Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Can social media and crowd sourcing help build community?

By the Otis Place correspondent
At the January meeting of the North Columbia Heights Civic Association, someone mentioned that last year’s Halloween parade was organized primarily my email. I loved the idea that a successful community event could be pulled off without endless meetings and committee structures.

A recent Forbes article about "share economy" got me excited about other ways that social media and crowd sourcing are helping people not just make money but also make connections and build community.

My partner and I are already using one of the profiled sites,, to rent our guest room to out-of-towners from as far away as Australia, Brazil and Germany, and as close as Boston and Indiana. But we’ve also met locals through the site. Since we started last July, we’ve rented four times to parents and siblings of neighbors who don’t have room in their homes to host out of town guests.

I did some quick research of other sites from the Forbes article and found a few that seem to have potential for building community here in Columbia Heights. (Bear in mind I’ve not used any of these, so this is not a recommendation.) Check them out: 
  • offers dog boarding at a neighbor’s home while you’re away 
  •, where you "save money and resources by sharing stuff" like ladders, bikes or lawn mowers with friends and neighbors, seems to have a small but growing presence in the DC area 
  • offers an on-demand ride-sharing app 
  • isn’t in DC yet, but you can sign up to know when they arrive. The site connects those who need help with errands and odd jobs with those who can do them 
At last, social media are no longer just for cat videos.

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