As part of the Vermont Digital Economy grant, every town in Vermont now has access to a Front Porch Forum.

Front Porch Forum (FPF) provides a simple way for neighborhood connections to begin. This service creates an online place for neighbors to communicate in conversations that spill over into the sidewalks, general stores, and actual front porches of our communities. In fact 93% of survey respondents reported increased civic engagement after signing up with FPF.

People use the service to find lost cats, report car break-ins, give away strollers, debate speed bumps, and rally volunteers for park clean-ups. Successful areas grow into more challenging topics: from school budget debates to addressing drug-related crime to supporting a terminally ill neighbor.

Front Porch Forum is different from a typical list serve. It is built around neighborhoods, where everyone uses their real name and where online postings become real world conversations. The staff of FPF manages information flow so that messages arrive in timely digests, not a flood of e-mails. And moderators make sure that online discussions maintain a civil tone.