Sunday, 17 May 2015

Why rebuilding community is essential and how is Link4Growth doing it?

Community has been in steady decline for decades in the UK. Community is at its lowest ebb where the focus on money is at its greatest. Often when people move away from the South East and in particular London to other parts of the country, the north, the west country and elsewhere you hear the remarks, "people are much more friendly here". What they are alluding to are the remnants of what was prevalent across the whole of the UK... 'Community'.

A number of factors have been responsible for eroding community over the years. We did not just wake up suddenly one morning and decide... This community concept is not working any more, let's abandon it. It has happened because of a variety of factors each contributing to the steady decline year on year, slowly, almost imperceptible in its progress... but, like a slow tide coming in, over the long years, culminating in where we are today.

So what exactly has happened? what are these factors that have taken their toll on community? what have been the effects of dwindling community? why is it important to rebuild them? ... and, how are we going to do it?

To understand how community has been eroded we have to look back through the last 100 years. We must also look at the different types of communities that exist and what are the factors that have led to their decline. There are three main categories of communities that we all belong too. We are involved in many more than 3 for sure, but they fit inside these main categories. These are :-

  1. Family
  2. Workplace
  3. Public community

1. Family

100 years ago or so it was not uncommon for people to have huge families. When talking to the more senior generation it is fairly commonplace to hear, I was the youngest of 14 children... or I am the only survivor now of 9 siblings. People had much larger families. These families of course gave rise to huge extended families running to over 100 people in 3 generations.

During this period, people also tended to not move very far. Transport was in its infancy, people didn't have cars, and consequently families grew up in the same city, town or village. This was a huge support network of related people that could be relied on to help if needed. Where 4 children would have been considered a small family back then, today, this is a large family. People are also much more mobile than ever before. Families are now not only spacially distributed across the country, but internationally too.

2. Workplace

For the past 60-70 years and definitely up till the end of the 20th century the default work mode was to 'get a job'... and if you could find a job in a large secure company then so much the better. Talk was of good career opportunities and maybe having 3 or 4 jobs in a lifetime. There were many more manufacturing companies and often people stayed with their chosen career and a company for 30+ years.

Larger companies had 3,000+ people working for them. Located in a city or town, the majority of the people working there lived in the town, this was another huge community of people linked by a common thread... the company where they worked. This was a support network that came after the family. People you would see every day and conequently built up solid relationships over time. People you could rely on in a time of crisis.

3. Public community

This public community is the wider community of local people. This consists of people that you came into touch with through perhaps a joint interest but would otherwise not necessarily know. Typical places where the 3rd community thrived are where people from any background or walk of life could assemble and have conversations. Four spring to mind... The Church, meeting at least once a week and often more. The local community centre, providing a central place for people living close together to gather for local fetes, festivals, shows etc. The pub, this was a place to talk with other local people, share connections, learn about other people in the local community. Lastly, the town centres or markets. This brought people together on Market days in a central location, to buy and sell and catch up with local news and gossip.

What has happened to all of the above?

Whilst reading the above it would probably have dawned on you that the world isn't like it was. Things have changed significantly. Some of these changes started decades ago, others, more recent. But the changes have been relentless. If you couple all of the above with some other significant changes below we can then take a look at the effect all of this has had on our communities... and remember it is these communities that are the glue to our social wellbeing.

Focus on competition, scarcity, money and growth at all costs

This has been a cancer that has been spreading since the 70's. It runs through everything that we now consider 'normal society' and it is probably at its worst in our schools. We have been succumbed into comparing ourselves with others and striving to be better than our neighbours, competing to be seen as a winner, to be successful, and the measurement criteria? ultimately money and what we have, but in our schools, colleges and universities this is translated as qualifications. Of course the better the qualifications are, then the better you are, and the more successful (amount of money you earn) you will become.

Society today is teaching us to divide and conquer, to look out for number 1, and to value ourselves by what we have, not who we are. It is no wonder we are falling apart. We are actively breaking down community and those trying to rebuild it are viewed as a bit 'strange'... often asked... why would you be doing this, rebuilding community?

