Here’s a beautiful story and poem from a FPF member who lives in Burlington co-housing…
© Sharyl Green
August 10 2017
We’re excited to announce that Front Porch Forum now has 140,000 members across Vermont. More than half of the households in the state participate in their local FPFs. Thanks to all who have helped achieve this milestone.
To share FPF with other Vermonters, please send them to FrontPorchForum.com to check it out and sign up.
FPF’s mission is to help neighbors connect and build community. We do that by hosting a statewide network of online neighborhood forums where Vermonters post about lost pets, borrowing ladders, recommending plumbers, sighting moose, reporting break-ins, discussing school budgets, and much more.
“Thank you to the dozen or so neighbors who emailed personal notes of appreciation for my post on last week’s Really Big Thing that happened.
“I take Front Porch Forum literally for its ‘front porch-ness.’ So when a Really Big Thing happens — like a storm, crash, or national tragedy — the first place I want to go is the front porch. To look around the neighborhood and ask, ‘How’re you doing? Everybody in your house okay?’ And if possible, offer any solace or help.
“I understand why some folks wouldn’t want national politics on our local Front Porch Forum. But last Tuesday’s election left many in our community reeling.
“I think it’s important to recognize this and resist the urge to limit what can and cannot be said here. If for no other reason than to support our neighbors who might have been left feeling particularly vulnerable.”
• James, posted on a Burlington neighborhood FPF
#BTV #VT – More than 9,600 members are active in Front Porch Forum now in Burlington, out of the 16,000 households that comprise the city. In 2011, they shared 26,000 postings with their nearby neighbors via FPF. Amazingly, HALF of FPF members spoke up and contributed to their FPF neighborhood conversations. In one survey, 93% reported feeling “more civically engaged since joining FPF.” About 100 elected and appointed public officials participate too.
FPF is expanding beyond Burlington… we now serve one-third of Vermont. More than 32,000 members participate in rural areas, suburbs, and cities. Imagine this level of engagement in every part of Vermont and beyond! Let us know if you’d like to help bring FPF to your town (just enter your address on our home page and complete the form).
Three cheers for the tens of thousands FPF members in Vermont… and here’s to vibrant neighborhoods in 2012!
How many people have we heard from who want to blast their political message across a wide swath of Front Porch Forum? Too many to count.
It makes sense. FPF has a huge local audience and Town Meeting Day is March 2… less than a week away. Candidates, political parties, advocacy groups… they all are working to get the word out about their issue, their campaign.
But at its core, FPF isn’t about blasting out a single message to thousand of local homes. It’s about neighborhood-level conversation. Any local resident may join the single FPF neighborhood forum where he/she lives and post to his/her heart’s content. (FPF is available in 25 Vermont towns.)
Most people are glad to read items from their clearly identified nearby neighbors… then continue the conversations on the sidewalk or at the local store or school. FPF members seem less excited about reading one-way bulk postings from non-nearby neighbors.
Case in point… a Burlington resident who opposes a ballot measure to repeal Instant Runoff Voting. She asked FPF to broadcast her posting across many of Burlington’s nearly 40 online neighborhood forums. We declined and encouraged her to post it on her “home” neighborhood forum and ask friends in other neighborhoods to forward her message.
She took our advice and now we see her message popping up all over the city, and in each case it has a lead-in sentence from the friend stating their agreement with her position. So now thousands of potential voters are getting the message, each with an extra pitch from a nearby neighbor… very effective. “Best advocacy tool in town,” is how she put it.
And the original advocate had to convince dozens of friends across town to help her get her message out. This is democracy! Just the opposite of big money buying elections through mass media.
Indeed, I answered a knock on my door this morning and found a neighbor returning a borrowed pan. We took the opportunity to discuss the merits of the IRV-repeal ballot measure for five minutes, each getting a little more food for thought before our respective moments in the voting booth next Tuesday. A great use of Front Porch Forum!
What an honor! Front Porch Forum is headed to Washington, DC on Sept. 9 to participate in an event called Engaging Citizen 2.0: From Obama to the “MyFaceTube” Revolution, How is Social Media Reshaping Civic Engagement? We’ll be in the Library of Congress with several luminaries of the “using social media for civic engagement” crowd, including…
They’ve capped the gathering at about 100 folks from around the country who are among the top in this quickly emerging field. Thanks to The Case Foundation for FPF’s special invitation. I’m looking forward to learning from the conversation and sharing FPF’s amazing story of actual civic engagement catalyzed through FPF’s virtual front porch (here’s a recent sample).
This event will be streamed online live at www.ncoc.net and will be live on Twitter– follow @ncoc and #ncoc.
FPF will also swing by the Gov 2.0 Summit… again thanks to The Case Foundation.
