Headlines: February 29th, 2012

Most councils allow staff some access to social media, compared to just one third two years ago. Social media has also provided a crowd funding portal to rescue a project from failure.

Surveys carried out by the Society of IT Management in 2010 and 2012 show that councils are recognising the value of social media. The surveys reveal that all employees potentially have access to Twitter now in 44 per cent of councils. In the case of a narrower group of staff this rises to 54 per cent of councils. The number of councils offering no access has dropped to 2 per cent. A similar picture emerges with Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Slideshare and Google Docs.

As social media becomes an integral part of local government, what could be a new trend in funding has emerged in South Wales where the community has taken control by crowd funding a community centre project. A seven-year battle to build a community centre in Glyncoch received a boost after Stephen Fry urged his Twitter followers to dig out their loose change and collectively fund the project.

The small town, situated north of Cardiff, needs to raise 30,000 by 30 March to build the 390,000 local hub. If Glyncoch’s campaign succeeds, the new community centre will provide a vibrant social hub and allow local people to access vital services across education and health.

Some grant funding is already secured, but this will expire if the remaining cash isn’t raised by April. Campaigners say that hundreds of small contributions from the public – equal to the cost of a sandwich – would transform the deprived community.

The town is using Spacehive.com – a new online funding platform for community and public space developments – to collect donations. Fry encouraged his four million Twitter followers to contribute small pledges and collectively fund the project for the price of a “cucumber sandwich”. The project – which can be seen online at Spacehive.com/GlyncochCC – has already attracted donors ranging from local Glyncoch families to a fashion photographer in Vancouver.

Spacehive.com aims to shake up neighbourhood planning by allowing anyone to put forward ideas for community projects. Vitally, everyone – from local people to businesses and councils – will be able to pledge funding directly to the projects. The service is backed by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

The mass funding campaign is part of a wider initiative to test new ways of regenerating communities in Glyncoch, led by the social action network Your Square Mile.