Let us recap and review

Families are much smaller than ever before and spatially distributed. Often there is little on the ground support from community no. 1 anymore. The number of large companies employing thousands has dwindled to very low numbers compared to the past. Many more people are now running their own businesses working from home, isolated and often quite lonely. Job security (... long term employment with a single organisation) is now almost a thing consigned to the history books. This 2nd community almost entirely wiped out. And the 3rd community, bumping into people at public meeting places? The church... still doing great work in the community but serving an ever decreasing percentage of the population. The community centres? Very few remain and their role is now changed such that it doesn't provide the same function as before. The pubs? It is much cheaper to buy drinks from the supermarket and more people are choosing to drink at home because money is tight. The high streets and markets are all struggling with retail parks, supermarkets and online companies offering lower prices out of town or via the internet.

Many would add that with the Internet there is now no longer a need to go out at all, and that almost all our needs can be served through computers, tablets and smart phones right down to the weekly shopping. Everything that we are doing is designed so that we have no need for community, we are ok on our own, our small families and chasing the next £... But... are we happy? ... honestly?

Why rebuild community? 

If you visit a Hospice and you talk to people who have a short time left on this earth and listen to the words they speak and any regrets they have about their life. Or if you go along to a funeral and you take a look at the close family of the deceased, what do you see and hear? In both cases you will not hear mention of... I wish I had got a better job, wished I'd worked harder, wished we'd had a bigger house or better car... you won't hear any of those. What you will hear is... I wish I had spent more time with my kids, I wish I'd had the chance to tell my sister, brother, mother, father how much I loved them... I wish I had repaired that relationship... I wish I'd done more with my life instead of just working and chasing money...

What is really most important in our lives is people. People and relationships, and yet we have been steered away from this by those that would have us buy more, the latest this or that, and who have created an epidemic of consumerism. We have been sold that our lives will be better the more money we have and the more stuff we have in our lives. This serves only one group of people, those providing the products and services we are lured into buying whether we really need them or not. The rest of us are caught in the trap of chasing the next pay check to buy more of the stuff we 'have to have' to keep up with everyone else... our self worth is now what we wear, the car we drive, the technology in our hand and the size of our house. And to get more of this, we have to compete and take more out of the system for ourselves... sorry someone has to lose...

What we have isn't working for the majority...

The road we are on is not working for most of us. This is not about politics, it's about people and relationships
, it is about observing what is going on around us and choosing to take some action. What action though? ... I am only one person, what difference can I make? ... try sleeping with a mosquito and asking whether someone small can make a difference.

There is a great deal of unfairness in the world today. Whilst a few have ever expanding hordes of reserves there are a great many others struggling to make ends meet and survive. But if we were to work together, to support each other, look for opportunities to help others less fortunate than ourselves, or have a need that we can help out with what a difference that might make. The reason we can't help at the moment is firstly, it is quite difficult to actually make a contribution, the mechanisms in place to volunteer are just too difficult and cumbersome, and secondly, lack of information and knowledge... we just don't talk to each other any more, and there is no common public space where we can meet and talk to find this stuff out and then connect people.

Now that is all changing!!

Link4Growth is a platform created to rebuild the 3rd community space. To provide a space for local people to once again come together and begin having conversations. To bring people together from all walks of life, from whatever background or status so that we can begin to rebuild connections and rebuild community... one person at a time. Everything starts with a conversation. It is a simple concept and it is working already with circa 100 events being hosted each month up and down the country. It's not what you know it is who you know... old, true statements that are more relevant today than ever before.

Link4Growth hosts events at different times of the day so that everyone can at least come to something. There are no costs to attend so that the focus is kept away from money and is accessible to all. We hold these informal drop in events wherever possible at local independent coffee shops or public spaces so that we support local businesses and the local economy ( #L4GBuyLocal ).

Over to you...

So what action can you take? ... You can come along and be part of the conversation if there are events already in your town. If there is nothing in your town currently, you can start one. Just get in touch via or via the website form here. You can also join in the conversation online. We have a nationwide forum that you can join in with... we are also on all the social media platforms... Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter ( @link4growth ) and Google+.

The community rebuilding programme exists, it is happening already, the only question left is... would you like to be part of it? ... if the answer is yes, then take action... contact us and let's get started.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Just how do you tell people about your charity or business?

