How much good can one person do? A reasonable amount for sure, but there is a limit to the amount of time and effort that one person can put into this game.
I am therefore trying to do something that is usually described as a "community awareness campaign". Normally, these things are dreamed up by a government agency of some sort, and they end up as a series of expensive TV advertisements and a stack of brochures gathering dust. I am taking a different tack - a grass roots tack if you like.
My kids attend a community daycare centre with children from half a dozen other families. Most of these families live in the same neighbourhood as us - we sometimes bump into each other when we take the kids to local parks and playgrounds. Since all our kids are benefiting from these parks and playgrounds, I thought that their parents would be a good group to get on board.
I wrote a one page flyer two weeks ago, printed 10 copies and asked if I could leave it at the daycare centre along with the other materials that are left out for parents to take. I simply asked the other parents to take an active role in reporting any problems that they see in our parks and playgrounds.
We're not forming a Simpson's style vigilant group with pitchforks and flaming torches, or even a Friends of the Park (which Council has in their Strategic Plan, but hasn't done much about) with the aim of conducting regular working bees to clean up sections of a park. It's just a matter of spotting something and then phoning it in to Council - the addition of another dozen sets of eyes. That's all we need.
I'm hoping that a cheap, simple campaign like this will have more "pull" with this group of parents, because it is one parent talking directly to another with a focused message, rather than a distant bureaucracy using the usual shotgun approach with its marketing methods.
Could this be the start of a parent-to-parent viral campaign? Maybe.
On a side note, the "power of one" seems to be having some impact at least. This blog will soon be having its first birthday, although I was doing this sort of stuff on a haphazard basis before I started writing about it. In my opinion, and mine alone, our local area has started looking a lot better in the last few months. We still have graffiti and damage, but there is less of it, and it doesn't stick around for very long. The number of "graffiti free days" is on an upward trajectory.
For a long time, I was plugging away and seeing a few localised results, but no overall improvement. Suddenly, everything seems to be coming together and working in sync and I think we are seeing wholesale improvements in amenity right across the City of Canada Bay.
"Graffiti free days" - there is a particular spot that I am thinking of that used to have graffiti on it permanently. It was never cleaned off. Then Council started cleaning it every few months - it would have a few days without graffiti, then back it would come. Then Council started cleaning it every Monday - graffiti would return on the following Saturday night, but would only be visible on Sunday before it was removed on Monday. The community was treated to six graffiti free days, rather than the zero they had before.
This site is now entering its third week with no graffiti, and no cleanups required. That may change this weekend if the weather is good (vandals don't work in the rain) and the miscreants return from their school holiday excursions to distant parts of the state - but as of today, we have had 22 graffiti free days at this site. If it gets hit this Saturday, it will have had 27 graffiti free days, then one with graffiti, then the "graffiti free" clock will start running again. I'm not sure if the constant cleaning has worn the little sods down and discouraged them, or if its the bad weather that has kept them indoors - but whatever the cause, the results have been good.