Tell us about your community ...

VT-Front Porch Forum: Local news & citizen engagement through networks of online neighborhood forums

Mention the internet, and most people think of the WORLD wide web… reaching out across the globe for news, long-lost friends, or low-price bargains. But in Burlington, VT, residents are using the web to connect with… their backfence neighbors. In an era where national and global information is broadly available online, it seems that few of us know our neighbors and what’s going on down the street. Husband and wife Michael and Valerie Wood-Lewis saw an opportunity three years ago and created FrontPorchForum.com to serve their corner of Vermont. Amazingly, 40% of the state’s largest city subscribes and the sense of community there is thriving and winning national awards.

“It’s astounding what a couple minutes a day of neighborhood news and chatter in my inbox has done,” says co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis. “People tell me that they lived on their street for ten years not knowing a soul. Now, since Front Porch Forum (FPF) kicked in, those familiar strangers have become real neighbors.”

Each neighborhood has its own online forum and the whole region is blanketed with a network of 130 neighborhood forums. People post about lost pets, block parties, car break-ins, plumber recommendations, helping ailing neighbors, local politics, school plays and much more. All ages partake… from seniors in their 80s seeking community support to stay in their homes… to teenagers looking for summer jobs.

In one rural neighborhood, people used FPF to find a pair of lost horses, then pitched in to build a better enclosure for the owners. In an urban neighborhood, the residents rallied around a mother who was assaulted in their park, and eventually got the city to improve safety conditions there. And in a different community, a young family asked for a couple helpers to move their household into new digs across the street… 36 people showed up! Not only was the job done quickly, but now this family knows three dozen neighbors.

“This small family business turns the internet on its head,” says FPF member and University of Vermont Assoc. Dean Susan A. Comerford. “The web offers countless ways to waste time, but Front Porch Forum actually pushes people offline and onto the sidewalks to chat with neighbors, face to face.” And that leads people to get more involved in their communities. An incredible 93% of FPF members report becoming more civically engaged due to this free service.

“Front Porch Forum is a postmodern return to citizen democracy,” opines Comerford. “This may well be the most important advance in community development strategies in decades.”

http://frontporchforum.com

24 votes
Vote
Sign in
Check!
(thinking…)
Reset
or sign in with
  • facebook
  • google
    Password icon
    I agree to the terms of service
    Signed in as (Sign out)
    You have left! (?) (thinking…)
    Michael Wood-LewisMichael Wood-Lewis shared this idea  ·   ·  Flag idea as inappropriate…  ·  Admin →

    347 comments

    Sign in
    Check!
    (thinking…)
    Reset
    or sign in with
    • facebook
    • google
      Password icon
      I agree to the terms of service
      Signed in as (Sign out)
      Submitting...
      ← Previous 1 3 4 5 17 18

      Feedback and Knowledge Base