One of the most common challenges facing small businesses and independent charities these days is how do you get the people in your town or city to know you exist. You know in your heart that if people could find out about you, then the chances are they would use your service or products, and if you are part of a local charity, that people would support it.

The options for getting your message out there are fairly limited, pricey, and, there are no guarantees either... So what are the traditional options?

Advertise in the local newspaper

This can be expensive with small ads costing hundreds of pounds. Circulation of these papers is in general decline although online versions do help. Out of the reach of most smaller businesses and charities.

Local radio

Again longer periods of advertising work out more cost effective and radio can be a good medium. But costs of producing a succinct advert and running the advertisement is out of the reach of most local businesses and charities...

Local community magazines

Often much lower cost than newspapers these can work well for certain business types. They often need good content and stories which are a great way to expose local charities too. They also have good relevancy in that the people being marketed to and local and within easy reach. Worth exploring.

Leaflet drops

These really work well for some kinds of businesses, especially takeaways where people pin them on their noticeboard for future reference. It also works for other services like Gardeners and gift items... but less well for more specialised services

Local directories (online and offline)

Offline directories have become almost extinct as the Internet has rolled every forward... nowadays there are a plethora of much smaller online directories but which ones are used by people? difficult to tell... do you have to be in all of them? ... are they relevant and local?

Cold calling / canvassing

With so much abuse of the telephone by PPI claims, Accident claims and people trying to sell stuff over the phone, it is no wonder that people steer away from this. If you have a Business to Business service it is still a great approach but more and more it needs to be a warm introduction first, however that is originated...

Direct Mail

Much more prevalent in Business to Business situations. Can be effective if the document is unusual or has some unique quality that demands further investigation. Handwritten and / or highly personalised such as postcards often work best.

Email campaigns

Another method of communication which has fallen foul of mass abuse. Email campaigns work best with a highly refined list of people that have registered and interest. Open rates can be as high as 30-40% with good lists. The effectiveness of email compaigns thus relies on the quality of the list. If no such lists exist, then, the first port of call must be to build your tribe...

Website and search results through optimisation

Build it and they will come... err... no they won't. Websites are great except no one will visit unless you  invite them (publicise your website), or you have great search engine optimisation (SEO) so that you are found for key terms that define what you do (Plumber in Watford) or... you have localisation deployed in which case you are more likely to come up for local and specific relevant searches (this is even more relevant with Google since April 2015). This can cost quite a lot of money... and it is a moving feast as the search engines are continually changing their algorithms... what works today, might not work tomorrow... and back we go again... more money, unless you are technical and can take care of things yourselves.

Social Media

Unfortunately Businesses and to a lesser extent charities have seen social media not as an engagement tool to build relationships, support and referrals but as a low cost broadcasting and marketing platform... once again, buy my stuff. This has 'spoilt', not irrevocably, these platforms but there is much to do in terms of education on how to use these platforms in a way that serves us instead of annoying people. Social Media is about developing relationships with people, creating a community online, a tribe of people that want to hear what you say and respect your comments and thoughts.


This is a great way of demonstrating your expertise, but like any other online approach somehow you need to rise above the noise. With billions of updates daily, the only people who will be seeing your content are those that you have built a relationship with.

Business Networking

Beyond the scope of most charities due to cost and to most micro businesses for the very same reason, Business networking does enable people in business to get to know each other, build relationships and advertise what they do. For those in the community that would like to meet up and have conversations with others from the local area, irrespective of whether in business or not, hitherto there has been very little available... until now...

Not easy is it?

Clearly some of the above may work for your business or charity but looking through them you may well feel you've tried them all at some time but that you wanted perhaps a bit more success for the effort involved, or the money invested.

Recognising the challenges of invisible local businesses and charities and the need to raise their profile is one of the fundamental missions of Link4Growth. The important question to ask any business or charity would be, would you be enjoying more success and engagement if everyone within a 5 mile radius knew you existed and who you were?

Of course it is a rhetorical question... However, how could that possibly be achieved? One of the underlying fundamental strategies of Link4Growth is to enable people to more easily find (and buy) from local businesses, and for those in business to be able to engage with the community and share what they do, all for little or no cost. For local charities it is about removing their cloak of invisibility and making people aware of their existence and the good work they are doing.

