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December 2, 2014

#GivingTuesday – December 2nd!

Written by Steven Clift

Greetings, Friends of E-Democracy!

How does one help a neighbor whose home is burglarized?


Minneapolis resident Martha Bird asked her Neighborhood Forum for ideas when an immigrant family in her neighborhood had ALL their money stolen just days before Christmas and their little girl’s birthday. She wanted to help, but felt stymied by the family’s great need, and the short time.

Three days later, Martha posted in response to the overwhelming generosity of her fellow forum members: “I was able to deliver 4 bags of gifts for mom, dad and daughter that people donated; as well as some for [the daughter’s] birthday. … Because I’ve known them over time we were able to talk in depth about the decision of where to “keep” money. We had cash donations of $130 and dad and I drove to the bank and deposited the money so the money would not be in the house. They were incredibly appreciative and thankful. … I love this neighborhood and you all as my neighbors.”

For two decades, E-Democracy has helped everyday people make a difference in their local communities.

Help us continue this work in the decades to come: Make a donation now.

We now host over 50 online community forums with nearly 28,000 members from all walks of life. We have demonstrated that all neighborhoods, regardless of income and racial/ethnic diversity, can be part of a neighborhood-level, online, integrated community — and benefit from that participation.

In addition, E-Democracy trains, coaches, and supports other organizations worldwide that seek to promote online civic engagement for the benefit of their communities. We are moving the field globally while pushing the envelope locally.

Today, E-Democracy is at a crossroads: We want to expand our reach AND make our ongoing work sustainable. We believe passionately that our service should remain non-profit and ad free. For 20 years we have funded this work through grants and ad hoc donations. But we need to build a more sustainable model to maintain and grow our services.

We need your financial support. We need every member to contribute something based on the value they receive.

Your contribution will help us:

  • Maintain and upgrade the computer technology our users rely upon.
  • Teach people how to access our services and use them effectively.
  • Recruit and support volunteers.
  • Remain open, inclusive and an alternative to completely advertising based models that impinge on your privacy.

Please support E-Democracy with a one-time or recurring donation at

All donations are tax deductible — and greatly appreciated! Thank you so much for your support.



E-Democracy Board of Directors

Melody Ng, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, Chair
Anne Carroll, St. Paul, Minnesota USA, Secretary
Mick Souder, Durango, Colorado, USA, Treasurer
Edward Andersson, Stockholm, Sweden
Joanne Caddy, Maisons Laffitte, Ile de France, FR
Mike Huggins, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, USA
Matt Leighninger, Hamilton, Ontario, CA
Mary Reid, Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames, England, UK
Alan Rosenblatt, Arlington, Virginia, USA
Laura Waterman Wittstock, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

November 26, 2014

Save the date! #GivingTuesday – December 2

Written by Steven Clift


If you don’t know what to buy, and are just doing it out of habit, STOP.
#GivingTuesday is December 2.

#GivingTuesday is a campaign to create a day of giving at the start of the annual holiday season to encouraged nonprofit organizations to “Get out the Give” during the holiday season. In the same way that “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are intended to launch holiday shopping, Giving Tuesday is a movement intended to achieve the same results for charity.

E-Democracy is participating as part of our year-end fundraising campaign to raise $10,000. Every dollar counts as our grant funding ends and we return to user-supported mode.

Your contribution will help us:

  • Maintain and upgrade the computer technology our users rely upon
  • Teach people how to access our services and use them effectively
  • Recruit and support volunteers

We need to raise $10,000 to make these things possible. Please support E-Democracy on GivingTuesday with a one-time or recurring donation by visiting

Thank you for your support!

November 19, 2014

Facebook-Native Politicians – Slides, Webcast and Live Hangout Q and A Dec. 3/4

Written by Steven Clift

Minneapolis City Council Members - Source MinnPost

Are you ready for something completely new?

