Neighbors show their support of Vermont small businesses on FPF.
“I was on a call this week in which the somber fact of our local businesses on the brink of failure was very apparent. Many of our local sandwich shops, bars and restaurants are in dire need of support and are looking at the possibility of having to close down for good bc of the financial situation they are in. I was going to suggest we all try and support a “Take out Tuesday” (because A. Takeout sounded best with Tuesday and B. this would include all our eateries whether they were serving in their location or just doing take out), but realize many of our local spots aren’t open on Tuesdays. Therefore, I suggest we all try and go out to eat or get food to go from our local eateries that aren’t serving in house at least once a weekday when they need our support the most. Without our help, many of the local establishments that you love are not going to make it through this winter. Help out your neighbor, friend, or local business owner now, so that we may have the chance to enjoy them after this mess is over with. We all have a part in our local businesses success.
This also applies to our local independent shops as well. Please think of them with the upcoming holiday season and shop local this year!” • Bob in Stowe
Share local dining/take-out options and gift ideas on Front Porch Forum.
It’s not too late! The Dairy Assistance Application and Agriculture and Working Lands Applications are now live. The deadline to apply for these funds, part of Vermont’s COVID-19 Agriculture Assistance Program (VCAAP), is Oct. 1, 2020. These grants are intended to stabilize agricultural businesses and organizations based on their lost revenues and expenses related to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Learn more here.
If you have neighbors in your community who could benefit from this information, or other helpful info to share, post it on your neighborhood FPF!
As a result of the federal CARES act, the State of Vermont has recently made available new Economic Recovery Grants for minority and women-owned businesses with 0-5 employees. There’s also special funding for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations as part of a special allocation of funding through the Vermont Arts Council.
Learn more and apply for the economic recovery grants for Vermont small businesses owned by minorities and women. $2.5 million has been set aside for women-owned businesses and $2.5 million for minority-owned businesses with 0-5 employees.
Vermont nonprofit arts and cultural organizations should use the same portal to apply for these grants. To learn more about what it means for Vermont’s creative sector check here.
Front Porch Forum members are organizing gardeners to share their extra produce this summer with neighbors who are in need.
“If you have a veggie garden, and as you find yourself with more produce than you can use in the coming months, I’m hoping you might donate it. Local food pantries welcome produce from home gardeners. My plan is to harvest extra produce as I have it and take it to one of them. It doesn’t need to be a lot every fresh little bit helps. Just grow and give.” • Karen in East Montpelier
“We just put out a Little Free Greenhouse & Seed Library in front of our house. If you have extra veggie starts or seeds to exchange, please consider contributing them to the greenhouse and library for others to take. There will also be free wildflower bouquets for the taking from time to time. There are some lettuce starts in the greenhouse at the moment as well. Please take whatever you need and contribute what you can.” • Allegra in Burlington
Ready to start something similar in your town? Post on FPF!
COVID-19 is forcing everyone to adapt. An essential part of that adaptation is the use of technology to keep people connected without the face-to-face risk factors the coronavirus presents. Micah Sifry of Civic Hall observes the many challenges we all face as we navigate a global pandemic and the tech solutions that may help us move forward.
Sifry identifies Front Porch Forum as digital public infrastructure that can help communities thrive. See the excerpt below.
“In all my years of reporting on how we use tech in civic life, one platform has stood out for how it has successfully fostered healthy community engagement while reaching significant scale: Vermont’s Front Porch Forum. Seventy percent of the state’s 260,000 households have an account on one of FPF’s local town or neighborhood forums, which are in every part of the rural state. Two years ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an in-depth study of FPF’s users, finding that their daily use of the site led to increased trust in their neighbors, increased interest in civic life, greater participation in local government, and increased optimism about the future. ‘Witnessing everyday acts of neighborliness is a powerful driver of both online and offline community engagement,’ the study concluded.
