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November 4, 2015

Making sense of the digital clutter

In the last edition of Local People Leading we profiled the rise of hyper local digital platforms that support and disseminate community news.  A development trust in East Lothian, Sustaining Dunbar, got in touch to share some work they have been developing over the past six years that seems to offer a solution to the challenge of when a community has lots of different groups all with their own websites. OurLocality web platform is designed to link up local websites, extract relevant information and facilitate a flow of information across them. Sounds almost too good to be true.


Philip Revell, Sustaining Dunbar

We have been running the OurLocality web platform for nearly six years now. It provides a very simple and easy way for any community group, organisation, association, business, enterprise, community council, individual, project or event in the local area to quickly set up a website to showcase who they are and what they are doing. There are currently about seventy active websites using the platform. Many more have come and gone. You can read a brief introduction to how it works here: ourlocality intro.

As they are all hosted on the same platform, it is easy to collate all posts from any of the hosted websites onto a local bulletin board that provides a rolling, hyper-local, news and events information service.

Our IT whiz keeps the platform updated and secure in the background so that users can just get on with using their site.

The basic, free website comes with a whole range of tools and plug-ins and possible themes to allow users to tailor their site to their own needs. Hand-holding and support can be provided to users if they need help doing this.

Whilst donations have been welcome, up until now we have offered this as a completely free service. As a Development Trust we see part of our role as being to support the free flow of information locally that can help to strengthen local connections and democracy.

However, we want to be able to ensure that the service that OurLocality provides can continue in future, whatever Sustaining Dunbar’s ability to carry on subsidising it.  We are therefore starting to look at ways to make it into a self-financing enterprise.

Also, we feel that the concept behind it has great potential that we have as yet barely explored. It would be quite straightforward to directly replicate ‘OurLocality’ platforms across other communities. The opportunity to use it to create a local news and events service ties in with the rapidly changing landscape around provision of local news –as highlighted in the recent  ‘Click and Connect’ report from Carnegie UK.  Replication of ‘OurLocality’ platforms could also create opportunities for growing a shared technical support community. But as well as using it in communities of place, we feel there are possibilities for using the idea to enable and support networking between communities of interest across Scotland, and further afield. Could it for example be used to help Development Trusts, Transition Initiatives, Community Woodland groups and others keep in touch with each other more easily, encouraging and enabling more peer-to-peer inspiration and support?

Anyone with any interest in discussing further is encouraged to get in touch:(