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Connecting Humanity: The Extraordinary Impact of Email Communities

"LISTSERV and email fulfill a fundamental human need – the need to form communities and share ideas, experiences, joy and pain. People have been doing this for as long as mankind has existed, but LISTSERV removes the barrier of physical distance."

Eric Thomas
L-Soft Founder and CEO

As humans, from the time we're born, our very survival depends on connecting with others. Though our methods of connecting become more sophisticated, our drive to share, support, belong and to make a difference remains strong.

Scrolling on Facebook and checking Twitter more than usual lately? Let's take a look at the kinder, gentler – and decidedly more productive – side of social media. Here are some inspiring examples of the email list as support group, wise colleague, research platform, parent's helper, enthusiast's hub, community builder and, yes, lifesaver.

Email as Community



"LISTSERV saved my life in 2000, when I was desperately running out of time with advanced sarcoma. When I had less than a few weeks to live, word of a small and barely publicized drug clinical trial trickled to me over LISTSERV. I was able to join that trial and have been on the drug now for 11 years, after having once been at death's door."

Cancer Survivor

Getting information and help can be challenging at any time, especially at the most dire times of our lives. Meeting that need for people with cancer and their families and caregivers for more than two decades is The Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR), whose work gets to the heart of the most essential and existential of email's uses: improving quality of life and even saving lives.

The organization's 142 online cancer communities give patients, family members, researchers and healthcare professionals a platform for dialogue when it counts the most. ACOR's email lists break down the physical barriers that cancer patients with mobility impairments often face, providing access to information and support on the most sensitive of topics.

ACOR's expansive range of email communities – from cancer-specific to focused on treatment side effects – provides a no-cost forum for people to share experiences, keep informed about new research and clinical trials, and learn about current treatment and state-of-the-art alternatives, all while sharing or receiving guidance during the immense struggle that is cancer.

To learn more about ACOR, visit:

Support Group

Support Group

"The Big Book Study Loop has been an integral part of my 12-step recovery for several years now. I rely on it whether I can get to my face-to-face Overeaters Anonymous meeting or not. It is run very efficiently by a dedicated group of individuals, whose service enhances my recovery every day. Everyone who shares on this loop helps me so much with their experience, strength, hope and honesty."


Struggling with an addiction or another issue presents many choices for finding a circle of support at a pivotal and vulnerable point in life. Helping people to recover from eating disorders online? It may sound unlikely, but The Recovery Group's THEBIGBOOK email study group is doing just that, one email at a time. Confronting the growing tide of obesity and addiction head-on since 1995, THEBIGBOOK brings members together and empowers them into action around the guiding principles of the 12-step program.

In this virtual meeting place, people who may live thousands of miles apart find strength and support with their fellow subscribers who are working the program to overcome food-related addictions. During each THEBIGBOOK study, approximately 400 subscribers, armed with their Big Book, computers, love of the program and desire to quit eating compulsively, work together daily, email by email, person by person, one day at a time.

To learn more about the Recovery Group, visit:

Wise Colleague

Wise Colleague

"The Research Administration LISTSERV list has been a valuable tool in my professional development and career. It's a way to connect with 3,000+ research administrators instantly to receive answers to timely questions that arise every day in my office ... couldn't get along without the LISTSERV list."

Michael Wetherholt
Director, Office of Sponsored Programs
Columbus State University

All of us can probably remember a colleague who was the "go-to" for institutional or technical know-how, right? Today's profession-based email communities put that know-how into the inboxes of many. For example, in the highly complex field of research administration, there are many wise colleagues at the ready.

Ask any research administrator: Applying for and administering research grants is no easy task, with the policy intricacies and perpetually changing regulations entailed, plus the added complexities of governments' new electronic grant application processes. But the Research Administration Discussion List (RESADM-L), founded in 1993, makes the daily work of some 3,000 research administrators easier and less stressful by serving as an informative professional community. In fact, subscribing to RESADM-L is noted as one of the most important things to do when seeking research administration certification, and the email community is frequently mentioned in industry publications as a key resource.

