In my neighborhood, like some others in town, we maintain an email list to share information. It’s often useful for finding lost pets, helping kids get summer jobs, selling or giving away stuff, borrowing a tool, arranging neighborhood dinner parties, and assisting neighbors in need. But it’s also proven to be a powerful tool to save money and find local contractors who provide great service.
For example, every fall there are usually several people looking for a new snow plow service for the upcoming winter and one of them will ask for recommendations. Other neighbors then recommend contractors they've been happy with or comment about services that have disappointed them. Then the contractors with the best reputations will be asked if they can provide a group rate for our neighborhood. The contractors are almost always happy to provide a nice discount to get several customers in close proximity. It saves them time and money, too. Once it is arranged, then anyone in our neighborhood can take advantage of the discount.
Our neighborhood shares reviews and gets group rates this way for lots of services, including window cleaning, mulch deliveries, insect control, driveway sealing, lawn work, and more.
The internet makes it easy at home and in business to work together and collaborate in this way, but for some reason local government hasn’t kept up. Tim and I propose building on what we do in my neighborhood to create an easy-t0-use template that can be provided to all the neighborhoods in Penfield, so all residents can enjoy the savings and other benefits of neighborhood collaboration.
Networked Neighborhoods will be a new way to use social media, specifically for the benefit of neighborhoods. Residents will be able to compare contractors, make group purchases to save money on services and share useful information. Think of it as being like a simplified hybrid of GroupOn, Angie’s List, and Facebook, but using free online tools. We’ll develop a template, but it will be up to each neighborhood to implement and manage their own group. This way there should be very little or no expense to the town.
Neighborhood and individual participation will be completely voluntary, but the greater the participation, the greater the possible savings. With large enough participation, Murphy & Burns hope to facilitate money-saving opportunities on a town-wide basis for group purchases of services such as green electricity and neighborhood leaf pickup.
Several residents have told us they think it’s wasteful to have multiple garbage services working in their neighborhood. Networked Neighborhoods could enable neighbors to decide for themselves to select fewer service providers or even a single service provider for their area. The garbage services could be invited to compete with better rates to get the neighborhood’s business.
Networked Neighborhoods will also provide a new opportunity for two-way communication with the Penfield town government, so residents can more easily learn about and participate in what’s going on in the community.
Networked Neighborhoods is an example of the useful role Tim and I believe local government can serve for Penfield. There are lots of reasons government can’t provide all of the services many of us would like, but it can facilitate to help make high quality services available in a cost-effective manner. There are many underutilized benefits to working together as a community – the power of group purchasing is one of them.
-- Jeff Burns
An Innovation for Penfield