So how can Link4Growth help? ... Let's start by asking some questions

What if there was a way to represent how we are organised physically in the online world? What if we could create counties, cities, towns and villages and then enable people to participate and include themselves in those places where they live and work? What if they could then contribute to those communities and share what is happening in their life, community around them, and work? What instead of guessing how to find local people and relying on search to come up with the goods we were able to find what is around us through a simple structure that organises what is happening in our community for us in an easy way?

Welcome to the Link4Growth District Websites...

These are community platforms not controlled and managed by individuals but open to anyone that wishes to contribute and share what is going on locally. It is completely organic, so as more people begin to add local information about what is happening in the community the more rich and diverse the content. Think local community magazine or newspaper but where we, the community, can freely publish what is going on. No waiting for an editor to approve things or filter out our contributions. No delays or time constraints to get in the next publication... and to share what you want to say is both quick and easy to do...

Now at last we have a place to easily publicise what is going on in our community. No guessing where to put the information. No wondering how you are going to tell others what you are doing. Now... if you have something to say... you can say it. The best bit about this is that, once you have put the information out there... others in the community can easily help to spread the word and share it on other platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and elsewhere, so people not yet engaged on the community platform don't miss out.

There is so much good happening in our community that we don't ever hear about...

95% of what goes on in our communities is good. But good news unfortunately rarely make the news. So you might be thinking according to what you do hear about, that where you live or work is pretty bad with lots of awful things going on. Actually this won't be the case. This is our opportunity to learn about the amazing people in our community and what is really happening. Our chance to shout out about good things that are going on, the people making these things happen and be positive about where we live and work. If we all did this right across the country what a huge difference in just 'feeling and energy' would that make?

Below some of the highlights of what we are able to do with the community platform...

Do you have pictures or videos about your business or charity?

Tell your story with text, pictures and / or video, you can share what is happening so that others in the community can learn more about you, your business or charity

Local business directory (by category)

Get found easily by those looking for what you do in a dedicated local business directory. Good news spreads fast!

Post regular updates and keep people informed

You can update when, and as often as you like. Tell the community about special services, offers or announcements... Get your message to a wider audience easily and fast

Attend local community building networking events and benefit from the list below :-

  1. Have conversations and get to know other local people
  2. Make new friends
  3. Get introduced to people you would like to meet
  4. Find suppliers or collaborators
  5. Find customers or new supporters of your charity
  6. Learn new skills, gain tips and tricks from other local people
  7. Help others, share your knowledge, expertise and experience
  8. Be a contributor to your local community
  9. Open to all
  10. Brings together like minded people and accelerates good initiatives and projects


If you operate within a 5 mile radius Link4Growth exists to ensure you can achieve your goals, sustainably from your local community. There are a huge number of people doing great work already in the local community. Link4Growth enables us to share this with others... get the message out there so more people know about it. This can only be a good thing!

Do you operate nationally, or want to? ... Link4Growth's community forum joins us altogether nationally... Spread your message to the four corners of the UK and beyond...

Link4Growth District Websites are here to enable the community to come together online and work together. It's like a big filing cabinet bringing, the people in the community, local businesses, local charities, local events, pictures, videos, news, stories and everything going on locally into one place. Everyone can participate that's the amazing thing and everyone benefits... Fantastic for local businesses and charities, for those looking to support buying from local people... this in turn enables the local economy to flourish which in turn builds community itself. It really is win, win, win, win, win!

Access to the District websites is 24/7, and available on every device from Mobiles to Tablets, Macs to PC's and on iOS and Android...

Ok you might need to learn a few of the basics to start contributing at any of the community networking events or via Link4Skills online workshops... Many will actually already have the skills and access to these districts websites without even knowing it! ... in this case you'll just need showing where to find things.

Ok... So how much does it cost to participate in the above? ... Nothing... Yes... Nothing. It is all free to use and be part of.

Should you wish to contribute to Link4Growth (a not for profit) and support us in providing the infrastructure then you can do this for £3 per month, or £36 for 13 months... And by the way this is not obligatory.

Too good to be true? ... 

99 times out of 100 you'd probably be right... on this occasion you would be completely wrong. Link4Growth does not exist for its own benefit. Link4Growth exists to support and help the people in the community, and if you think that is worth supporting then drop us an email on or... visit the contact us form on the website here...