The first thing I need to say is that currently the Crown Road Community Project exists only in my head. It's just an idea, which I hope this website (which is also in a very early stage of development) will not just help become a reality, but will itself develop into an essential part of the community's infrastructure, providing a means of interactive communication between its members.
We tend to think of the Internet as facilitating communities in "cyberspace", where physical location is an irrelevance, but it also has immense potential for facilitating the creation and development of actual local communities.
The "local community" often referred to by politicians and in the media is largely a myth, an abstraction with very little substance. Most neighbourhoods consist of individual households with no intrinsic community infrastructure whatsoever (only extrinsic, provided by the local council). You might get to know a few of your neighbours (often when brought together by children of a similar age), but most remain largely, if not complete, strangers.
In the past, people depended on each other for support, which necessitated community. But in our modern, money economy, where everything we need, one way or another, is bought and paid for (either directly by oneself or through taxes), there is no "economic" need for community (perversely, when measuring the performance and success of our economy, the more that is done for money rather than for love, or neighbourliness, the better).
However, there is a social (and spiritual) need for community, the lack of which is responsible for much anti-social behaviour (not just among young people), for social isolation and loneliness (not just among the elderly), and for the highly unsatisfactory relationship between service providers (e.g. tradesmen) and their customers.
The creation of an interactive website dedicated to a particular "proto local community" will greatly facilitate contact between its members and the development of a "real community", the potential of which will take years to realise, be ongoing, and include relationships with other communities. The possibilities are mind-boggling.
In order to get off the ground, this project requires a certain amount of support (technical and organisational), but once established, should be entirely self-supporting.
I hope to enlist the support of our local MP (Lee Scott), the local authority (Redbridge Council), perhaps a (local) university and, most essentially, of course, a sufficient number of local residents. I don't expect everyone to be enthusiastic initially; it only needs a few of us; but as its potential begins to sink in and some of it, at least, is realised by those who do participate, it won't be long before others want to join. As some residents move away, hopefully they will be replaced by others keen to participate, ideally by friends or relatives of people already here. Anyone who does not wish to participate, of course, will be free not to.
The first thing is to create a Project Initiating Group involving Redbridge Council, a University (?) and a small number of local residents (including myself).
Tasks to be undertaken by Project Initiating Group:
* It is important that their (if not all residents') computers can be maintained remotely by an IT expert. As many of us know from bitter experience, computers and the Internet are great (incredible!) when they work, but when things go wrong they can also be a nightmare. Initially the IT expert(s), if not provided by the council or a university, will have to be paid for by external project financing (perhaps a government grant). Once the community is established, however, as with much else, it will either provide or pay for its own IT services.
If anyone reading this knows of open-source software that would be suitable for this project, please let me know, or if you would like to support (and/or participate in) the project in some way (Email). If you want to know current state of the project, see "Crown Road Community News" in the Residents Section.
Similar projects will spring up all over the country (and the world), I hope, and become the basic residential units of a whole new socio-economic order, so there's a lot of work to be done!
I envisage this site having a number of access-defined levels. Its main and most extensive level will be restricted to residents (and those with resident status), another to neighbouring communities, which, hopefully, will soon follow, and yet another to communities further a field. It will, of course, retain this public level, open to everyone and providing information about the project and encouragement to create similar projects and to link up.
How these local communities will link up with each other is an exciting prospect.
Looking well into the future (so don't panic!), I envisage such communities, as they develop and are able to do so, taking on more and more responsibility for their members, and conversely, their members taking on increasing responsibility for their community. In the long term they will largely replace the welfare state (which is inherently and fatally susceptible to intended or unintended misuse). Criminal activity, antisocial behaviour and sponging off society will not be tolerated - certainly not in my community. We ALL depend on society, so we should all contribute and behave responsibly towards it, instead of seeing it just as something to be exploited (see The struggle for survival and advantage in the socio-economic environment). It will take a while before the rest of us are in a position (i.e. legally empowered) to expel them, but hopefully they will change their ways and it won't need to come to that.
As ever more communities develop there will be a healthy tendency for people in ones they don't feel entirely comfortable in to move to ones they do. And there is not reason why people shouldn't belong to more than one community, or certainly have strong relationships with communities other than their own.