So here’s the skinny: Part of the reason we bought the house we bought was because it’s right in the middle of the city of Dresden, but surrounded by green. Our next door neighbors have a 6000 m2 garden and across the street is a huge piece of land with 17 horses and a bunch of trees. Before we bought the house, we went to the City Planning Commission and said “Uh, what’s up with that land?” and they said “Oh, nothing, it’s won’t be built on, it’s flood land.” In 2002, Europe was under water and Dresden was hit hard. That track of land kept our future house from rotting in the river.

A week ago, we accidentally find out about a City Planning Commission community gathering to discuss the blueprints for that land. Yep, the investor wants to build a bunch of ugly houses and – wait for it – a cluster of “trade establishments”. They want to build 7m buildings for auto shops and carpentry centers right outside my window. And they weren’t intending on telling me.

This can’t happen, in my opinion, for a lot of different reasons. We’ve started a citizen initiative to fight it, hoping to stop progress for progress’ sake and establish the land as a park or farmland, which is what everyone has been using it as for the last 350 years. The initiative has been named “Waldpark Trachau“.

There’s a few things going on for me right now that make this little political, environmental and social debacle an especially interesting challenge.

First of all, since I moved to Germany four years ago, I’ve been shocked by the digital literacy problem in Dresden. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to convince people who are resistant to change that they really shouldn’t be using IE6 or that a basic computer course should contain more than just Word and Excel lessons. It’s also not easy to get the hearts and minds of people open to things they don’t understand.

Secondly, for my Masters, I’m taking some classes concerning Education in Social Media. I’m looking at how media and politics interact with each other, the economics, psychology, sociology and culture of media as well as copyright laws and differences in marketing for educational and social justice projects. I’m doing a lot of reading and research on these topics and have been thinking more about the relationship between digital competency and social change. I’ve been thinking about that for about seven years now.

Thirdly, tonight is the first Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab, a series of online webinars designed to inspire innovation and creativity at “the nexus of software, journalism and news.” The Lab brings together sixty people who submitted ideas to the Knight-Mozilla Innovation Challenges and got through round one. My colleagues are, in a word, brilliant. I haven’t met them yet, but their absolutely astounding histories and resumés have been included in the P2PU course where we’re collecting our content over the next month.

I am honored and humbled to have won a place in a lab where top minds will be working together to change the way we view and consume news. I can barely begin to describe what this chance to collaborate at the crux of media and journalism will do for me personally and professionally.

I will learn how to better engage people, how to build tools that help others build content, what features are needed to create a more action oriented news viewer. I am going to learn so, so much! My brain will explode! It’s going to be so great!

I believe the Web can and is changing the world, so for me the Waldpark Trachau fight is one that I want to take to the Web. But the community that needs to be organized to fight this fight are probably not online. Or are they?

My hypothesis is that they will be.

They’ll come to find out why their park is being taken away from them because they have no choice. The information exists only there and buried in the mainly inaccessible files of the City Planning Commission (the average Dresden citizen doesn’t know how to make online searches work for them). The other members of Waldpark Trachau are helping create the content, and I am helping them publish it to the world. I’ll be addressing the digital literacy because I’ll be training other members of the initiative in using web platforms and collaborating through the internet. I’ll be using theories and practices in educational and social justice marketing and psychology to get the Waldpark Trachau message to ask many people as possible. The Knight-Mozilla Learning Lab will certainly inspire ideas on how to get news consumers to be activists, and I can use those lessons to save my park.

In short: the Web is going to help me save my park. Now, if you’re on Facebook go click the like button on Waldpark Trachau‘s Facebook Page I put up yesterday (only because a lot of German’s don’t know anything other than Facebook, sad but true). And if you want to know more and can’t read German, let me know: Waldpark Trachau