Try Front Porch Forum around #BTV #VT. Here’s today’s example…
We lean heavily on Front Porch Forum when it comes to getting the word out to the widest spectrum of people in Chittenden County. People really read it and, most importantly, they respond. We used our usual low- to no-cost promotion vehicles to promote a public tour of our recycling facility. We received a handful of responses. We put it out on Front Porch Forum, and within two days we had filled all 20 slots on that tour, plus another to be held next month. This is an active, engaged audience–just the people we want to reach!
-Clare Innes, Chittenden Solid Waste District
Congratulations to SeeClickFix.com (from the New Haven Register)…
YARDLEY, Pa. — Journal Register Co., a multimedia company in local news and information and parent company of the New Haven Register, announced Tuesday a major citizen journalism initiative in conjunction with New Haven-based SeeClickFix and that company’s unique program to empower citizens to improve their communities.
Starting immediately, all 18 of Journal Register Co.’s daily newspapers and online publications in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Michigan and Ohio are partnering with www.SeeClickFix.com in the communities they serve…
My wife shared a book from 1997 with me this week, and the following passage jumped out at me. It’s from Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America by Lisbeth B. Schorr.
Americans who agree on nothing else, writes William Raspberry, agree that we used to live in wonderful neighborhoods and communities. The neighborhoods that we who are middle-aged and older remember nostalgically may have been poor, seedy, segregated, and populated by the rejected and exploited, but they were our communities and we miss them.
Without a sense of community, says John Gardner, “people lose the conviction they can improve the quality of their lives through their own efforts.”
My friend and colleague Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president of the Children’s Defense Fund, reminisces about growing up in Bennettsville, South Carolina, in her wonderful books, The Measure of Our Success: A Letter to My Children and Yours:
“I went everywhere with my parents and was under the watchful eye of members of the congregation and community who were my extended family. They kept me when my parents went out of town, they reported on me and chided me when I strayed from the straight and narrow of community expectations, and they basked in and supported my achievements when I did well. Doing well, they made clear, meant high academic achievement, playing piano in Sunday school, participating in other church activities, being helpful, displaying good manners, and reading.”
Gil Walker’s memories of his childhood in Gary, Indiana, also feature networks of adults engaged with children, promoting community values.
“I can remember, when I was coming up, walking home from school with my report card in my hand. Before I got home, five or six people wanted to see it. If it was a good report card, I got hugs, I got kisses… If it was a bad report card, everyone of those individuals said, ‘Gil Walker, you know you could do better… ‘”
Gil Walker now runs a midnight basketball program for young people who live in Chicago public housing as his way of trying to replace the lost networks he remembers.
So what happened to those communities?
They have been rapidly eroding all over the industrialized world. Some combination of the following have interacted to weaken community bonds everywhere:
- Fear of crime, violence, and disorder deters people from gathering informally in public spaces. Public parks and playgrounds seem more threatening than welcoming. Older people especially, traditionally the backbone of neighborhoods, are afraid to venture out of their homes. In many neighborhoods, vigilant mothers keep their children – even teenagers – at home to keep them safe.
- Rapid advances in transportation and communication, together with the requirements of the post-industrial economy and the attraction of the suburbs and mild climates, have required and allowed vast number of people to move far from their neighborhoods and families of origin. Mobility has become easy and frequent – for all but the poor and elderly and those marooned by racial prejudice.
- The women who used to organize the PTA, volunteer in hospitals, and operate as front-porch disciplinarians and supervisors of the street scene are elsewhere. Some left with the opening of professional and workplace opportunities from which they had been excluded. Many more entered the labor market out of economic necessity.
- With the increase of single-parent families, many parents (usually mothers) must be both nurturer and breadwinner, leaving little time for community relationships.
- Technology has made it unnecessary to leave home and mingle with others to see movies and plays and listen to music. We watch sports on television rather than play them with our children, friends, and neighbors, and we listen to intimate matters being discussed by Oprah’s guests rather than our own.
- The scale of most institutions that touch our lives makes it harder to make connections. The corner grocery has been replaced by the supermarket, neighborhood stores by regional Wal-Marts, and even six-year-olds have to cope with elementary schools of two thousand children. Political institutions have become so large and so complex that most people have no chance to work together to solve small-scale problems, and feel they have no control over how their taxes are spent or how their children are taught.
For all these reasons and more, Americans feel less anchored, more adrift. Political philosopher Michael Sandel believes that the erosion of community lies at the heart of our contemporary discontent.
Robert F. Kennedy was one of the first American politicians to recognize that the loss of community was hurting us, individually and collectively. Not long before he was killed, he called attention to the destruction of “the thousand invisible strands of common experience and purpose, affection, and respect, which tie men to their fellows.” He believed that the world beyond the neighborhood has become “impersonal and abstract…beyond the reach of individual control or even understanding.” In his 1968 presidential campaign, he called for the restoration of community as “a place where people can see and know each other, where children can play and adults work together and join in the pleasures and responsibilities of the place where they live.”
In recent years I have been moving towards what I call the E.M. Forster Principal — the view that community, broadly defined, is everything. It’s not 50% of our happiness in life, or 75%, but rather 95% plus. (Forster assembled my favorite two word aphorism: Only connect.) So many of the things that we think are critical to our happiness — creative productivity, success, money — may be important only in so far as they enhance community. Community, in this view, is the final currency, the lingua franca, in which everything is valued.
