Email your neighbours (or just neighbors for now)

Researching for a current project (which is very exciting and should be able to talk about it a week or so) I came across Front Porch Forum.

It’s a brilliant idea to help bring local communities closer together. Quite simply it provides an email list server for local communities. Neighbours (or just neighbors at the moment as it’s a US service) can sign up to email each other.

It gives an example of one community with 348 households, where 324 had signed up. The average number of messages was 20 a week with 98% of members skimming/reading every post.

I’m thinking that for someone with just a bit more techy knowledge than me, we might be able to pull something similar together for the UK. The stumbling block might be access to post code data. Any volunteers?


About Stuart Bruce

International communications consultant and PR trainer specialising in online public affairs, digital corporate communications, online PR and social media; frequent national media commentator and conference speaker.
  • Tim Bailey

    This looks like a general instance of a service such as FreeCycle, which works because it aggregates at a post code or local authority level and attracts enough people to make it work (i.e. Leeds has of 18/1, 6,302 members, Waltham Forest 1,809, etc.). The geographical restriction works in its favour – very unInternet ('death of distance', etc.). Very similar characteristics to the neighbourhood listserv you describe.

    As you suggest, the technology is trivial, though the Post Office charges about £5,000 a year for the detailed post code data (ouch). There are ways of doing it without; you have my email :-)

  • http://www.greenbanana.wordpress.com Heather Yaxley

    Is technology really the best way to bring local communities together? Emailing people when we could meet or talk in person reminds me of offices where colleagues sitting near to each other email rather than talk, or people in pubs are texting rather than talking to the mates next to them. In my village the "old fashioned" note through the letter box and parish magazine work as good communications tools – and the village hall is supported as somewhere for meetings, social activities and so on. And then there's the dog walkers, tennis players, play reading group and other "networks" that use word of mouth to spread the news.

  • http://profile.typekey.com/stuartbrucepr/ Stuart Bruce – Wolfstar

    Heather, I think it's intended as an addition to other community activity, rather than a replacement. That's why I gave the example which shows a much greater level of participation than any methods you suggest. In our village (and in urban communities where I was a councillor) all of these methods were used.

    However, a parish magazine is monthly at most, most communities don't have a village hall and those that do attendance is massively down from 50 and even 20 years ago. Most people are unwilling to turn out for a village meeting, but that doesn't mean that those who are too busy, work late, can't get baby sitters etc aren't interested.

    What I like about the idea is how inclusive it is. If it works alongside traditional methods it provides the easiest, least time consuming method to become part of the community.

    And finally, what do you think would be the best way to promote a local email list? Personally, I'd use note through doors, an article in the parish magazine, a poster in the post office and church notice board – all pretty traditional.

  • http://frontporchforum.com/blog Michael Wood-Lewis

    Hi all… thanks for taking a look at Front Porch Forum (http://frontporchforum.com). Here's a story from one of our forums… a couple with two young kids posted a note on their neighborhood forum seeking help moving their household from the walk-up apartment they'd lived in for the past ten years, to the house they had just purchased across the street. "We're looking for a couple of strong backs to help us carry the few heavy things… Sunday at 2 PM… beer and pizza provided." Well, 36 neighbors showed up and they moved every scrap, cleaned, unpacked, etc. in 1.5 hours! The family went to sleep that night fully moved in… clothes in dressers, baby's crib reassembled, moving boxes broken down. And the best part, more than half of these volunteers they did not previously know. Now they do and every time they push the stroller around the block they re-meet one of these folks… wonderful!

    Lots of other examples too… a house burned the week before Christmas and neighbors rallied through Front Porch Forum to support these folks. Again, some already knew the victims, others not… but now they all do.

    But what allows these "showcase" acts of neighborliness is the accumulation of "lost kitten," "seeking babysitter," "plumber recommendation," "here's who I'm voting for and why," etc. posts… they add up, raising the level of familiarity. Prior to their neighborhood forum, the couple moving into a new house would not have dreamed of asking nearby strangers for help.

    More at http://frontporchforum.com/blog. Cheers! -Michael