What do you get when you fill a room with 150 hyperlocal online journalists (including 3 from #VT)? That was answered a couple weeks ago at the Block by Block Community News Summit in Chicago. I learned much and was glad to share some of Front Porch Forum‘s story.
Front Porch Forum (FPF) is an online space that serves small towns and neighborhoods in just about a third of Vermont. Each FPF helps improve Vermont’s local community ecosystem. Hosting these neighborhood conversations leads to face-to-face interaction and ultimately improved community.
When a neighbor posts to the conversation on their local FPF, their name, street name and email address appears in their post.
“Neighbors go from being strangers to actually knowing these people through the conversations,” says Wood-Lewis.
Wood-Lewis and his family moved to Vermont in search of community, but found it difficult to come by through traditional means so they created FPF. It was created to help Wood-Lewis and his family meet the neighbors and understand what was going on around them. Its impact on communities exceeded their expectations, but it is this impact that inspires Wood-Lewis to continue to invest in FPF’s growth.
“We are motivated by the results we see. It has made our neighborhood a better place to live and raise our kids. It’s made our city a better place. It empowers people to do the great things that people do given half a chance to be good neighbors,” says Wood-Lewis.
When Hurricane Irene tore through Vermont at the end of August, FPF played a major role in local disaster relief. People started to self-organize through FPF. Residents would list their needs on FPF and groups of neighbors would gather supplies and make their way to those in need.
“We saw this happen again and again,” says Wood-Lewis, “It’s really powerful.”
More than half of Burlington, VT participates in FPF… it’s incredibly vibrant and popular. The desire to know the people who live around us and to be plugged into neighborhood news is strong and growing.
This “neighbor conversation” area is a quickly emerging online space with many start-ups and existing dot.coms jumping in. It’s a close cousin to hyperlocal journalism. More here:http://to.pbs.org/oDcZAI