Changing The Meaning Of "Community Work"

I do a lot of work with organizations trying to change how they relate to — and work with — communities. As a result, I write a lot of reports about “changing work habits in order to make change in communities” and whatnot.

There’s a challenge in writing such things. Often, it is hard to make them seem real. The results are often things like: “staff have new ways of relating to one another,” or “people in the community see the organization in a new light.” Even if it’s all true it sounds sort of . . . lame. I always imagine someone reading the report and shouting, “These are results?! We spent how much money on this?!”

I am always trying to write these reports a little punchier, a little more solid, a little better. So my eyes widened when I came across an excerpt from an article that seemed to me to strike exactly the right tone.

It’s about an organization that totally changed out it relates to the community, embracing a number of Web 2.0 ideas and shifting from being an old-school organization to a nimble, community-centered outfit. It revamped its website and started seeing itself as a resource to the community. The results (and this is always where it’s hard to write) were astonishinng — awards, accolades, all the metrics pointing up. Wow!

The kicker? The organization is the Roxy on Sunset Strip. You never know where connecting with the community can take you!

(Thanks to my good friend Thomas for pointing this out to me.)

Read on:

…[Nic] Adler {who owns the Roxy] realized that radical change was needed as the venue could no longer rely on reputation alone. It was no longer “cool” to play at The Roxy, unless you were a hair metal band. It was getting harder and harder for The Roxy to be competitive.

The final straw came in October 2006. Adler was driving up Doheny on his way to the club when a sign-flipper tapped on his windshield with a big GOING OUT OF BUSINESS sign, for Tower Records. He had grown up with Tower Records right down the street from The Roxy. He knew that if he didn’t do something to turn things around…The Roxy, and the rest of the Strip would be next to go.

Adler turned to the Internet. He created a MySpace profile for the club. Within three weeks he saw an impact on the club. Earlier that year he had hired Megan Jacobs, former talent buyer for Temple Bar, in attempt to bring in some new talent to the venue. Jacobs introduced Adler to online media specialist Kyra Reed in November of 2006, and Reed brought the change he was looking for.

Reed convinced Adler that the future was online and it was time to be bold. The Roxy website ditched their old-school site and moved to a blog format. Furthermore, Adler took the spirit of community and transparency a step further by including listings for other businesses and venues on the Strip. This radical departure from the competitive nature of the industry has made an impact, although few — if any — venues have followed suit with their internet presence. Adler is admittedly hooked on social media now and it’s apparent — The Roxy, which only years ago went after camera-wielding patrons, now has a massive presence on the web and even hosts user-generated photos and videos on the site. The Roxy is also one of four nominees for Best Rock Site for this month’s VH1 Rock Honors.

The staff at The Roxy embraced the blog and the blogosphere at large. They’ve expanded their horizons beyond the rock staple that had become synonymous with The Roxy and began booking more “eastside” bands like Peter, Bjorn,and John and started a three-month partnership with Filter magazine.