OUTreach = reaching OUT by Ashley Walls

I am completely committed to living more intentionally. With that, I have realized something unsettling about blogging. My entries, and the entries of a million other bloggers with great things to say, have not yet reached the homes of those that lack internet access or who may not be particularly tech-savvy? I struggle with this, not because I think everyone should read MY blog, but because I believe that true outreach is about reaching those that are OUT of your current realm.

I think the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Unfortunately, those that need resources most (for example: self- development literature, quick tips on how to improve your diet, lay summaries on what’s going on in the world) sometimes don’t know where and how to begin access this information, even if they have the Internet at home. The concept of active outreach has helped me to understand why religious organizers, community organizations, and people that want to share what they consider pertinent information, make it a priority to go door-to-door.

One summer, my colleague and I were working on recruitment efforts for our educational summer program. Enrollment numbers were low and we were quickly approaching our registration deadline. We rounded up 5 college volunteers and printed 300 fliers. We created a route for our college volunteers to do mailbox drops  and encouraged them to talk to any parents or guardians that they ran into during their outreach.  The volunteers completed their door-to-door mailbox drops on a Friday night at 7pm. By Tuesday of the next week, there were 30 additional parents interested in enrolling their children in the summer program.

Although there has been a big shift towards online information sharing, it is becoming more and more evident that internet-only access to resources removes opportunities for low-income and economically disadvantaged families.

My S.M.A.R.T. solution and counteraction to this phenomenon: By January 2012 I will have a 4-page printed newsletter of major blog entries from Ashley S.C. Walls hand delivered to at least 300 households in the Chicago-land area.

See an example of how the U.S. Department of Transportation is using active outreach and community organizing to engage the public in a dialogue about personal transportation choices, traffic congestion, and air-quality.

Readers, we want to hear from you! What are your strategies for balancing Internet outreach with face-to-face interactions? How can we as a sector ensure that low-income, under-served communities are not left out of the ever-growing online universe?

Ashley S.C. Walls holds a Master’s degree in Arts and Entertainment Media Management with a concentration in Arts and Youth and Community Development from Columbia College Chicago and a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Walls has worked in a comprehensive capacity with community service organizations for several years. A regular blogger (ashleyscwalls.com), start-up business consultant, and spoken word poet, Walls creates platforms for sustainable change.

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