Word Around Town One Pager

The Mission
We rely on family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors to help us find jobs, meet other people, and learn more about subjects ranging from childcare to restaurants to schools. Without this social network, and the word-of-mouth information and social capital it provides, we are at a loss. But in modern America, the organizations, schools, churches, and neighborhood associations that have traditionally formed the backbone of this network have begun to weaken. Word Around Town’s mission is to help restore our social networks by creating a new structure for sharing local information and by strengthening the institutions that already underpin these networks today.

Quite simply, Word Around Town will help people:
- Find jobs.   - Find housing.   - Find friends.
- Find services (childcare, handymen, etc.).  - Find volunteer opportunities.   - Form new groups.
- Share information and opinions with friends and strangers.

And help organizations:
- Establish and grow bonds between existing members.
- Communicate with and energize their member base.

The Service
Word Around Town’s service in each city will be based around a destination Web site, which enables users to post listings in a variety of different categories including classifieds (jobs, apartments, activity partner, for sale, etc.), event listings (classes, performances, parties), service and community (service opportunities, childcare, rideshares), recommendations (for restaurants, handymen, doctors, auto-repair, etc.), and personal expression (political opinion, personal stories). In one sense Word Around Town is simply an online bulletin board, a “virtual” combination of the classified section of your local newspaper, the pin-up board in your local laundromat, coffeshop, or church, and an evening schmoozing with friends. But it is “simply a bulletin board” in the same sense that “eBay is simply a flea market” or “Yahoo simply a list.” The speed, power, flexibility, and reach of the Internet transform Word Around Town into a communication tool far beyond the scope of traditional classifieds and bulletin boards.

And unlike any destination Web site today, Word Around Town will offer users a variety of different ways to view, share, and leverage the content posted to it:
- Organizations will be able to create their own versions of Word Around Town, giving their members the choice to post to either the organization site or the public site depending on the kind of information they are sharing. This service will enable organizations to instantly create a dynamic Web presence where they can better communicate with their members, and even more importantly, give their members a forum to communicate with one another.
- Users will be able to create their own personal view of Word Around Town, where they can filter out information categories that don’t interest them, store their favorite posts (by themselves and others), and share private information with friends. Users will also get the ability to read Word Around Town via email lists as well on the Web, plus the ability to download Word Around Town directly to their desktop apps.

The Business Model
Word Around Town will be a non-profit. This status is important to the organization strategically as a way to build the trust of the organizations and citizens who will contribute all its members and content. But it is even more important philosophically as an expression of the organization’s mission and priorities. This non-profit status will mean that the organization’s initial capital will have to come from foundations and “angel donors”, but Word Around Town projects that a combination of “fee to post” charges in select categories (jobs and possibly apartments), NPR style solicitation of member donations, and licensing fees for organizations will make the service cash flow positive within three years.

The Long-term
Word Around Town will begin as a portal for sharing community based word-of-mouth information. But by creating a service with a critical mass of local users and a framework for sharing information, it could eventually become:
- A platform for other social capital building initiatives.   - A personal extranet service.
- A knowledge management technology for corporations.   - A platform for mobile services at the local level.

These new services may be developed as part of the core Word Around Town organization, or they may be launched as for-profit spin-offs that are part owned by Word Around Town and help fund and grow the non-profit’s operations.

To learn more contact:Gordon Strause (gordonst@yahoo.com) 212-535-9703

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