Why Inclusion Matters – Building Powerful Networks for ALL
One thing not mentioned in the video are national statistics about online neighbor connecting from the Pew Internet and American Life project released in 2010. While 7% of adult Internet users are members of neighborhood e-mail lists or forums there is a large divide based on income. Those households making over $75k a year report at 15% participation rate and those 50K and under are five times less connected at 3%. Online neighbor connecting is too powerful to limit the movement to wealthier neighborhoods or communities with less racial diversity. This divide is something that can and must be closed. All neighbors in all kinds of neighborhoods can make this happen and we seek to help them with civic models that are inclusive, open, and agenda-setting in public life and not limit ourselves to virtual gated communities with exclusive resident-only designs. More stats.
Their survey sample was too small to pull our Asian, Native American, African Immigrants or immigrants generally. Our experience suggests their participation is likely closer to Latinos than Whites and long-time African-Americans. Our pilots have demonstrated the potential for opening up communities and promoting neighborhood-oriented immigrant integration.
Neighbors Online: Connecting Communities for All Workshop
Los Angeles, Thu. Jan 31 – 7 – 8:30 p.m.
Our LA location just came together, so please share with folks you think would be interested in Southern California.
We ran out of space with 25 attendees in San Francisco (slides) the other week. Susan Tenby with TechSoup had some great tweets with pics. Now it is LA’s turn, thanks to an unrelated meeting that is bringing me to LA from Minnesota for 36 hours.
1. Bay Area Neighbors Online Networking – Who is doing what?
Part one will start with a friendly networking roundtable where you are invited to share a few minutes about your online neighbor connecting efforts or put your “I am just getting started” questions on the table. Let’s highlight great online neighbor connecting efforts already happening in the region (here is what we found in Seattle for example).
Together, we will briefly introduce conversation-based neighbor connecting “tools” many of us use like simple e-mail lists, forums, Facebook Groups, NextDoor, etc. and dig into why, when, where, how (public v. private) as well as introduce inclusive outreach and engagement that matters to diverse local communities.
2. Inclusive Community Engagement Online – Lessons to adapt and deploy locally
Part two will provide an in-depth presentation with extended discussion on E-Democracy’s BeNeighbors.org outreach effort to build inclusive and integrated online community engagement in lower income, highly diverse, high immigrant neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota.
No one in the world has attempted a local online civic engagement effort at this scale with this level of inclusive outreach seeking such a great diversity of participants. The support from the Knight Foundation and our partnership with the City of St. Paul is just the start of a lesson generating effort for all communities interested in civic technology that raises new and diverse voices. Building community bridges across race, ethnicity, income, generations, political perspectives, and more is important and challenging work.
Building Diverse, Lively and Compelling Forum Engagement
Donna Evans is our African-American “grandmother” and the Summit-U volunteer Forum Manager for E-Democracy. This summer, Donna worked with our Outreach team going door-to-door to connect with neighbors and invite them to our forums. Donna worked with youth baseball coach and outreach team member Vang Yang, who recruited his baseball team of 11 and 12 year olds to help. These youth were able to help Donna by translating in Hmong, as the team went throughout the neighborhood.
“Working with these young people and seeing them connect with the Hmong-speaking community in a way that I could not, brought to life the importance of building connections and reaching out to people where they are.” - Donna Evans
Donna’s rewarding experience of working with these Hmong youth culminated in late summer when the team assisted her in her own personal journey. Nearly six years ago, Donna was living in her truck and on friends’ couches after a house fire left her homeless. Near the end of this summer, with the help of some of Yang’s team, Donna moved into her first permanent housing since the fire.
“These youth, at such a young age, understand the importance of building community. Their desire to connect with their neighbors and to help me in building my community, is what E-Democracy is all about.” - Donna Evans
If we want to build virtual connections that build bridges in real community, we first need to reach people where they are. Second, we simply need to ask. We can’t let fears about the digital divide or concerns about someone’s ability to speak English stop us from giving people the opportunity to decide if an online local community connection is relevant and useful to them. By creating an outreach team made up of community members already connected to their local and cultural communities, we not only give neighbors the opportunity to say “yes,” but we instill a sense of trust and comfort in what our online forums can offer.
Walking the talk of inclusion and diverse community outreach is hard work that takes real resources. We have the Knight Foundation to thank for setting in motion the nation’s largest locally concentrated effort to inclusively connect neighbors online.
