Why create Online Communities?

The benefits of creating an online community will depend partly on the type of community - whether it is a virtual, organisational or local community.

Virtual communities enable people with shared interests to exchange ideas and work together over distance in ways which would be much more difficult - or impossible - if they were limited by other media.

Organisations - whether public, private or voluntary - are learning how to become more effective and efficient by carrying out many operations online. Increasingly they are finding that they must be online to deal with customers, clients and suppliers.

"Welcome to the Internet" http://www.ncexchange.org/toolbox/rural, from the US NCExchange, is an excellent Power Point presentation that reviews the benefits of communications technology from the perspective of different staffing functions.

The issues for communities of locality are rather different. Local groups and organisations will appreciate the general benefits of using the Internet - outlined on our Getting Connected pages: finding information, communicating more effectively, collaborating and achieving greater visibility.

But are there additional benefits in specifically local Internet facilities, local content, local discussions? Some of these issues were examined in a booklet Inventing the Future written in 1996, and other articles and presentations on this site.

Researcher Peter Day identifies some potential benefits through stronger community links, relevant information and education, and other writers give specific examples in articles in our toolkit

US community networker Terry Grunwald digested nearly 10 years of her experience in presentations when she visited the UK in 1998, and David Wilcox explored What communities need from the Internet in a presentation to local government politicians and officials.

The Neighbourhoods Online game being developed by Partnerships Online aims to help people think through what Internet tools are most likely to help them tackle local issues.

You will also find more on our sister site Making the Net Work