Here’s an example: Though I believe I want to write a beautiful novel ten years from now as an end in itself, the value of that act — writing a beautiful novel — may be in the final analysis the way that experience broadens and deepens my relationships with others. When you have written a beautiful novel (I imagine, not having written one) you meet more people, each of whom has a head start in understanding you. The same case can be made for the value of building companies with teams of people (among the most gratifying experiences I have had), and even the value of making money.
Of course money can both connect you with others — by enabling you to help other people out and build things of value, not to mention spend time interacting with people rather than sewing machines — and it can also disconnect you from people, by causing you to distrust other people’s interest in you, or travel in circles different from those of your original community. I think a credible case can be made that the great “does money make you happy” debate all boils down to whether money builds or erodes community for a given individual. Extreme sums of money are generally more likely to destroy community — there are only so many billionaires, after all, and when you are a billionaire, the rest of the world must seem suspiciously solicitous. A radical change in one’s financial situation in either direction can cut you off from your community — lottery winners end up less happy because they leave their original communities and become distrustful of their relationships, but on the other hand a sudden loss of money makes people (say the Madoff relatives) less happy because it forces them to leave their communities, or no longer engage in bonding experiences central to a given community (like feigning disappointment in food at overpriced restaurants). Fame, I imagine, can have the same double-edged sword as money — a little is empowering to community building; a lot can be isolating. The point, here, is that community is arguably everything.
Thanks to Scott Heiferman for the tip.
Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (yes, it’s “Eaarth” with two A’s) is best-selling author Bill McKibben‘s latest book, just published this week. Initial reaction I’ve heard is mostly of the “must read” vein.
Our portfolio company Meetup has learned to focus on successful Meetup groups. Those are Meetup groups that are active, meeting regularly, have growing memberships, and are paying fees to Meetup. Meetup could focus on other data sets like monthly unique visitors, new Meetup groups, total registered users, revenues, profits, cash. They collect that data and share it with the team. But the number one thing they look at it successful Meetup groups and that has worked well for them. It is their key business metric.
In Front Porch Forum’s pilot network, we host 140 online neighborhood forums. As with Meetup, the groups’ levels of activity and success vary tremendously. Good food for thought.
The exciting new e-Vermont initiative is kicking off this Friday. Two dozen lucky Vermont towns will be on the receiving end of $3.7 million worth of access, gear, expertise and services to help their communities take full advantage of broadband internet access. We’re thrilled to expand Front Porch Forum through this new program.
So… which Vermont towns should be on the receiving end of this program? Leave a comment below. And, if you want to apply on behalf of your town, get in touch with VCRD immediately!
Contact: Paul Costello, VCRD Ex. Dir.
802 223-6091, email@example.com
PO Box 1384 , Montpelier, VT 05601
New e-Vermont Partnership Launches $3.8 million Community Development Project
Press Conference to Preview e-Vermont Community Project
Friday, April 9, 2010
Vermont State House
Cedar Creek Room
1. Project Background and nutshell summary
2. The role of e-Vermont partners:
-Heather Chirtea, Digital Wish
-Paul Costello, Vermont Council on Rural Development
-Mary Evslin, Evslin Family Foundation
-Christopher Kaufman-Ilstrup, VT Community Foundation
-Lenae Quillen-Blume, VT Small Business Development Center
-Martha Reid, VT Department of Libraries
-Mark Snelling, Snelling Center
-Karrin Wilks, VT State Colleges
-Michael Wood-Lewis, Front Porch Forum
(MONTPELIER) The two-year, $3.8 million e-Vermont Community Broadband Project is a bold new initiative to help rural Vermont towns use the internet more effectively to advance a wide variety of local needs including downtown marketing, community engagement, economic development, school innovation, job creation, health and social services, and e-commerce. It marks the first such effort in Vermont’s history.
The new e-Vermont Partnership is encouraging communities to apply quickly as it selects the first 12 communities to work with. This comprehensive approach will help our towns fully realize the potential of the digital age.
The Project is supported by a just announced $2.5 million Stimulus Grant from the federal Agency of Commerce. Additional support comes from Vermont philanthropists and corporate associates.
This project is not adding fiber optic cable or making other infrastructure improvements. It is focused on helping local e-teams develop innovative uses for the internet to address the needs listed above.
Learn the details of this story and the impact this e-Partnership will have as it works to strengthen our communities and economy.
Good question. In some venues (you know who you are!), an overwhelming amount of evidence points to “no.” In other settings a culture of respect and mutual support pervades. Books and blogs (one of my favorites) are written about online community management.
Front Porch Forum currently hosts a network of 140 online neighborhood forums that blankets 25 northwest Vermont towns… and each of our 140 forums is unique… and they all change over time. However, the tone is rarely negative and, as a whole is civil and constructive. This is due to many design decisions refined over time. But also it’s because of our members.
Here’s what Westford member Penny posted tonight to her nearby neighbors who’ve been having a rich and sometimes heated discussion before and after Town Meeting Day…
I would like to commend Eric on taking the time to write his letter. He addressed the issues of late in a respectful manner. I would like to see more of this in this forum, regardless of your position on any of the topics or issues. It certainly does feel more hostile lately with some of the posts. Kinda takes the shine off the great venue we have here. Please present your opinions, because this is the place to do so if you want to have an impact. But please do so in a manner that preserves the integrity of this forum. As always, thanks to Front Porch Forum for this great opportunity to be part of something great.
It’s wonderful when the members set a positive tone with their contribution (e.g., Eric)… and it’s outstanding when they step up, as Penny does here, to both applaud positive contributions and encourage a respectful tone from others.