What We’ve Achieved – By the Numbers
Recruited over 3,600 new Neighbors Forum members across St. Paul—Up 266% to almost 6,000 members from 2,189 at the start of grant on January 1. This number above does not include the over 1000 memberships on our long-time citywide online town hall for St. Paul.
We now have over 16,000 forum memberships across the Twin Cities on all forums. St. Paul is catching up to Minneapolis, where the combined neighborhood and citywide number is 9,200+ members today. We are seeking support to extend inclusive outreach across Minneapolis. It works.
3,000 members signed up in-person through door knocking and across 129 different outreach events. Our part-time, 10 member Summer Outreach Team, spoke six different languages and each worked about 15 hours a week. They recruited:
917 new members by door knocking in 20 targeted areas; 132 individual assignments
692 new members at 39 community events
340 new members at 28 community locations (tabling at libraries, etc.)
182 new members at 10 National Night Out sites
89 new members at 4 ethnic soccer games
76 new members at 12 community meetings
Over 10 new forums launched across St. Paul’s, including the very diverse East Side, North End, and West Side areas. Central Corridor forums were bolstered and are among our largest with Frogtown, the most diverse and lowest income area of the city, now reaching almost 800 members. Some neighborhoods host their own forums on Facebook, YahooGroups, etc., which we also promote through our “Got Milk?” style BeNeighbors.org directory.
Gathering diverse neighbors into a unified virtual room is only the beginning. Making the experience useful, relevant, and reflective of the diversity in that room is our current focus. The evaluation of our previous Inclusive Social Media pilot supported by the Ford Foundation shares lessons in-depth that are guiding our work. Stay tuned for a future blog post on our forum engagement and volunteer development strategies.
Harness the power of online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities, and build democracy.
Goal 1 – Inclusive Engagement: Strengthen, broaden, and stimulate diverse engagement through effective, meaningful, and informed online discussion and exchange on public issues
Strategy 1.1: Actively engage people from diverse backgrounds, perspectives, and less-represented groups to raise unique community voices, as well as increase listening, understanding, respect, and civility among all
Strategy 1.2: Strategically expand the number and geographic distribution of local online groups (e.g., Neighbors Forums, Issues Forums) and next generation online engagement opportunities
Strategy 1.3: Improve effectiveness, reach, and sustainability of civic online engagement and social media activities
Goal 2 – Active Citizenship: Empower people through interactions, experiences, and online skills to have an impact on their communities and governments
Strategy 2.1: Build capacity of people to participate in more effective ways
Strategy 2.2: Collaborate with other organizations that bring people together around issues and places
Strategy 2.3: Create face-to-face opportunities for people to collaborate in addition to online platforms
Strategy 2.4: Increase the use and relevance of information resources about governance, elections, the media, and public affairs to help address public challenges
Goal 3 – Effective Practices and Tools: Develop, leverage, and disseminate online practices and tools from around the world to promote engagement and active citizenship
Strategy 3.1: Collect, curate, and disseminate relevant effective practices
Strategy 3.2: Help practitioners, volunteers, and organizations make use of effective e-democracy practices, tools, and lessons
Strategy 3.3: Create and implement metrics and evaluation tools for all our projects and share results
Strategy 3.4: Provide education and training for local leaders and community members on online engagement and public transparency, and provide strategies, models, and tools
Strategy 3.5: Use open source tools to the greatest extent possible and work to ensure that major investments in our primary software platforms are released under common open source licenses
E-Democracy helps strengthen local communities using online tools to create meaningful connections and increase civic engagement by providing a local, cost-effective model for online discussion spaces.
We are a Minnesota-based nonprofit organization with 87 community forums in 5 states and 3 countries, as well as a number of communities of practice supporting online civic engagement globally. Our mission is to harness the power of online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities, and build democracy.
We also believe efforts to address the digital divide must provide intentional efforts to engage low income, highly diverse populations and are currently working to go deep with inclusion while going to scale across Saint Paul. In the summer of 2012, we tripled the size of the Saint Paul forums with the greatest growth in the lowest income, most highly diverse neighborhoods. There are now 42 Twin Cities’
Neighbor Forums with 15,000+ participants.
