As promised: Part One of our series on how precisely the Shaw Neighborhood Improvement Association…well…improves Shaw.  One of the most fundamental ways SNIA serves the neighborhood is through communication.  Once again, to paraphrase Board Member Sue Raney, we talk about both positive and negative issues and events, as they relate to the neighborhood.  It’s a way to stay connected to what’s happening in our own neighborhood, a springboard to solving problems, and a must for celebrating the victories and accomplishments of residents and businesses.

Exactly how we communicate continues to evolve, as technology, costs and schedules warrant.  For many years, SNIA published a monthly newsletter, which became a quarterly effort.  In this wired age, where broadband penetration in the US is an estimated 46%, we’ve needed to balance this growing trend with the cost of producing a quarterly publication (about $10,000, when we last produced quarterly papers in 2009).  While we know the blogosphere, Facebook and Twitter will not be full and satisfactory replacements for the newsletter, they are – at present- the most cost effective ways we can accomplish our goal, given limited resources.  We still publish one annual newsletter, just before the Historic Shaw Art Fair.

We’ve also changed the frequency of our meetings.  General meetings used to be monthly.  Last year, we changed that to a quarterly schedule, in hopes we’d get more attendance.  Same goes for our board meetings, which went from monthly to every other month (note: if you’re a block captain, you’re a member of our board).  So far, the changes seem to have worked.  Instead of having lots of meetings with a light agenda, we have fewer with a packed agenda (and a packed room!).

One thing we’re learning about the new schedule is that in between meetings, issues arise that may require more immediate action.  For now, this is where we lean on the board – or, if need be, call a special meeting.  Recently, I learned how the Lafayette Square Restoration Committee is using technology as a communications portal.  Built on a platform using Microsoft SharePoint, they’ve called it SquareShare.  I get to see this in operation first-hand, this week, as a few of us tour the District 4 Substation in Lafayette Square.  I see potential uses for this, once we can figure out a way to verify voting membership by electronic means.

Finally, this may leave some of you asking “What about ShawTalk?”  According to our historical records, the neighborhood’s listserv was launched in 2000.  While not created or sponsored by SNIA, it is Shaw’s unofficial and much-used means of communicating neighborhood issues, soliciting advice/recommendations, etc.  It’s the electronic equivalent of knocking on your neighbor’s door and asking for a cup of sugar.  It’s also where those of us responsible for overseeing SNIA get a sense of what’s needed in the neighborhood.

Any post about neighborhood communication would be incomplete, if I didn’t shamelessly plug for our next General Meeting, 7PM Monday April 4th in the basement of St. Margaret of Scotland Church, 39th at Flad.  And, if you’re interested in helping us steer the direction of our venerable organization, here’s how you can become a member.

Our next post will cover how SNIA improves the neighborhood through specific projects and initiatives.

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