"The American barn raising tradition arose out of necessity. Neighbors came together to help neighbors build an essential element of family and community life because constructing such a large building required many hands. No one can do it alone. "
These are the opening words of the brand, spanking new About page of ACTion Alexandria, a new civic engagement and community-focused web site launched, after more than a year of work and planning, by ACT Alexandria, a vibrant--and active--community foundation in Alexandria, Virginia that has played a strong role in disbursing funds, planning for the future, and growing civic leadership in Alexandria, VA.
Launched in phases over the past year (the blog went live in September 2010), ACTion Alexandria was the brainchild of ACT Executive Director John Porter , Program Director Brandi Yee, and a working group of local community members who saw the need for a site that would connect people to causes in an action-oriented way at the same time it supported discussion and debate.
With the support of a 2009 John S and James L Knight Foundation Community Information Challenge grant, ACT Alexandria reached out to hire Tracy Viselli, an experienced online organizer, editor and community manager to execute the strategic plan for the web site and develop an operating plan.
Viselli managed the RFP process, made the community connections, linked in some significant local organizations and got the ball rolling.
Now, just a day into launch week, ACTion Alexandria has 183 Facebook fans, 472 (!) Twitter followers and a website filling up with local events, community organizations and causes. Viselli, who is orchestrating this growth, says " I like to call ACTion Alexandria "technology-aided barn raising" because I think it gets at the essence of what community problem solving is all about--neighbors helping neighbors."
She adds " To make it all happen, I've been working closely with local government and nonprofit organizations to gather and prioritize needs in order to turn them into actions citizens can take to improve our community." Key features in the master plan include
- Weekly featured actions to benefit local nonprofits
- City-wide challenges that call for citizen solutions to local problems
- Action and event posting by nonprofit organizations and citizens
- Customizable profiles for nonprofit organizations and citizens
Although Action Alexandria is brand new, there's little doubt the site has momentum already. It's going to be interesting to watch as local citizens come on to blog, suggest causes, and find ways to solve local problems, but even at this early stage, it's both interesting and full of community.