This fall Brookline residents will have a whole new way to get the daily news. Soofa will be installing their solar-powered signs in Coolidge Corner mid-September and then in Brookline Village, Saint Mary’s and Washington Square later in October. The signs represent the 2019 version of a coffee shop bulletin board, a community space for local business ads, neighborhood calendars and resident updates.

“You don’t have to use paper which is great, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s easily updateable,” says Dan Schwartz, software and government affairs representative at Soofa. The theory is you get all the benefit of posting signs around the neighborhood without having to battle a color printer for an expensive stack of flyers. The installation is part of a one-year pilot program testing out Soofa signs in the neighborhood. If all goes well, the revenue from local business ads should keep the signs running after the pilot period.

Local businesses pay a fee to include their ads on the signage, but residents can post community content for free via the Soofa Talk web app. Soofa will monitor the content for appropriateness. For example, derogatory comments and political ads of any kind are not allowed. Sam Ward, a customer success, marketing, and creative operative, says she envisions the signs as being a space for a variety of advertising. This would include local bands posting about their gigs, artists showcasing their work and neighbors informing the community about their yard sales and meetings. For businesses, she uses the example of a restaurant that could easily showcase changing weekly specials.

Soofa is a female-founded company born from the brain hub of Harvard and MIT in 2014. The upper 75 percent of the Soofa sign is a display that shows a new slide of information every two minutes. This is where the uploaded content is posted. The lower 25 percent offers services like a community calendar or a real-time transit display. “Residents can get a lot of benefit from seeing the signs, viewing the local events calendar and seeing what other people in the community are posting as they’re walking by,” says Ward. 

The project is the result of significant community support and discussion. Schwartz says they test the interest in a town before bringing Soofa in, and Brookline was highly interested. “I don’t think this installation would even have been possible if it wasn’t for the broad base of support that we’ve built in the community,” says Schwartz. “We came, we talked to different groups, and there was this huge outpouring of grassroots support for these signs.”

Once the signs are installed, Soofa will host local workshops teaching residents how to use the Soofa Talk web app for posting their content. In a town as community-oriented as Brookline, it never hurts to have another way to connect with your neighbor.

By Celina Colby