One of the many ways that the Vermont Digital Economy Project has worked to foster resilience and create community engagement in the past 18 months was by enabling Front Porch Forum to expand to each and every Vermont community. The following article was submitted by Michael Wood-Lewis, Co-Founder & CEO of FrontPorchForum.com. Michael will be moderating the morning panel on “Engaged Communities” in the “Resilience through Engagement” track of our Vermont Connected Summit on Tuesday, September 23rd. Follow this link for more information about the summit.
Eva saw a sign on a utility pole in her rural corner of Underhill, Vt. in late August announcing “The Rover is Coming!” She was eager to know more so that she could unload her household hazardous waste. But, alas, the print was too small on the sign and she missed the details as she drove by.
Later that day, she asked her neighbors for help by posting to her local Front Porch Forum: “Does anyone know where and when the Rover is coming and what it will take? Thanks.”
She got her answer and more, as she shared in her follow-up posting the next day:
I guess I am new school enough to use Front Porch Forum but just enough old school that “Googling” is still not an instinctive response. There is just enough old school left in me to naturally seek out a relationship-based answer over a computer generated one, albeit through the computer. I am so glad that I did! I “met” my next door neighbor through my FPF inquiry and had a nice back and forth introduction via email. I would have missed the opportunity by turning solely to “www”. And just maybe my inquiry let others know, who didn’t already, that the Rover was on its way next month.
This is FPF in a nutshell: solve a problem and connect with neighbors along the way.
FPF Now Serving Every Vermont Town
Thanks to the Vermont Council on Rural Development and the Vermont Digital Economy Project, now every community in the state has a local Front Porch Forum.
To check out what your neighbors are sharing, go to FrontPorchForum.com
Vermonters use their local FPFs to find lost pets, recommend mechanics, report break-ins, discuss local projects, announce events and much more.
People report being more connected to neighbors and better informed about local goings on. This often leads to people becoming more involved in their local communities.
More than 80,000 households participate in their local FPFs now out of the 260,000 households that exist in Vermont. Thousands more join every month.
Working with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, FPF compiled survey results from 964 FPF members in August 2014. Four observations emerged based on member experience before and since joining their local FPFs:
- FPF helps neighbors connect. For example, 37% more members share goods or favors monthly with neighbors. That is, the responses grew from 29% before FPF, to 39% since joining.
- FPF helps Vermonters get informed about local issues. Nearly four times(!) more FPF members reported feeling “very informed” about local community issues since joining FPF. That is, the response grew from 17% before FPF to 65% since joining.
- FPF helps people get involved and build community. About one-third more members work to make change in their local communities monthly since joining FPF. That is, the response grew from 19% before FPF to 25% since joining.
- And FPF helps local economies. For example, 65% of respondents associated with a local business reported that FPF has helped their business, mostly with acquiring new customers, gathering customer feedback, and hiring. And 98% said that FPF helps their local economy.
Click here for more information about the results of the survey.
Vermont Connected Summit
Come to the Vermont Connected Summit at the Statehouse in Montpelier on September 23 to hear and discuss more about Front Porch Forum and other ways to create community with the help of digital tools.