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Neighbors4Neighbors Web tools help the unemployed help themselves

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—Unemployed workers have a new tool to help them find the resources they need to get through difficult times.

Created in partnership between the United Way for Southeastern Michigan and the University of Michigan School of Information, Neighbors4Neighbors is an interactive online program that uses social computing technology to connect unemployed workers with each other.

People who visit can get and give advice on the things that matter when someone loses a job. The Web application has two components, an online discussion forum that lets people share advice with each other, and a "widget," or online program, that allows users to add their own comments to partner Web sites that have information for the unemployed. Questions and comments created on partner Web sites via the widget will be mirrored on the Neighbors4Neighbors discussion forums.

Neighbors4Neighbors is a project of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm's Keep Michigan Working Task Force. Michael Brennan, president and CEO of United Way for Southeastern Michigan, is chair of the task force's community outreach committee.

"These are tough economic times in Michigan, and Neighbors4Neighbors offers an innovative way to address the problem of unemployment in a non-traditional way. Service providers in our region are currently overloaded with requests for assistance in this time of economic crisis," Brennan said.

"Neighbors4Neighbors is a program that helps people help themselves right away?and eliminates the wait. This collaborative online resource and community discussion forum will be a catalyst for leading social change in the region."

U-M and the United Way have developed an innovative way to tap informal networks, allowing unemployed workers the power to communicate with one another in real time. U-M School of Information professor Paul Resnick is the primary architect of the Neighbors4Neighbors Web site.

"This site demonstrates an efficient, low-cost application of social computing," Resnick said. "Many Web sites already aim to help unemployed workers find information or job leads, but they don't have a way to connect everyone who is visiting the page. Neighbors4Neighbors pulls people and information together to create a community."

The widget encourages all service and community-based organizations to add a "commenting feature" to the Web pages of their own sites.

"The widget is another rapid response to crisis from the School of Information," said Martha E. Pollack, dean and professor in the School of Information. "This project demonstrates how the School of Information continues to live up to its motto of connecting people, information, and technology in more valuable ways."

Michael Hess, an adjunct lecturer in the School of Information, is the developer of the widget. School of Information master's students Meico Whitlock, Jeremy Canfield and Kathleen Ludewig also contributed.

United Way for Southeastern Michigan mobilizes the caring power of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to improve lives in measurable and lasting ways throughout the region. The organization is led by a diverse group of volunteers from business, labor, government, human services, education and the community. United Way provides opportunities to invest in the metropolitan Detroit community through its annual Campaign, and is a leader in convening partners to impact local residents each year by increasing economic self-sufficiency, protecting children and youth at risk, strengthening families, empowering neighborhoods and communities, and promoting health and wellness. Additional information is available at

The School of Information ( is internationally recognized as a leader in educating information professionals and in conducting research into the fundamental role of information and information technology in society. Faculty explore the many ways in which information is created, collected, managed, preserved, accessed, and presented, applying multi-disciplinary perspectives to discover new knowledge about the interplay between people, information, and technology. The work of SI faculty can be found in numerous Web 2.0 applications, such as reputation and recommendation systems. The School is the premier institution studying and using technology to improve how people work together in virtual collaborations. The incentive-centered design approach to system development was created at SI. In addition, SI researchers continue to be instrumental in raising awareness of the importance of cyberinfrastructure as a national asset and have helped elevate it to priority status at the National Science Foundation.

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Neighbors4NeighborsPaul ResnickSchool of InformationUnited Way for Southeastern Michigan