Creating Communities, Why It’s as Important Online as it is in the ‘Real World’

By Naomi Leadbeater/ My day job is the Community Development Coordinator for the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation. From the sentence and title above, it’s probably obvious what this post will be about.

Perhaps though, not for the reasons you think.

Community development at a local level can look very different to an outsider at first glance, especially to anyone who isn’t sure what the field really is. Every community development coordinator’s job looks a little different depending on who they work for and what their organization’s goals and objectives are. We do have some things in common though. So, we’ll start with the basic principles, and then in my tricky round about way, I’ll get to explaining exactly how they work for authors, writers and readers – not just in the real world, but online too.

There are nine basic principles we follow in our work day to day here in Manitoba, and I’ve found that a lot of the time, I follow them online too. Whether it’s marketing, writing, or participating in an online community, they always seem to crop up. I’ve picked the most applicable ones, but a quick Google search can leave you reading for hours on this topic if you’d like more information.

Basic Community Economic Development (CED) Principles

1. Local Employment

  • supports long-term employment opportunities for local residents including hiring locally
  • creates opportunities for greater personal and community self sufficiency
  • encourages spending within the local economy

My job during the day is often writing grants for new jobs, connecting people to others in the community, and ensuring that opportunities for individuals are there, and they KNOW about them.

Online, the Indie and self-publishing world really are about paying a PERSON for a specific job that they do well. It may be on a different scale (global) instead of local, but the publishing industry and the internet have brought us all a little closer anyway.

As writers and authors, we’re always looking for connections with people we can work with whether those are editors, graphic artists, publishers and people to collaborate with. Having people in your network who have common goals and different skill sets can result in partnerships that are symbiotic. Rather than feeling like you’re just the next person in line to be served, developing a community of people and artist to work with can be fulfilling for everyone at the table. Many people find this means finding new clients, and sometimes it even results in new creative ideas and future work.

2. Local Ownership and Decision-Making & Local Economic Links

  • promotes local ownership and control of community-based businesses, co-operatives and other resources
  • encourages grassroots involvement and democratic decision-making
  • promotes local purchasing of goods and services

If you think about the definition of local: relating or restricted to a particular area or one’s neighbourhood (Oxford Dictionary). It’s easy to realize that this isn’t about your next door neighbour’s physical location anymore, and our online communities are quickly blurring the lines between local and global.

There have been a host of up-start small presses and more recently writer co-ops that have a mandate to take care of their clients. ‘Locally’ or client run co-ops are a great initiative that has taken off at a local level with social enterprises, and is just hitting the online world of book buying, writing and selling. Their clients are also the owners of the company, employees, and end users. Those clients, authors, artist, bloggers and the like ARE the grassroots, and communities for our industry.

This leads right into the next principle:

3. Reinvest Profits Back into the Community

  • reinvests profits to expand local economy and strengthen community self-reliance

It sounds obvious, and it really is. If you’re an owner, or at least have a vested interest in your publishing company, editors and community, you will re-invest in them. Conversely, they’ll re-invest in you too.

We can do every day this on a really simple level. If an author shares your blog post, share one of theirs back. Re-tweet on Twitter, show that you noticed someone sharing by ‘liking’ their post on Facebook, or better yet put a comment with a simple ‘thanks’.

4. Local Knowledge and Skill Development

  • provides opportunities for education and training that are accessible to local residents

I have learned SO MUCH since entering the world of online book marketing. I’ve learned not only from authors, but artists, other marketers, bloggers and readers.

This doesn’t have to mean you learn how to do everything book related start to finish, but it does mean that you might gain a better understanding of how a book makes it from your first draft to publishing.

Online tutorials can be great, and the power of Google lets us find out how to do so many thing that were inaccessible before. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, join communities, Facebook groups and start engaging yourself. Not only will you learn much more than anticipated, but its highly likely you have something to offer others as well.

5. Positive Environmental Effect, Health & Well Being

  • promotes environmental sustainability by building green, clean, safe communities
  • promotes the physical, mental and emotional well-being of community members at home, in the workplace and in the community

I love this one, because ebooks are about as green as it can get. Keeping communities safe? That one’s easy to. Its so much easier to research books online than it used to be, and before handing something over to a student, child, or a close friend, the opportunity to gather information is there.

Being informed and conscious of our choices and how they affect our lives online is becoming more and more important every day. While online communities are there for us to access and reach out to others in similar fields, they’re also there to keep us accountable.

The biggest favour you can do yourself is to read the rules of forums, communities and groups before engaging. I like to watch a new group for about a week before I interact too as often the community has changed since the rules were written.

6. Human Dignity

  • promotes relationships that build individual self-respect and community pride

By supporting your community, online, locally and globally, you are supporting yourself. That old adage of “Treat others the way you want to be treated yourself.” comes to mind, and while it’s a simple one, it hits home. It’s hard to remember sometimes, that there really are people on the other side of the computer screen, and behind every avatar. In the end though, we’re all human, and while the medium of communication and how to do business is changing, the end user is still the same.

SONY DSCNaomi Leadbeater grew up in Southern Manitoba quite literally on the 49th parallel, and made Brandon, Manitoba her home after finishing a Music Degree in 2003. Over the years she has been a restaurant manager, a shoe salesperson, a customer service person of various sorts, editor in chief of The Quill and acquired a few more degrees. She can sell anything from good karma to shoes and likes to help people follow their dreams, and make their paths a little more A to B than hers has been.

Her passions include turning photographs into music, making mountains sing and writing ‘stream of consciousness’ book reviews here at naimeless. She also loves to support local initiatives like Community Supported Agriculture, theatre, music and entertainment, one day she might even start an Indie book club in her own small city. In her spare time she creates gardens in unlikely places and writes poetry & longer works of fiction.

Most recently she has been working for Novel Publicity, and as the Community Development Coordinator at the Brandon Neighbourhood Renewal Corporation inBrandon, Manitoba. Oh, and she’s started the beginnings of a very wonderful studio of piano and voice students at Faders. You can find her on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as well as a few other places if you dig deep enough into the inter-webs.


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