Unveiling the New Community Forum: 'CommonGround'!

We're ecstatic to invite you to join our new platform for civic engagement and community organizing! View it here: amherst.publicinfrastructure.org

Amherst Media and the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure (iDPI) are excited to announce the launch of CommonGround, an online platform for local civic conversations. This partnership provides a new tool for community outreach to Amherst Media—a long-time advocate for civic engagement and a trusted local media organization—and a new way for Amherst residents to stay connected to the issues affecting their community. 


CommonGround is an online “town common” guided by three crucial tenets: it is stewarded by the community that uses it, facilitates civic discussions via thoughtful moderation and iDPI’s own research, and is entirely non-commercial.

a screenshot of CommonGround social media platform

CommonGround was developed by the Initiative for Digital Public Infrastructure: a research center at UMass Amherst that studies the social and civic role of internet platforms. In an era where much of our online lives are spent using one-size-fits-all platforms, developed by a tiny handful of multi-billion dollar companies seeking to maximize growth by hooking users with addictive engagement, the tools proposed and developed by iDPI lay the groundwork for an internet that is built expressly for the public good, prioritizing vibrancy in our social and civic lives.


The platform itself is simple to use and feels like a town-sized version of Twitter, where community members write and reply to short-form text posts. In an ideal use case, CommonGround is the primary online space for residents to host civic discussions that are important to them, instead of places like Facebook Groups and Nextdoor where community members have much less input in how their discussion space is governed. 


iDPI first launched CommonGround in November 2021 as “AmherstTalks" in a collaboration with the Town of Amherst. AmherstTalks hosted two discussions that directly contributed to the town’s policy decisions: one on traffic changes around Kendrick Park and another on design proposals for the Jones Library renovation project. iDPI is excited to expand the scope of the platform by partnering with Amherst Media to create an independent and local online space for discussing issues that matter to the community. 


To start, CommonGround will be headed by Kevin Zheng, iDPI’s community manager, with content curation and moderation support from the staff at Amherst Media. Recognizing that the team managing the platform should change with the needs of the community, the governance of the platform will be an ongoing discussion towards creating a digital space that is driven and led by the community that it serves. 


If you are a member of the Amherst community, you are invited to sign up for CommonGround at amherst.publicinfrastructure.org, where you can join our first conversation about rising housing costs and start your own conversations about the issues affecting you.