Pattye Benson

Community Matters

social networking

Can Social Networking Change the Outcome of the Township Budget?

I have only been out of the country for a little over 24 hours, go to turn on my computer and discover that social networking in the form of an ePetition is now in place in Tredyffrin. The ePetition has been created to help reverse the tides over the fire company’s 5% cut in contributions contained in the recently approved draft 2010 township budget. If you support the reinstatement of the fire company contribution, you are asked to sign the online ePetition. I would encourage you to read the ePetition even if you are unsure about adding your signature. And if you do support the reinstatement of the 5% cut, you are asked to forward it to your township neighbors and friends.

I am fascinated by the use of social networking in this manner. Recently, a group of Tredyffrin Easttown School District parents banded together to oppose the elimination of the FLES (Foreign Language Elementary School) program in the 2010-11 budget and created an online ePetition to support their cause. (I included the link to the FLES ePetition in an earlier posting). Although the FLES program is on the budget chopping block, do you think the ePetition can make a difference? I just checked their petition and since November 11, 630+ people have signed the petition to save the FLES program in the school district. Is that a significant number to make a difference to the School Board directors? What about the fire company . . . do you think that the ePetition can help reinstate their contribution loss?

It is interesting that the empowerment and transparency characteristics of social computing initiatives may be able to disrupt existing power balances. The sharing of information by the crowd enables citizens to hold public officials to account. Social computing offers an effective means of mobilizing support, disseminating information and providing advice on specific issues. Online, people seem to come together around specific issues, where they can enhance their knowledge by the wisdom of the crowd, so to speak. I see this in the comments that people share on my blog, Community Matters and also in the online dialogue of John Petersen’s blog, Tredyffrin Township Political Network. Who knows the future influence of social networking?

Signing the ePetition on behalf of the Berwyn, Radnor and Paoli fire fighters shows the mobilization and support of the community and the individual citizens. It will be exciting see how many of our residents will sign the petition before December 21 Board of Supervisor Meeting, and more exciting to it can evoke change!

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