COMMUNITY

'The People's Times' helps NZ's grassroots go digital

Thursday 8 April 2010, 12:44PM
By The People's Times
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Free web space, notices and news coverage for individuals and non-profit groups, PLUS register now for a free workshop in Christchurch or Auckland in April

The internet can be a wonderful tool to help small organisations communicate, organise and promote themselves more effectively. But while Kiwis have been quick to embrace the World Wide Web at work and at play, many small local groups, clubs and community organisations are yet to make the leap online. In the past, most simply haven’t had the money or the expertise to get their own website, or to maintain and upgrade it when new features become available. But now groups don’t need their own site to make the most of the internet, thanks to a new initiative called the People’s Times.

The People’s Times is a locally developed, non-profit community web service, helping grassroots clubs, community groups and non-profit organisations all over New Zealand to ‘go digital’. The People’s Times can help groups manage their members, share information and publicise their activities, and anyone can use it to find and contact groups in their area. And best of all, it’s completely free!

The People’s Times offers three integrated services in one place:

The People’s Times – NZ’s first dedicated ‘community journalism’ website: individuals and non-profit groups can instantly publish original articles and photos to our online news service; share stories, videos and podcasts they’ve found elsewhere on the internet; or browse the site’s hand-picked selection of community news.

The People’s Communities – a network of simple, ad-free, community web ‘hubs’ for non-profit groups: it takes just minutes to set up a hub and no special skills or software downloads are required. As well as displaying contact details and general information about your group, each hub has easy-to-use Web 2.0/social media tools built in. Your community’s members can publish news articles, blogs and notices, securely store and share files and photos, or chat with other group members in private forums. Plus, anyone can search the site’s database to find and contact local groups, and all People’s Communities can be found and accessed directly via Google and other search engines.

The People’s NoticeBoard – individuals and non-profit groups can browse, search, post and subscribe to free notices across a range of community-oriented categories, 24 hours a day (also accessible directly at www.noticeboard.org.nz)

About the People’s Times

Project Director Richard Wyles says that the People’s Times initiative began life in time-honoured fashion – as jottings on a napkin during coffee with a friend.

‘Many of us are involved in groups and clubs at the neighbourhood level – they’re a really vibrant and vital part of New Zealand society. We kept hearing about the difficulties groups were having getting online, and wanted to find a way to help them to harness the new web-based tools available without needing to develop the infrastructure individually,’ he says.

‘Our research told us that groups wanted to be able to communicate amongst themselves, share documents and photos, and find new ways to raise their profile that don’t cost money. Organising virtually can reduce the burden for group administrators, while helping to ensure their accessibility to new generations of members.’

Project manager and News editor Rebekah Brumwell believes it is the People’s Times flexibility of use that sets it apart from existing sites.

‘There are already websites that are aimed at professionals working in the community and voluntary sector, and while they meet the needs of those users very well, they aren’t trying to cater for your local tennis club, for example,’ she says.

‘Our service can work for any sort of group. It might be a tramping club wanting to organise one outing a month and post a few photos up. It might be a national campaigning group needing multiple discussion forums, somewhere to share paperwork privately and a platform to publish regular news articles. Or, it could be a local Mums’ support group just wanting to list information about upcoming events. We are confident all groups will find something here they can really use, and there is still scope to expand and improve the site in response to feedback from users.’

The People’s Times was developed with seed capital from the previous government’s Community Partnership Fund, and launched in 2009. The project team are now working with councils around New Zealand to raise awareness of the service and offer information and support to interested groups.
‘There are already over 130 groups on the People’s Times, and more are joining every week,’ says Ms. Brumwell. ‘Even if you already have a website, why not take a look and see if it could help your group? You can see a sample community homepage on our front page, or browse through the groups that have joined already. If you’d like to try it out, it only takes a few minutes to register yourself and your community – and it’s free!’

For more information visit www.peoplestimes.org.nz, or contact Rebekah by emailing info@peoplestimes.org.nz or phoning (03) 525 7434 / 021 2414 006.

Free workshop

Plus, if you administer a community or non-profit project in the Canterbury area, you can register now to participate in a free People’s Times workshop in Christchurch on the 19th or 22nd of April, in association with the Canterbury Development Corporation.

Or if you are based in Auckland, you can register for free workshops in Glen Innes (28th April), St Heliers (28th April), Central Auckland (29th April) or Waiheke Island (30th April), thanks to the support of Auckland City Council.

The two hour workshop will provide you with an introduction to:

1. the basics of 'Web 2.0' and social media, including an explanation of new internet terms and tools you might have heard of including RSS, social bookmarking, blogging and Twitter, and

2. the People's Times family of services, which offers community organisations a local, free, secure and non-commercial way of getting started with Web 2.0.

A practical session will follow the presentation, giving you the opportunity to set up a people’s Community on the day, and/or learn how to use some of our great tools and features.

Numbers are limited, so for more information or to register a place, the People’s Times team directly by emailing editor@peoplestimes.org.nz or phoning (03) 525 7434.