To learn more about RESADM-L, visit:

Research Platform

Research Platform

"The discussions, events and research findings in JISCMail's searchable LISTSERV archives are a huge resource for our customers, telling the story of how education and research has changed considerably over the years."

Lisa Vincent
Operations Manager

When it comes to enabling people in UK education and research to engage, connect, collaborate, discuss, share and champion their work, JISCMail is a leader. In the words of one JISCMail list enthusiast: "JISCMail is a jewel in the crown of Jisc services, an essential part of the collaboration infrastructure for the UK higher education, further education and research."

The JISCMail email list service is funded by Jisc and is a foremost organization dedicated to the research and education community. JISCMail began in 2000 and has 8000 lists that serve a total of 1.6 million subscribers, and counting.

To learn more about JISCMail, visit:

Parent's Helper

Parent's Helper

"The information, advice, and support my husband and I received on the Autism LISTSERV list starting in 1994 were invaluable, and a strong contributor to how well our daughter, a part of that community, is doing today."

Karen Reznek
Mother of Abby Reznek
Special Olympics World Games Triple Medalist

Parents connecting with other parents can have a big positive impact, and email facilitates that connection. On the Asperger list, run by The Information Center for Online Resources and Services, Inc. (ICORS), parents and adults with autism spectrum disorders come together to share support and suggestions. Asperger list posts cover the gamut of raising children on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Examples of topics discussed include appropriate education laws, hygiene, dealing with other family members and the community, independence, disability benefits, college, work, and some of the more humorous situations that parents find themselves in.

Because the list's subscribership is composed only of people who live with and love at least one autistic person, members have a safe place to discuss their issues, without the judgment that can come from those who have studied but not lived with autism. New parents are able to learn from the experiences of those who have been there and done that, as well as learn from the experiences of autistic adults, who often have excellent insights into why a child may be behaving a certain way.

To learn more about ICORS, visit:

Enthusiast's Hub

Enthusiast's Hub

"I've been a member of this list since 1999 or even earlier, and it has helped me enormously over the years. Nowhere else can one find so much information about health problems, training solutions and every other Belgian-related topic. I can honestly say this has been my first go-to place any time I had a question, and I appreciate the answers I found here so much that even my non-doggy friends and relatives know about the 'Belgian list'."


There are so many topics to be excited about, and each of us has a favorite, whether it's a craft, an author or artist, or a favorite type of animal – anything. When it comes to Belgian Shepherd dogs, BELG-L is also a lifesaver. The BELG-L LISTSERV list has a tremendous impact, both on dogs who face euthanasia or a life of homelessness and on the people who love Belgian Shepherd dogs. Since 1995, the email list has connected Belgian Shepherd owners worldwide as a family, through email discussion, support and a shared love of Belgian Shepherds.

List Owner Libbye Miller describes how: "BELG-L is used almost daily by people involved with rescue to find and identify Belgian Shepherds that may be in pounds. If a dog is found, the word goes out and a list member who is close-by will go and get the dog. Once the dog is out of danger, BELG-L is used to arrange transport to the dog's forever home. Using volunteers assembled via the email list, dogs can be transported across the country at no cost to the rescue organization."

To learn more about BELG-L, visit:

Community Builder

Community Builder

"Our services assist people to become more independent and self-sufficient, recognizing there is a continuum of support that all people need throughout their life. We envision a Central Oregon where residents, regardless of their income status, have hope and optimism and access to community resources that see them through times of need."

Michael Hensley
Information and Facilities Officer

Building and strengthening communities requires collaboration and communication between local leaders, community-based organizations and citizens. For 30 years, NeighborImpact has been providing the people in Oregon's Crook, Deschutes and Jefferson counties with a diversity of services that not only meet basic human needs for food and shelter but enrich lives through access to increased education, skills and hope for the future.

Communication is integral to this private not-for-profit's ability to achieve its multi-faceted mission. Since 2015, NeighborImpact has relied on hosted LISTSERV lists for both of its major communication needs: disseminating information to clients and partners about the agency's many programs and services; and, enabling donors, board members and staff to quickly exchange knowledge and stay up-to-date on important happenings at the agency.

To learn more about NeighborImpact, visit:

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