Introducing the “Facebook Native Politician” … meaning someone on Facebook from their teens or college days now entering elective public office. Facebook user first, politician second.

In my view, Minneapolis has the most exciting 24/7 “Facebook” engaged City Council in the world.

With this embryonic case study, you can decide for yourself, explore the lessons, and adapt them to your community.

This unfolding story is about what happens when you elect seven new city council members with an AVERAGE age of 33 who are Facebook Natives. This is combined with 6 returning council members and a new Mayor who in their own right  are also quite social media savvy and engaged online with their constituents.

This is no longer a story of using social media to gather votes and then going silent once power is gained. This “engagement generation” sees things differently.

You may have heard about #pointergate. Now check out the deeper context of social media engagement in Minneapolis public and political life and join our live online Hangouts and Facebook Group topic to share Facebook engagement stories from your elected representatives around the world.

Image Credit: MinnPost


Watch the snappy half-hour presentation by E-Democracy Executive Director Steven Clift hosted by Involve with the University Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy  (Clift starts at 5:15):

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Google Slides (includes updates)

SlideShare (as of Nov 18 2014):

Facebook Politicians from Steven Clift

Blog Posts

About this event/presentation:




October 21, 2014

Common Ground for Action – Round 2 Dates and Topics!

Written by Steven Clift

Join an exciting pilot of a new online deliberation tool that helps people come together on what to do about complex issues facing our communities and nation.

You’ll be joining E-Democracy participants and supporters as part of the world’s first public tests of Common Ground for Action, a new platform from the Kettering Foundation.

We’ve selected the topics for the Round 2 online deliberation sessions as follows:

Saturday, November 8th, 10:00 am to noon
Topics (pick one): Bullying – How Do We Prevent It?, Political Fix – How Do We Get American Politics Back on Track?, Immigration in America – How Do We Fix a System in Crisis?

Thursday, November 13th, 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Topics (pick one): Budget Priorities – What Should Our Budget Priorities Be?, Future of Work – How Should We Prepare for the New Economy?

Estimate 90 minutes to two hours for this “live” online deliberation event. We’d love to have you join us! Please RSVP!

To learn more, watch this video or visit this page.

Watch intro video

To register your interest in participating in a future online event, fill out this form.

Did you opt in? Mark your calendar now!

October 7, 2014

UK Engagements 2014 – Consultation Institute, SOCITM, Involve, Norbiton, MozFest, mySociety and more

Written by Steven Clift

Steven Clift, our Executive Director, will be visiting the UK on a speaking and engagement tour from October 20-28.

My Facebook Native Councillors presentation starts at 5:10 and goes for 28 minutes:

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While I will not be offering my Neighbors Online seminar on this trip (unless someone would like to sponsor it the morning of Oct 27 or on Oct 28). These current slides and and two earlier video options, one with discussion mixed in and the other with discussion at the end, are available.

October 1, 2014

Who uses e-government? Who doesn’t … yet??

Written by Steven Clift

Tens of thousands were asked in a Census survey:

Do you use the Internet to access government services, forms, or information? (Including tax forms.)

Here is who over 25 years old who said “Yes”:


We’ve discovered a little known Census survey question on e-government buried on page 161 of the tables supporting the NTIA’s 2013 Digital Nation report. Never before have so many people been surveyed on their use of digital government.

While the survey was asked in 2011, fresh numbers from 2013 are about to be released. Let’s not miss this opportunity for timely learning.

With over 53,000 households surveyed you can slice and dice this data by state, demographics, and more. Thanks to some help converting NTIA produced tables, I can now share some national demographic stats in easier to understand percentages.

