Posted by: Barrak Al-Babtain | February 18, 2010

Facebook Activism

I was strolling through Qortuba Public Park this afternoon. The place is actually pretty decent, there’s a fair amount of benches and lots of trees and grass. The problem is that it was filthy. There was litter everywhere. The bathrooms were disgraceful. The security guard quarters were abandoned (I don’t think a security guard works there anymore). Graffiti was on every surface and half the lights weren’t working.

I thought about what we could do to fix things and I realized the answer was internet social media; Facebook.

I propose that we create a ‘Qortuba Public Park’ Facebook page. The purpose of this page is to do two things:

  1. To act as a bulletin-board for activities that residents of Qortuba would initiate; fostering a stronger sense of community and being a safe place for young kids to meet new friends and play.
  2. To serve as a forum to identify and act on negligence on behalf of the authorities. If you see litter in the park, you can access the page to find the telephone number of the people responsible for cleaning and you can complain. If enough people do that they will fix things. If you see graffiti you can photograph it and upload it to the page and demand they paint over it. It’s basically a way for local constituents to reach the people responsible and is a way for us to be empowered.

(photos taken a few months ago, when the park was much cleaner)

On the page we would have the contact numbers of all the people responsible for the maintenance and security of the park; specifically the names and telephone numbers of the local government of Qortuba, and the people responsible for them in the Baladiya (in case they don’t answer the phone), as well as the numbers (and photographs of) the actual workers who work on the park.

Once a large enough number of people sign up to the Facebook page, the first event would be a mass clean-up/education event held in the park. Families would be invited to join in and paint the walls, clear up all the litter and then celebrate with games for the kids to get to know each other. This would help teach the kids about responsibility and get them to develop a sense of ownership towards the park. It becomes theirs.

After that anyone can then propose an event on the page, and there’d be a schedule of things to do. For example, I could schedule a football tournament for boys aged 8-12, with teams from every block competing, and I could referee. People want to be involved in their communities, but there was never a viable medium to spread information to people quickly and spontaneously. Facebook changes that. With one quick invite, you could create an event and get it together without much hassle. Spontaneous book swaps, art events, bake sales, you name it. The park becomes the heart of the community. I hope and have a feeling that young mothers would really get into this and make it work. It has to happen naturally and in small clusters where people feel responsible to each other and to the park itself.

Of course, this would be replicated for every area in Kuwait. People always complain about the government, but this is a way for us to combine and focus all of our voices to do something good one small step at a time. I would love it if someone would take this idea and run with it, but I wouldn’t mind doing it myself for Qortuba first.


Responses

  1. are you serious? or is something affecting your mental capabilities?

    • Hah, yeah, i’m serious. Why not?

      I mean, what about it do you feel is crazy?

  2. It’s just the same as a traditional ‘physical’ bulletin board in the park but on Facebook, it’s online and you can email people and it changes in real-time. It’s nothing revolutionary or different, it’s just online.

    The point is that people can see what’s going on and start events, while at the same time giving them the tools to make the place better by keeping the authorities on their toes.

    I really don’t see how it’s a bad idea… As long as there’s good security and good lighting at night.

  3. I’ll be among the first to sign in though I haven’t opened an account with facebook, but for that reason I’ll bend my rule and actually go on with it.

    With the online social network, it holds great prospects and I reckon it might start a wave of similar actions.

  4. there’s already a facebook group dedicated to saving ALL of Kuwait’s public parks

    http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=292183733599

  5. Sorry try this link

    http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=292183733599

  6. I think its a great idea! Community based initiatives are usually more successful because people feel they have a personal stake. My concern is how you would you get people to be responsible and motivated knowing how twisted our logic as society can be. I mean people litter while driving because they think its someone else job to clean behind them!

  7. zaydoun, Hmm, I didn’t find that when I checked. Still, that’s not really what I had in mind. That group you linked is about ‘educating’ people about the folly of ignoring the public parks we have. So what? It doesn’t offer anything in return for that attention, it’s a one way message. It doesn’t tap into the power of social networking.

    What I had in mind was entirely different. Instead of talking down to people and guilting them into paying attention and showing what a terrible waste it all is, we should be empowering them.

    First of all, having one big group for all the parks is a terrible idea. It’s just too big, and the people won’t feel responsible to each other. It has to be small, one for every specific park.

    Most importantly, though, you have to offer people something to get them involved. Events, activities, clean-up initiatives done in coordination with the local co-op (they can supply the cleaning equipment, and the paint and brushes). It has to be a constantly moving, evolving and up to date bulletin board. There would a detailed schedule of what’s going on (anyone can submit and schedule an event, for free, and invite people). That’s the power of social networking. You create the framework, but you let people sustain it, and make it grow and flourish. It’s not top-down, it’s bottom-up.

    Thanks, Aisha! Yeah, I agree, it’s a challenge to do it in a way that works with our corrupted sense of responsibility. That’s very hard to fix, and I doubt that a few exercises here and there will heal society; but it won’t hurt. I know lots of people who are fed up with the way things are, but we can’t stop at that. We have to really question why things are the way they are and look for ways to fix things, no matter how insignificant it may seem in the big picture. One step at a time, right?

  8. I’m honestly happy there is someone enthusiatics such as yourself! I wish more planners listened to you!

    All these contracts for cleaning and such, and no cleaning is done in the parks, no independent committee to review what is being done, at least taking evidence of what clean is being done.

    Facebook is a very good tool which seems to have a following in Kuwait!

  9. […] really wouldn’t take much of an effort to make that all happen. I still think the Facebook page idea is a good one and is the best way to get the community involved and ‘own’ the park for […]

  10. I wish all of you would take a more noble cause and help the poor Bidoon. they living in slumps much worst that the worst public parks you all concerned about.

    please take a stroll thru Jileeb Al-shayookh and see for your self. in the richest country in the world. children aren’t allowed to go to school, no health care, no decent clean water.

    please do the right thing a take this cause.


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