A Primer on Municipal Alliance Committees
For those New Jersey residents still unfamiliar with Municipal Alliance Committees, (according to a State of New Jersey brochure) they are local planning and coordinating bodies established in all of New Jersey’s 21 counties to “assess needs, set priorities, develop plans and implement programs that form the foundation of New Jersey’s substance abuse prevention activities.” New Jersey’s Municipal Alliances provide over 3,800 prevention programs statewide.
The state brochure on MACs further goes on to describe the makeup of Municipal Alliance Committees established by the local governing body and made up of volunteer “appointees representing a broad cross section of stakeholders in the community.” Alliance committee members include representatives from the governing body, education, health, law enforcement, civic, religious, and business organizations. From the inception of the Municipal Alliances, community volunteers have been the backbone of the program and they are parents, coaches, peer leaders, youth, seniors and others.
The Beauty of Social Media: Great Reach at No/Low Cost
Recently, some 150 concerned Mahwah parents learned how to talk to their kids about cyber-bullying, sexting, video bullying, and other adolescent online interactions at a Thursday night seminar sponsored by the Mahwah (NJ) Municipal Alliance. The Alliance got the word about the seminar on their Website (mahwahalliance.org) and through the local media as well as several mainstream and regional Social Media platforms/outlets such as AOL’s Patch.com for the Mahwah area.
Social Media works to help municipal alliance committees understand what they can do to get their message out and how their messages can be found. Online platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and dedicated Blogs are increasingly being used by community groups to enhance communication with community members and other key stakeholders including federal, state and local governing representatives.
Social media really gives financially strapped municipal alliances the opportunity to reach their target audiences for little or no cost. It is a great tool to broadcast their events and activities. It is also an incredible resource for learning from and collaborating with other municipal alliances and nonprofit groups working towards similar community goals. After all, why keep re-inventing the wheel, if we can all work together to make it roll better on a much smoother road surface? Municipal Alliances must strive to get everyone involved, especially the parents and teachers of the at-risk kids they need to reach and help.
Using feedback from members of the community is a great way to make them feel like they are a part of the municipal alliance and its programs. Never before has this been remotely possible. Now it is possible to involve people, remotely – through the Web-based tools of Social Media.
Social Media’s I/O – Input/Output
Another reason that Municipal Alliances go online is to be where the kids they are trying to protect from harm are most often found. Participating on the Web offers Alliance coordinators and members a portal into and necessary insights regarding the problematic exchanges often taking place between some children and their peers (as well as with potential child stalkers and exploiters) through Social Media. It is not coincidental that on the Mahwah Municipal Alliance website is a Today Show interview with Mahwah police Chief James Batelli regarding this same issue:
For those who were unable to view the original broadcast, it now permanently resides on the Alliance’s Website and can be viewed at any time. Word of the video’s existence on the Website and/or the video, itself, can easily be “pushed out” to the residents embedded within a digital newsletter or via E-mail blast. This is yet another example how Social Media is being used by Municipal Alliances to reach out to greater numbers of community residents and educate them about topics of interest – when they are conveniently available.
Never before the age of Social Media has constructive two-way communication with the community been possible. And, Municipal Alliances throughout New Jersey are availing themselves of these technologies and the greater benefits they yield.