Vermont and the Burlington area rank high in a new national study of volunteering rates, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
The state ranks ninth in the percentage of the population that participates in volunteer efforts, according to the CNCS’s Web site, www.volunteeringinAmerica.gov…
In Vermont, 35.6 percent of the population volunteered; the national average is 26.4 percent. The Burlington metropolitan area, which includes Burlington and South Burlington, ranked 11th among the 75 mid-sized cities polled for volunteer rates…
A volunteer coordinator at the United Way of Chittenden County said she is not surprised by Vermont’s high rate of volunteerism. “We have certainly seen the generosity of this community in giving of their volunteer time,” said Holly Reed, director of the United Way of Chittenden County’s volunteer center. “Vermont is a small place, and we are more acutely aware of what the needs are in the community.”…
The study showed 35.6 percent of Vermonters, or about 180,400 people, volunteered in 2008, putting in 20.6 million hours of service, according to the study…
Front Porch Forum is a great catalyst for getting people involved in their local community. Many local nonprofits have told us of increased volunteer rolls due to FPF… what a thrill for FPF to play a role in this important trend.
Self-help housing enables people to be active citizens, and it fights the culture of “someone should do something about that”. It was once more common, but over the last two decades community development and regeneration has fallen into the hands of professionals preoccupied with management and measurement.
Kevin concludes with…
Community development will be reinvented from the bottom-up by people like Jon Fitzmaurice. Let’s hope the others just get out of the way.
Reminds me of a recent Front Porch Forum story…
Lauren wondered if her small rural Vermont town had a food shelf. So she posted a note to her neighbors on Front Porch Forum (FPF). When she learned that none existed currently, she reached out again via FPF for a steering committee. Then it was through FPF yet again that they found food, space, volunteers, and, eventually, recipients — her neighbors delivered on every count! Now, one year later, the food shelf is critical in the lives of many town residents affected by the recession. And no government, foundation, or corporate money or leadership has been needed.
FPF hosts a network of 130 online neighborhood forums that blankets all of Chittenden County, VT. More than 14,000 households subscribe, including 40% of the state’s largest city. Members use FPF to communicate with clearly identified nearby neighbors about issues of their choosing. Thousands of topics have been discussed and acted upon. All of this online exchange draws peoples’ attention to their local community, and increases social capital and civic engagement, as witnessed by Lauren’s example:
“Thanks to FPF, having a community-wide conversation about how to address our local hunger problem was a cinch. With the help of rallying neighbors, we got our food shelf up and running in no time. Not a community meeting — or practically any public-oriented conversation — goes by without FPF being tossed into the mix. What a wonderful gift.”
FPF is eager to bring its successful model to more communities. Some traditional community development professionals and funding programs have a hard time understanding this decentralized, citizen-centered approach. When we tell them that FPF helps create an environment where folks like Lauren emerge from the crowd to do wonderful acts of public good, I hear things like “well, but we don’t fund food selves.” Aargh.
Clips from Funding and Fostering Local Democracy by Matt Leighninger. First, on language… how many ways can you say “civic engagement?”
In common usage, “deliberation and democratic governance”
= active citizenship
= deliberative democracy
= citizen involvement
= citizen-centered work
= public engagement
= citizen participation
= public dialogue
= collaborative governance
= public deliberation
Different people define these terms in different ways – and in most cases, the meanings are blurry and overlapping.
The primary reason for this language confusion is that this field developed in different places, in different fields and issue areas, simultaneously.
And a list of coalitions of people and groups working on this issue…
The professional infrastructure for deliberation and democratic governance is growing as fast as the field itself. There are four networks that serve deliberation practitioners and researchers in different ways:
The Canadian Community on Dialogue and Deliberation (C2D2) is a Canadian network that attracts many people from the U.S. and other countries to its biannual conferences. C2D2 convenes practitioners and advocates of related fields, such as intergroup dialogue and conflict resolution, in addition to people who work in deliberation and democratic governance.
The Deliberative Democracy Consortium (DDC) is an alliance of practitioners and researchers representing more than 50 organizations and universities, all of whom share an interest in deliberation and democratic governance. More a think tank than a membership organization, the DDC develops publications, builds connections between different fields, and convenes meetings targeted at particular issues and areas for collaboration.
The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) is a network of practitioners that has particularly strong representation in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. Many of the members of this association are planners and development specialists who have used democratic principles to involve citizens in land use and development decisions.
The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation (NCDD) is a network of over 700 organizations and individuals. Like C2D2, NCDD convenes practitioners in many related fields, such as intergroup dialogue, in addition to people working in deliberation and democratic governance. The NCDD website offers a comprehensive assortment of over 2,000 tools, best practices, and links related to participatory democracy, public engagement, collaborative action, and conflict resolution at all levels. The NCDD listserv reaches over 10,000 people.
Ghost of Midnight is an online journal about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on Front Porch Forum (FPF). My wife, Valerie, and I founded FPF in 2006... read more