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Next Door Neighborhood

Enter Nextdoor Neighborhood, a free private social network for neighborhood communities. On Nextdoor, their website explains, “Neighbors create private websites for their neighborhoods where they can ask questions, get to know one another, and exchange local advice and recommendations.”

In 2010, its founders – an eclectic collaboration of entrepreneurs – saw that social media plays an important role in keeping us connected with family, friends and business contacts. 

“But there was a really important piece missing – our own neighborhoods,” says Jen Burke, senior communications manager for the San Francisco-based company. “They thought building a sense of neighborhood would build better communities.”

Many people today use technology instead of connecting in person, she says. And you might think Nextdoor perpetuates that. “But actually Nextdoor serves as a conduit … It helps you get to know your community beyond the people you already know.” 

But it’s more than that. Recent posts on one Colorado Springs site had everything from a lost cat (with photo) to someone looking for a handyman. And during the Planned Parenthood shootings last fall, nearby neighborhoods got an alert from the Colorado Springs Police Department to “stay in your home, lock your doors and windows and don’t let strangers in.” 

It’s easy to sign up

Just go to Nextdoor.com and put in your address and email. If there’s a site already set up for your neighborhood, you can join. If not, you can start one. 

In Colorado Springs, the response has been “phenomenal,” Burke says. At least 75 percent of our neighborhoods have joined – 246 in all.

The service is available nationwide and has been adopted by about 50 percent of American neighborhoods – 93,000 in all so far, she says. 

“We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the vast variety of ways members have used it,” Burke says. Communities have come together to help each other, like building a ramp for a handicapped child or chipping in to replace a furnace for an elderly resident.

Because it is free, anyone can join – and for agencies that use it, like the city or police department, it’s possible for them to alert neighborhoods when they’re in danger or should be aware of a situation. 

Bob Harris, crime prevention officer with the CSPD, says he has been impressed with the reach of Nextdoor.

“We run the Neighborhood Watch program. When we go into neighborhoods and ask them to start communicating, Nextdoor is a great online tool to accomplish that.” 

It’s been a natural complement to the program, he says. 

“People used to come out of their houses and talk to each other, but that doesn’t seem to happen much anymore,” he says. “We need to latch onto what people are doing.” 

There have been other benefits, too. For one thing, Neighborhood Watch groups have grown significantly. 

Inga Smith, who lives in the Holland Park West neighborhood, was the founder of its site a year ago. It started with about 10 people and now has more than 200 members. 

“Neighbors are getting to know each other by name, for the first time,” she says. “Also, we’ve been alerted to burglaries, found lost dogs, and much more. I really think it has brought our neighborhood closer together. People are talking to each other, even if it’s just on the computer.”