In summary …

  • 35% said they use government services online (household respondents over age 25)
  • Households over 50K in income use e-government at twice the level of those under 50K – 49% versus 24%
  • Gaps based on education are larger than income – 17% for High School or less versus 56% for those with a BA
  • Gaps based on race/ethnicity are significant. (The chart above for Whites is white, non-Hispanic)
  • In the just released 2013 ACS survey, which included Internet questions for the first time, 21.5% of households report no Internet access (including no use via libraries, mobile devices, etc.) – so depending upon the pending 2013 numbers and e-gov use growth/decline, more that half of Internet using households are likely NOT accessing government online. Yikes!
  • See the chart above or this simple Google presentation for more.

Our inclusion analysis of the digital civic engagement report by Pew is one of our most popular blog posts in our 20 year history, so the demand for deeper analysis about potential growth audiences for civic/government digital engagement is there.

At the recent (and awesome) Code for America Summit, I was struck how the growing “inclusion” discussion was more about input into design or engagement in civic tech efforts (important “Build with, not for” theme) but not so much about effective outreach to broader, more representative use online.

Without a strong awareness of our baseline numbers about who is NOT yet being reached by open gov/civic tech/e-gov, how do we target our scarce resources to have the greatest impact? Put another way, if we only serve “those who already show up” with e-government, e-democracy, civic tech, etc., how is that making a dramatically positive digital difference in the world?

What’s next?
  • State Rankings – We are drafting state rankings based on e-gov use overall, e-gov use as a percentage of those online.
    • Teaser – Washington State kicks butt overall. Some states that rank high in net access serve relatively few with e-government, while Montana despite lower levels of access does great with e-government use.
  • Why More Successful – In addition to national demographic analysis, we see an opportunity to determine which states are reaching a higher percentage of lower income residents online with e-government/civic tech AND then commission research that asks why are they successful. We can then suss out lessons to share with governments and others across the states. Ultimately, e-government needs to reach far more people and understand who is not using their services and why.
  • More Numbers – 2013 numbers are coming out soon from the Census Department – contact us to volunteer your data analysis/visualization skills or join the proposed New Voices working group and/or Digital Inclusion online group – to get involved.
  • More Questions – A different Census survey question that feeds the Civic Health Index asks about using the “Internet 
 political or community 
issues.” We’d like to add this to our analysis.
  • Gather Leading Examples, Feed them Numbers – Even if we’ve figured out how to make it much easier to apply for food stamps online, build it and they won’t just come. We need to convene those building civic and public sector tech to reach or engage those being least served. Together we can plot outreach strategies to bring these service designed innovations to a far wide audience.
Contact us to support/sponsor further crucial analysis. Our current inclusive community engagement online project ends in three months.

September 3, 2014

Immigration. Bullying. Fixing Politics. Sign-up to Deliberate Online.

Written by Steven Clift

E-Democracy is helping the Kettering Foundation and their National Issues Forum network test a new online deliberation tool called Common Ground for Action.

It is a “live” experience using text chat and nifty tools to respond to policy options and trade-offs. Informative issue videos and short guides provide non-partisan background for each deliberation.

Get more information or fill out our survey right here:

August 26, 2014

Video: Open Twin Cities Lessons, Service Design and Hack for MN

Written by Steven Clift

E-Democracy/Open Twin Cities went to Chicago on an amazing two day “civic tech field trip” (blog posts pending on what we learned). Thanks to Derek Eder with DataMade and Chris Whitacker with the Smart Chicago Collaborative and Code for America, we had a room at the amazing 1871 co-working/incubator space to share some of our lessons as well!

Here is the video.

Civic Tech Lessons from Middle America – Presented by Bill Bushey

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Start at 1:38 for Bill Bushey … or almost Bill. Yes, the focus is fuzzy, but the audio is fine. Here are the slides (future link).


Open Twin Cities and Civic and Service Design – Presented by Laura Andersen

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Start at 31:40 for Laura Andersen. Here are the slides (future link).


For our Poplus presentation video from Chicago, see our previous blog post.

August 4, 2014

Poplus – E-Democracy supports collaborative civic coding, Chicago gathering

Written by Steven Clift


PoplusCon Partcipants

PoplusCon participants say, join in!

