have to go out quickly. They are useless for asking people to do something they would not normally do.

Community Building Activities / Part 2-17
The Citizen's Handbook / Charles Dobson /