Saturday, May 17, 2008

The potential of a new web site

Lynda Jones (right) keeps track of the discussion in the Health and Wellness group.

Lynda Jones presented the brand-new Washington Park NCP web site today to about 65 participants at the neighborhood's third community planning meeting. The site went live late yesterday after about a month of intensive work loading stories, photos, maps, directory listings and calendar items.

As program manager for Washington Park NCP, Lynda jumped right into the decision-making process on the web site, sorting and editing and making decisions about what content would be most useful for users. That's a big trick to web site creation: it's not really a technical job, though there are always glitches and tricks that you have to get past. Building a web site is fundamentally about presenting information, and to do it well, you have to make choices.

Lynda and the leaders of Washington Park NCP have a nice tight focus for the site. First, it will be the central repository for information about the Washington Park planning process -- meeting reports, lists of goals, and drafts of strategies and programs as they are developed. Second, it will be a "neighborhood portal" where residents and others can learn about who's doing what. That includes business and organization listings, of which there are more than 100 already, a calendar of events, stories and plenty of photos about what's going on this summer and beyond.

Today's meeting provided a preview of what's to come. At the youth and education breakout group, Torrey Barrett of the K.L.E.O. Community Center told about how on a recent Friday afternoon, the organization's staff decided to do a barbecue for themselves to celebrate the weekend. They started cooking outdoors "and 20 or 30 kids showed up and asked if they could have some food, so we sent someone to the grocery store for more food and ended up spending five hours out there with the kids, talking and hanging out."

The breakout group liked the possibilities here, and suggested a summer schedule of "corner actions" that would have different organizations and churches sponsoring barbecues on Friday nights, but not just for themselves. All groups would be invited to round up kids from the local corner or anywhere else and bring 'em on over. Their families would be invited, too, and once there the hosting organization could promote its programs and meet others with similar goals.

"Collectively, we've probably got enough things going to keep the youth busy all summer long," said Barrett.

If you want to track how this idea plays out, visit the web site at With information from enough neighborhood residents and institutions, the web site could become a binding force as the community plans (and implements) its future.

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