Last week, I checked in with its founder Michael Wood-Lewis and his chief innovation officer, Jason Van Driesche, to find out how they are weathering the current storm. After a brief dip in the site’s fortunes when the state went into lockdown in March, they were happy to report that even though no one was posting yard sales or local events, the type of information that has always been FPF’s bread-and-butter, user engagement was up. The number of net new signups per day doubled during the first weeks of the crisis, and posting is up considerably over the seasonable average, along with open rates.
Wood-Lewis and Van Driesche are also gratified to report that people are using the forum’s daily email bulletins to organize help for neighbors, share vital public health information, and fight isolation. They’ve decided to have their paid community moderators screen out misinformation about COVID, which Wood-Lewis said is ‘usually people getting stuff off of Facebook and sharing it with good intentions.’ They’re working on an array of service improvements, and also thinking hard about how to support the 10,000 local businesses, thousands of local officials and hundreds of nonprofits that use the site. ‘On a daily basis, most of the people in our state are giving us five to ten minutes of their attention,’ Wood-Lewis noted. But he and his team are frustrated that so much of FPF’s core mission, which is to bring neighbors together face-to-face, is stymied by the pandemic. ‘We know we’re successful when those real in-person things happen,’ he adds, so his team is trying to highlight local initiatives like safe scavenger hunts for kids and community claps for frontline workers.
Front Porch Forum’s model works because it keeps its forums to human size and speed, and it has paid moderators perusing every post before they reach subscribers. A typical instance has 500 to 1,000 people on it, all from the same town or neighborhood, and all verified, using their real names. Everyone sees the same content at the same time, Van Driesche pointed out; there’s no microtargeting of content. So while people still are people, and they may post things that get on their neighbors’ nerves, the general tenor of the site is ‘let’s pull together instead of knocking each other down.‘”
Read the full article here.
Change is afoot. Front Porch Forum is glad to present a new and improved Email Forum design today.
The daily FPF Email Forum has a new look. At the same time, we’re keeping all the content and functionality that members have come to appreciate in place and easy to use.
This redesign is one step in a series of upgrades that FPF is making to deliver the highest quality service to our members. The new, simplified layout of the Email Forum is designed to make postings shine. We’ve also made it easier to compose postings, search the posting archive and more!
Other recent steps we’ve taken to improve our service:
Already we’ve seen how these milestones and changes have helped us to fulfill our mission across the state in Vermont and in growing upstate New York forums. As the weeks go on, we look forward to sharing news on the additional updates and new features we’ll be rolling out to better serve you and our communities. Next up… redesign of our website, including the posting archive and Web Forum.
Stay tuned for details about these and other exciting new features and updates. We eager to share our progress!
For more information on FPF’s growth and community impact over recent years, check out the following pieces:
The little things count, especially when the going gets tough. Being kind, friendly, or considerate toward our neighbors can make all the difference. Read this excellent metaphor shared by an FPF member about being courteous during difficult times, or when in tight spaces!
“Anyone who has gone through a covered bridge appreciates Covered Bridge Courtesy.
People, who can be total strangers, back up, stop, blink their head lights, wave. Signal, “you first.” Basically, acknowledge each other in that tight space. Then we get on with our lives.
And now, we find ourselves in a tight space again. Big Time.
The quarantines, stay in place orders, the uncertainty, have created a collective anxiety. It does matter how we feel about it. Life, like that bridge, will likely be a tight space for some time.
And guess what – we are waving at each other more. We see it driving around. The finger flick off the wheel, or eye contact, or the double whammy of both at the same time. Whoa – that was good.” • Stuart and Patti in Charlotte, Vt.
Have you seen examples like “covered bridge courtesy” in your neighborhood? Tell your neighbors about it on Front Porch Forum!
As the world adjusts and adapts to social distancing and self isolation, communities in Vermont are looking to connect with and help their neighbors safely. They’re doing so on FPF.
Listen to Front Porch Forum’s co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, share how the service is being used across the state (and in parts of Upstate NY) during the COVID-19 crisis. He joins Fran Stoddard for an interview, below, on Across the Fence, the country’s longest-running locally produced program.
Learn more about how Front Porch Forum is being used during this time here.