Reach Out to Neighbors – A Project

Averill Woods Neighborhood Yard Sale, Wes Thorp, photographer

My inventory shows my score for building local community is abysmally low. I live in a suburb.  After reading in Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth , about Micheal Wood-Lewis’ efforts to connect residents in his neighborhood through a community forum that he created online, I realized I could do the same thing without a lot of effort.

I did a little online research on the subject. Here are some of the links I found interesting:

Front Porch Forum The network created by Micheal Woods-Lewis.  After building this network to connect his neighbors, he expanded the site to connect towns throughout Vermont.  This network is still limited to towns in Vermont now.  They have some good information on how to spearhead a local forum. Look at their  sample newsletter to see a  format that has worked for others.

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E Democracy allows you to host an online forum on their site. This site seems to be focused on creating citizen engagement around a neighborhood issue rather than enhancing general neighborhood connection.  The site does have resources for general connection which they call a Neighbors Forum.  See the Twin Cities Site here for a sample of what their site will look like to your community members.  A non-profit hosts the site, so no ads will appear in your forum. This site emphasizes that a single person will need to take the lead in getting the community built, and provides resources to do this.  Their blog and wiki seem to be great resources for building a neighborhood forum though the sites they create are not the flashiest.

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Neighbortree is an online site that allows your neighborhood to build at website for community connection. I’m not sure how active this option is or how available it is to the southeast. This site does not emphasize the need for a leader to build the forum (and so the forum participation will probably be very low without this leadership.) It seems like ads will support your site. I’m not sure about your privacy, since this is an online for profit site supported by ads (though the ads are from local small and medium-sized businesses).  Here is what a site will look like.

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Localblox is another online site with very flashy interface.  This site is supported by ads.  It seems to be geared toward giving local businesses a place to advertise at low-cost and not toward building community.  Check availability in your local area.

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Hey Neighbor is a  new site I read about on It also emphasizes the need for a person to take the lead in getting folks engaged on the site. It provides an opportunity to exchange microfavors, small favors that you can do for your neighbors to help build community and posts announcements for people in your community. Hey Neighbor marks my as a 1 square mile area around where I live. I couldn’t find an easy link to a sample newsletter (they don’t create a “newsletter”, but if you watch the video(on the home page and others), they show you what a active site looks like.

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Of course, I can build probably build a site of my own using Google sites, Online Groups or even WordPress using these ideas.

For now, I just joined Hey  I’m going to look into instigates the growth of my community network using these tools particularly the e-democracy resources. I think I’ll kick it off by inviting my neighbors to a joint yard sale in September (no waste).

Reach Out to Neighbors – Project Information:

  • Leverage Point Priority: E (Evolve system structure, increasing local and renewable.)
  • Importance: A
  • Difficulty: 1 (signing up is not very difficult, nor is reaching out a little more)
  • Cost: $0 There may be some minimal cost (printing flyers) in money and time if I take on more of a leadership role.
  • Comments on functions: This activity will Increase diversity of community member resources.  It will also Increase reciprocity and help build local community.