Posted on Thursday, March 20, 2008 by Michael
Here’s a posting from a South Burlington FPF neighborhood forum from Deana that makes my day…
I just wanted to show my gratitude for the neighbors I have on [our street]. People on our street care about one another, watch out for each other, and help whenever you need it. I’ve walked out my door and my neighbor is chipping away at ice in my driveway for crying out loud!!
I’ve lived in southern Florida, San Diego, and now Vermont. Making a life on [our street] has been an experience of a lifetime. There’s nothing like it.
We are out of town right now and I feel very at ease as my neighbor, Susan, is taking care our dogs, the mail, and no doubt whatever weather inhabits our driveway. I love turning off of [the main road] and immediately begin to wave at anyone who is in their yard or walking on the street.
Thank you to everyone on [our street] for making our neighborhood feel like a real community. I am very proud to be part of it.
That’s fantastic. I’d be interested to know what you think – for your neighbourhood and other FPF participants – about:
a) how much of a role FPF plays / played in both supporting the emergence of such neighbourliness, and in maintaining it? I’m thinking of two metaphors of FPF: as a scaffold or garden trellis, on which local connections have grown. If it’s a scaffold, that can be taken down and the connections remain. A trellis continues to have a structural role.
b) Are there examples of neighbourhoods where you believe FPF may have been critical in a step change of community?
c) I think I may have asked this before, but do successful FPF neighbourhoods have certain characteristics? I recall a post where you said they vary enormously (and there’s even a rural one…?) I wonder if you’ve spotted any recurrent themes that might underpin their success?
Excuse my very demanding questions. If you want to know why I’m pestering you about it, let me know and I’ll explain more. (In brief, its partly professional, for research, partly because I’m seriously contemplating trying one or more FPF-style forum pilots in the UK.)
Hi Dan. I don’t know what role FPF played in the above example, except, of course, the writer used FPF to express her sentiments to her neighbors. FPF is healthy and vital in her neighborhood, but not the run-away success it is in others.
One hope of FPF is that people use it to get to know their neighbors… in person. So over time its primary purpose may shift from making introductions, to sharing news, to taking collective action… or after introductions are made, FPF may just be used for the simplest things (e.g., car for sale), leaving most other topics for in-person exchanges.
I know FPF has played the critical role in moving a neighborhood up one or more levels of people know each other and feeling like they belong to it. One of my neighbors talks about walking her various dogs around the block for 20 years and only knowing a few people. After some time with FPF in place, her walks are a parade of neighbor connection as she chats with dozens of people she now knows… ice broken via FPF.
We’ve seen FPF work across many types of settings. One seemingly important factor for quick adoption of the service is to have lots of community-minded people living there already… people who volunteer, are active in the schools, who sit on boards, etc. These are the folks who understand the value quickly and will work to make something of FPF in their neighborhood, eventually roping in the couch potatoes.