Meetup is a free online resource that allows people to publicise self-organised groups of any kind. You can find it at http://www.Meetup.com
There are lots of reasons that cultural organisations should be interested in Meetup – all kinds of people self-organise to meet and share interests, business ideas and to showcase new things. You can find out a lot about hidden communities in your local area by taking a look on Meetup.
I mainly use Meetup to find out about developer groups that are meeting all over London – particularly those who are interested in wearable tech (e.g. Google Glass, Oculus Rift), augmented reality (Star Wars Holodeck anyone?) and smart technologies (think fridges talking to your local supermarket when you’re out of milk).
Companies often showcase their new ideas to Meetup groups, host meetings and set developer challenges so it’s a great way to find out what might be round the corner. It’s also a wonderful way to make links with developer communities who are often more interested than you’d think in volunteering and partnering with libraries and cultural institutions.
But there are also meetup groups for knitters, DIYers, cooks, beer enthusiasts… you name it there’s a meetup group for it. A friend uses a meetup boot camp in a local park to get fit for free.
So here are 4 ways cultural organisations should use meetup:
1. Join some groups, meet some people, make contacts
2. Contact some groups, offer your space for meet ups
3. Start some meet up groups of your own
4. Help the public join and start their own groups
I have found that the time it takes to get involved in Meetup groups is really worth it – both in terms of the new ideas you find out about and in terms of the quality of contacts you can make.
One really easy way for libraries and cultural organisations to become part of the developer/maker movements in towns and cities around the country is to offer to host meetup groups who are often looking for a home. You can also use it as a really good online portal to publicise your own groups and boost attendance. Even if you decide not to do any of these things, you should be able to tell the public about meetup (and other similar online resources) so that they can join in and start their own groups if they want to. You’ll find that you’re the hub of hundreds of vibrant online/real world communities before you know it.