Category Archives: Social Responsibility

Hiding in Plain Sight

Posted on Monday, December 27, 2010 by No comments yet

Vermont Public Radio commentator Andrea Learned chimed in today with a piece called “Sustainable Waldo.”

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to nudge more people toward sustainable living practices.  While switching out light bulbs and recycling as much as possible are both easy ways to start that process, what comes next? … we may now need to focus on places where sustainability is hidden in plain sight…  Remember the “Where’s Waldo” books?  Darned if he wasn’t right in front of your nose and you didn’t see him.  So where are some sustainability Waldos?

One great example might lie in urban density and community transportation planning issues… Gardening is another activity where sustainability may be hiding in plain sight.

And what about neighborhood involvement, as supported by services like Vermont’s own Front Porch Forum, which host networks of online neighbor-to-neighbor help and information. Communities built on stronger interpersonal relationships and citizen interconnections help build more long-term, sustainable views on big, challenging issues.  Whether or not citizens see this as sustainability doesn’t really matter.  They are responding to powerful, sustainability-promoting, shared values.

She’s got a point!  Sometimes we talk about FPF’s larger community benefits… but most of the time when chatting with folks, we focus on the direct and obvious benefits… use FPF to find an affordable plumber or ride to Boston, to report a car break-in to neighbors, to sell a bike or give away a stroller.

Christian Science Monitor: Maybe FPF better than good fences

Posted on Friday, March 12, 2010 by 1 comment

Carrie Leber writes on The Christian Science Monitor website about the challenges of living with difficult neighbors.  Her bottom line…

Maybe Internet forums, not fences, are what make good neighbors.

After discussing her own hard-to-live-with neighbors, she says…

Ironically, rather than face-to-face discussions, it may be that the Internet is the best source of info about potentially exasperating neighbors. You can go to sites like, where people post items about loud parties and bad behavior.

Although researching online kvetching about your potential neighborhood is one option, I really like the notion of the Front Porch Forum.

Started by Michael Woods-Lewis and his wife, Valerie, about 10 years ago, Front Porch Forum is comprised of groupings of neighborhoods in Vermont, each of about 400 homes. People sign up and must clearly identify themselves (no anonymous ravings), and then post items of concern or interest to local neighbors.

To date, 17,000 households across 25 towns in that state interact and discuss what’s going on in their neck of the woods.

What’s key about FrontPorchForum is that it is a micro-community, not a giant group of users such as on Facebook or Twitter. And while the geography of the organization to date has been limited to the Vermont area, FPF will set up a forum in any area for a fee. Or you could start one of your own!

From a real estate perspective, this is a great option for giving insight to prospective buyers about the nature and zeitgeist of a neighborhood. Had there been a forum for my community in Connecticut, I most likely would have seen the many qualms others in the area have had with the infamous Mary and Jerry over the years (no, their ire has not just been focused on me).

Do you value FPF? Become a supporting member!

Posted on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 by 3 comments

Where do you turn when your car is broken into? Or when you need to borrow a stroller, find a reliable mechanic, sell your couch, or track down your AWOL dog? Increasingly in Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties, people turn to their nearby neighbors through Front Porch Forum (FPF).

After just three years of FPF’s service, 16,000 local households are participating. We publish in 140 neighborhoods across 25 towns in northwest Vermont… week in and week out. Local residents have posted 75,000 messages to their neighbors through FPF.

Our small band of committed staff are working day and night to keep this all going. We’re grateful for our local business partners and their support of our community-building mission. Their ads cover many of our expenses, but not all. If you enjoy and value Front Porch Forum, please become a supporting member today. WE NEED YOUR HELP NOW to maintain, improve and expand FPF. Please go to this web link to make your contribution via credit card, PayPal or check:

Considering that the local newspaper costs $15/month and a daily coffee drink can exceed $60/month, what is FPF worth to you? To your community?

It’s our privilege to offer our community-building service — a Vermont original — to so many people. We want to build on the success that you have made of FPF. As we grow, our business model is evolving to include this, our first annual member appeal. We have high hopes that FPF users like you will each contribute $12, $24 or $36 right now — or choose to make an automatic monthly contribution. Any amount is welcome and will make a difference. Please become an FPF supporting member here (credit card, PayPal or check):

Or send a check, payable to:
Front Porch Forum
PO Box 64781
Burlington, VT 05406-4781
(FPF is not a charity and contributions are not tax deductible.)

Your contribution is critical to keeping FPF going strong — and will be enormously appreciated. We look forward to serving you and your neighbors in the coming year.

Your FPF team,
Michael, Nina, Linda and Jamie

Social Change 2.0

Posted on Friday, September 25, 2009 by No comments yet

I had the pleasure of introducing David Gershon’s work to Portland, Oregon more than a dozen years ago.  So Mike Lindberg’s quote about David’s new book caught my eye…

Social Change 2.0 exhilarates. David Gershon has not just laid out a compelling and coherent blueprint for social change, but the vividly written stories he shares make us realize that what we thought was impossible can actually be achieved. Having been a political leader in Portland for twenty years, where I worked closely with David, I saw firsthand the power of his work to change the lives of thousands of people. He may well be the number one expert on social change in our country.”
– Mike Lindberg, former Commissioner of Public Utilities and city council member, City of Portland, Oregon

David’s work has some interesting parallels to Front Porch Forum.  I look forward to reading it.  (Buy the book here.)