The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) and Front Porch Forum (FPF) jointly announced last week that Front Porch Forum has expanded and is now available statewide in every Vermont town and neighborhood. The announcement was made possible after significant investment by VCRD’s Vermont Digital Economy Project and software development by Front Porch Forum.
Front Porch Forum is a free community-building service that allows neighbors to connect with one another. It is moderated and members are clearly identified as they share postings about all sorts of topics. Everyday Vermonters use FrontPorchForum.com to connect with their neighbors and build community by sharing postings on a range of issues and topics with the people who live nearby. FPF is a Vermont-based online service with nearly 60,000 households participating already.
To register or to find out more information about the Vermont-grown community-based social media platform, any Vermonter can go to FrontPorchForum.com and register. The service is free and very popular in dozens of Vermont towns that have been using it since 2006. New forums start in “registration” mode, and once 100 residents sign up, the new forum becomes fully functional.
The service is an extremely helpful local communication tool. Each FPF helps neighbors share recommendations, find lost pets, welcome newcomers, inform about local events, and engage in healthy and civil debate about important local issues. In times of need, such as around natural disasters, Front Porch Forum becomes an even more powerful tool. This is key to why VCRD and the Vermont Digital Project invested in Front Porch Forum.
“The Vermont Council on Rural Development was an early fan of Front Porch Forum, because we could see all the community benefits that the service was providing in Burlington neighborhoods and then throughout Chittenden County,” said Paul Costello, Executive Director, Vermont Council on Rural Development.
Through e-Vermont, VCRD was able to leverage the expansion of Front Porch Forum to 30 new towns, bringing additional benefits to local businesses. Then, after Tropical Storm Irene, it became clear to Costello and VCRD that Front Porch Forum enabled communities by providing an easy volunteer organizing tool that was already at everyone’s fingertips.
“It was amazing how people shared tools and lent each other aide through this vehicle,” said Paul Costello. “We’ve been talking to FPF co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis for three years about how we could help bring Front Porch Forum to every town in the state. Today, with the support of the Economic Development Administration, we are doing it.”
“It’s humbling to see how Vermonters support each other when given an easy way to communicate with neighbors,” said Michael Wood-Lewis. “Every day across the state, we witness people rallying to help neighbors cope with all sorts of challenges… house fires, new babies, losing a job, finding an affordable after-school-care option… you name it.”
Over the last six months, Wood-Lewis and the team at Front Porch Forum have been focused on enabling expansion of the service. This February, FPF had 47,000 active members across 90 Vermont towns covering about half of the state. Now FPF is available statewide in all 251 towns and 57,000 members partake with hundreds more signing up every week.
Additional information is available at FrontPorchForum.com and at this recent post by the Vermont Digital Economy Project: http://vtrural.org/programs/digital-economy/updates/front-porch-forum-for-every-town .