Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Online Forum Yields Face-to-Face Community

Posted on Monday, May 7, 2007 by 1 comment

From a not-quite-yet-mature neighborhood forum in South Burlington… C.L. is welcoming long-time neighbors who just subscribed…

Welcome Nancy and Dick! It is kind of sad that this is how we have to communicate! Hope you are doing well and we do need to catch up! XOXO C.L.

As counterintuitive as it seems, people report that their online forums lead to MORE face-to-face time with neighbors. In fact, this is the most valued aspect of Front Porch Forum by members in neighborhoods with active and “full-grown” forums.

When enough folks join a given neighborhood forum and start using it, people seem to start organizing more block parties, street-wide yard sales, Green Up Day efforts, community action to get a new stop sign or potholes filled, etc. Lots of small things too… dog and toddler play groups, school and work carpools, support groups to lend a hand to an elder neighbor with yard chores, a regular poker game, etc.

A generation or two ago, it seems, most homes had a stay-at-home mom who was in the neighborhood all day and family size was larger and the little ones were home all day… lots of bodies in the neighborhood all day. Now, many neighborhoods are ghost towns during the weekday. The face-to-face neighborhood grapevine that thrived over back fence, around the kitchen table over coffee, and, dare I say, on the front porch, has withered in many places. Enter the virtual Front Porch Forum. Not to replace face-to-face… but to help folks rebuild the neighborhood grapevine and connect in person more.

It’s working in many places! A neighborhood forum seems to require 50-100 members to really get rolling. The one above has about 20 members (out of about 300 households) and three local officials who tune in. A simple door-to-door flyering and/or sign-up sheet on a clipboard will push those numbers up toward the critical mass needed.

Posted in: Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Local Online, Neighborhood, Social Media, Stories, Vermont

One comment

  1. Ed Madara says:

    While it doesn’t relate to neighborhood community groups, there are many “mutual aid self-help groups” that people can find or form in their local communities. For help in doing either…

    American Self-Help Group Clearinghouse
    our website provides:
    – a keyword-searchable database of over 1,100 national, international, and model self-help support groups for most any specific illness, disability, addiction, bereavement situation, parenting, caregiver concern, abuse, or other stressful life situation;
    – listing of local non-profit self-help group clearinghouses worldwide
    – suggestions on starting both community and online mutual help groups;
    – information on research of self-help groups – to see a summary of the more rigorous outcome studies, you can see a copy of the chapter from the last edition of our Self-Help Group Sourcebook at:
    – and a registry for those trying to start new national or international support networks that don’t yet exist in the world.
    For information on national, online, or model groups, those outside New Jersey can also phone our national helpline at 973-326-6789 (8:30am – 5pm Eastern, weekdays).

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