Special event: Join us in Chicago on Tuesday, August 5 for information session on Poplus and learn about Open Twin Cities and service design as well.

E-Democracy is a big supporter of the global Poplus civic coding federation. In particular, we are gearing up to help with strategic outreach for the highly interactive online group and related committees.

Check our slides from the Chicago event to learn more. Includes short video clips.

New – Video from the Chicago event thanks to the Smart Chicago Collaborative – Forward to 8:22 to skip E-Democracy 1994 mini presentation:

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Below is a guest blog post by Myf Nixon from mySociety about Poplus.

Poplus: reusing code across international borders


All around the world, governments work to different models. The problems that citizens face differ, too. So it’s something of a surprise, perhaps, to realise that their democratic or civic needs can be broadly similar.

In any nation, people benefit from being better informed about what their politicians and rulers are doing on their behalf. In any regime, transparency of information is a boon. And everyone wins when citizens can report problems within their own community.

It is with these broad parities in mind that Poplus was founded. Poplus is a new international initiative to promote the sharing of code and online tools that meet the needs of citizens everywhere.

It was originally conceived by the UK’s mySociety and Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente in Chile, and is now an international federation that is open for anyone to join.

Civic experience

mySociety has been creating civic websites and tools for a decade. During that time, we’ve gained a lot of experience and learned from a lot of mistakes. We knew we could help other groups around the world who were attempting to do the same things we do: hold governments to account, make freedom of information more accessible, and open the channels of citizen to government engagement.

Our code has always been open source and free for anyone to use, but over the past few years we’ve come to realise that this isn’t enough. If we really wanted to help other organisations, that code needed to be supremely easy to install, and it needed to work with as few modifications as possible, no matter what the political landscape.

So in 2012, we partnered up with FCI to create Poplus to tackle this problem face on. Poplus aims to support coders to make Components – bits of interoperable code that should be easy to implement, are non-country-specific, work alone or with one another, and are available open source.

April of this year saw the first Poplus conference in Santiago, Chile. Delegates came from 27 different countries. There was a mix of coders and campaigning organisations, all with differing experiences, differing needs, and a thirst to communicate.


Poplus Conference video round-up

The conference was a great way to kickstart the initiative, putting together people who make code and the people who need it, and then sending them home to every corner of the world, with a mandate to both stay in touch with one another, and help spread the word about Poplus.

Since then, communication has been via a lively mailing list, its members meeting the challenge of shaping an international federation across many different time zones, different languages, and working entirely online.

This network brings us many strengths, so it’s worth overcoming the logistical difficulties.

Global growth

Clearly, with people all around the world we can spread the word about Poplus more quickly. We can learn from one another, and that will feed into making Poplus Components more shareable and usable in every type of jurisdiction. We can tap into translation resources. We can find the local groups who will most benefit from our work because we have people on the ground.

Right now we’re very aware that Poplus is in its infancy. It’s an idea that has a lot of buy-in, and several concrete projects that organisations can start using. We would like to see Poplus grow, with many more Components on offer.

We’d like organisations that need software to come to us, and if there isn’t already a Component that can help, we’d like them to be able to explain their needs to an ever growing pool of coders, some of whom might take up the challenge of making it.

Everyone is welcome to join Poplus, whether you are a coder, an organisation that would benefit from using code, or just someone who is very interested and would like to help. The first step is to join our mailing list and introduce yourself.

– Guest blog from Myf Nixon, mySociety

July 13, 2014

E-Democracy promoting the Knight Green Line Challenge in Saint Paul

Written by Steven Clift

Knight Green Line Challenge

Have a great idea for the neighborhoods along the Green Line Saint Paul?

A $1.5 million dollar challenge was announce by the Knight Foundation. E-Democracy’s Saint Paul forums have sprung into action bringing thousands of visits to their websiteSubmit your idea by July 24.

Join our special public drafting effort via Google Docs.


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