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Communications

Getting the word out (from the point of view of groups) about events and developments, and finding out what's going on about an issue or happenings (from the points of view of all kinds of Rhode Islanders) is a major problem that is only getting worse.

It "used to be" that people never went very far from their homes (think the little settlement of Providence in 1640). Communities were small. Everybody knew everybody within a few miles of their homes. News was by word of mouth and handwritten letters. Maybe an occasional pamphlet or printed book. Life was hard but it was simple. If you needed water in Providence in 1640, you picked up a bucket (that you might have made yourself), walked across the path (now called North Main Street), filled the bucket with water from the spring, and walked back. Today in Providence, our water comes through a system that involves thousands of people and that's several miles long. In 1640, you grew your own food and/or knew the neighbors who had begun to specialize in farming. Today, lots of people will say that "food comes from the supermarket." However, any large supermarket has tens of thousands of products involving the work of probably millions of people. Life now seems easy (just turn the tap and presto! water! or drop by the convenience store for milk), but these systems are very complicated. We cannot see who does what and how things work. This is compounded by multiple complex systems: water, food, sewage, electricity, gas, transportation, communications, and more. So how can we learn how things work today? How can we understand how to improve these systems? How can we be informed enough so we can monitor our leaders' actions and participate in public policy formation?

The communications systems were complicated enough at the media-type level ten to twenty years ago - print, telegraph, radio, TV, internet. But today we cope with a crazy explosion of options for sending out news and getting news. It's not just information overload any longer: it's too many delivery channels pumping out overwhelming amounts of information. Each news source comes up with its own preference for delivering news, and the public cannot cope with all the delivery systems. Getting the news providers to agree on standard communication methods is deeply resisted. They all feel that their approach is just fine. The end result for the interested public is to hear about some events dozens of times, and completely miss other news.

Providential Gardener would love to see more effective virtual information coordination among all kinds of Rhode Island public service groups, and especially among the environmental organizations in Rhode Island. They all share the same goal, of taking care of our natural resources, our land, water, and air. It would also be great to see more effective collaboration and coordination among Rhode Island's adult education providers, indeed among all educational groups.

I will write other pages about why Facebook should NOT be an organization's main news channel... I have many ideas after several years of observing how news is disseminated in Rhode Island. But here is a short communication workflow description that would really help with the local information inundation mess we struggle with:

  1. Website -- that is up to date.
    1. Calendar with every event (Your website calendar should be the first place to post your events. However, I often get emails about events before they are listed in the groups' websites. When I go to promote such events through What Grows On in RI, I can't find a place to link to on the groups' websites. Wasted publicity opportunity for the groups producing the events.)
    2. News blog with an RSS feed. Have at least one news feed. Some websites, such as ProvGardener, have several feeds. You can't have too many! [FYI: Facebook and Twitter have removed or reduced RSS capability. They just want everybody to stay in their websites, but this is not in the public interest.]
    3. AddThis button to all of your news posts so that readers can reTweet, add to their Facebook, etc. AddThis module for Drupal is installed on ProvGardener. It makes the buttons on the bottom of this page.

That's really all you need! From this recipe, you can set things up so that your news blog and even your calendar automatically email to your subscribers, AND at the same time automatically post to your Twitter and Facebook accounts. If you are using other social media, the website news blog and calendar can also probably automatically post to those streams. Taking the time to set up this way will save you a LOT of time and reach more Rhode Islanders.

Don't you want to reach more Rhode Islanders?

Providential Gardener can help you figure out what to do to improve your outreach. Contact Sue Korté.