Harmony Wu with an Obama campaign sign and art drawn by her children at her home in Needham.
By Kathryn Eident
A local group of excited Obama supporters is trying to capture the momentum of the historic election to inspire community service—and they’re using the internet to do it.
Yes We Can Needham.com, launched days after the election, features discussion groups, blogs and event postings to keep area Obama supporters in touch and involved. Nearly 70 people from Needham and surrounding towns have joined, according to the web site.
For Harmony Wu, a Needham resident and the group's contact person, helping people transition from campaign supporters to community activists is a new and exciting challenge. Canvassing, fundraising and organizing phone banks during the election was one thing; finding common causes without stepping on the toes of existing community groups is another, she said.
“The challenge is, how do you keep the group and momentum going?” said Harmony Wu, a Needham resident and the group’s contact person. “How do we want to organize? Around a cause? Stay open? That’s not resolved yet.”
Wu said she envisions a movement of community-minded, engaged volunteers developing as the site grows, similar to the way the Obama campaign used web sites to mobilize an army of volunteers during the campaign.
And though the group will rally around some of the Obama Administration’s agenda items, they will also develop their own priorities and they welcome newcomers.
“We will be driven by local, issue-oriented matters that people bring to the table,” Wu said. “We don’t want to be yes-men.”
Yes We Can Needham.com’s founder Peter Katz developed the site after hearing about Yes We Can Racine.com, a Wisconsin-based network of Obama supporters, last November.
“I had been mulling over the idea,” he said. “Then I heard a story on public radio and realized that was the way to do it.”
Katz contacted the site’s founder and soon had his own site up and running, using the social networking site, ning.com.
“It sounds corny, but it’s very empowering,” he said. “When you start getting involved on a local basis, it just feels so much better because you realize you can create change on the local level.”
The group will test its post-election organizing prowess with community service events linked to the Obama Administration’s National Day of Service the weekend of January 17th and 18th.
For more information or to join, visit yeswecanneedham.com or contact Harmony Wu at firstname.lastname@example.org