Meet the Representatives
Sally Fineday was the Cass Lake-Leech Lake Community Forum Outreach Leader before joining the planning staff at the Leech Lake Band of Ojibewe. With her passion for the connection between broadband access and building community, the forum grew from 212 to 300 members.“Being able to participate in online community building is about more than technology. It’s about affordability and making it so we can all participate in the online spaces we create. This is especially important for our community where the distances between us are so great.”Sally continues to provide outreach assistance while we look to fill this position. Her organizing experience includes four years as the Executive Director ofNative Vote Alliance of Minnesota and two years with Take Action Minnesota. She studied at Bemidji State University. Jennifer Armstrong is a member of E-Democracy’s core team, providing assistance in a variety of capacities. She studied at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she was the first student to graduate with a B.A. in Women Studies and Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Jennifer is walking the talk of the 21st century economy, doing most of her work from a farm on the Iron Range in Northeast Minnesota.
On the hour, one donation will earn the lucky non-profit $1,000 and across all the organization one of the participating non-profits will win $10,000. Whether you give $100, 50 pounds, or 10 Euros, a donation of any amount may win that prize for our mission. Exciting.
So press the big button below to learn more and help us extend our work to thousands more people!
Here is our letter this morning to forum members:
Subject: Good morning. Support the Lasagna Revolution.
Not just those who already show up or have the same background – everyone, ALL people in local communities right down to the neighborhood level.
* Yesterday, on my area’s Neighbors Forum, Julia posted that she needed help right away to bake eight lasagnas for a memorial service later that day for a dear friend. Within the hour Julia posted back that all eight were baking away across in neighbors ovens.
* Also yesterday, in District 1 in St. Paul, on a new very diverse forum built with door to door outreach, a very dynamic and open exchange about the proposed closing (and likely passing on to a non-profit for some programming) of the local Conway park center involved the local city council member and very concerned residents and neighborhood association staff.
* The other week, a found dog was reunited within 45 minutes with its owners via the forum. (I swear lost pets are our number one forum recruitment tool. People join out of necessity and stay for community life exchange. )
From unleashing the capacity of neighbors to help each other to building community to raising diverse voices and generating greater understanding across diverse communities who live together, this doesn’t just happen.
Why does this work?
1. You are here. You take time to read and reply.
2. You share. You post community announcements and forward posts to others.
3. You volunteer. Each forum has a dedicated Forum Manager (and stay tuned for all sort of new volunteer opportunities where you can help in small ways.)
In the last year we crossed the 20,000 site members mark with about 15,000 forum members in the Twin Cities. With Knight Foundation grant support, over 4,000 new forum members were recruited across St. Paul’s many new start-up forums led by our amazing summer outreach team. (See their picture … linked below. They spoke 6 languages.)
When I heard the story how Hmong youth baseball team members from public housing coached by our outreach team member Vang volunteered to translate when needed for Donna, our African-American grandmother outreach team member, while going door to door in St. Paul introducing these forums, it choked me up. This is real. You can “Like” everything you want on Facebook, but if you really want to connect everyone, all people in local communities you have to go to people whether they are at community events and their homes. With inclusive outreach it takes dedicated people and real resources to build trust and engage people together from across ALL communities in relevant and meaningful ways.
Whether you are on one of our rocking forums with over 1000 members reaching 25% of households daily or on a quiet *for now* start-up forum trying to figure out what it means to be instantly connected with interested neighbors across your local community, you help make this happen.
So let me add two more numbers:
5. You invite others. Invite them to: http://beneighbors.org
Today is Give to the Max Day in Minnesota. Your donation might just be the one that wins us the $10,000 Golden Ticket. If we win, we will door-knock your neighborhood with our outreach team just for your local forum. If we raise even $500 in combined donations across your forum, we can organize a special door knock and for example bring Spanish or Somali speakers if that is part of your community that is least connected on your forum.
There are three main reasons we encourage you to donate any amount to E-Democracy for hosting this forum:
A. You value it. Perhaps you learned something, raised your voice, saved a buck, or got a free couch.
B. You believe in inclusive, open, and civil connections in community and you want us to do more outreach in your area. Our grant resources are focused on lower income areas of St. Paul when it comes intensive door to door outreach. With donations we can expand to your area and do more inclusion work overall.
C. You want to increase our support for your local volunteers. Thank them for their time. Adding new volunteer roles and training to bolster forum engagement is a top priority. If your time to volunteer is limited, a donation will help us coordinate those efforts across our network.
When I woke up this morning with a headache and didn’t know what I’d write, I decided to think of you across the table with a cup of coffee in hand.
It has been an exciting year. We’ve grown more in the last year than at any time in our first 18 years. For the first decade I subsidized this effort with my business (speaking about democracy online around the world … it was fun) and lots of volunteers. Then slowly we built up more volunteers, some funding, and a few donations. We broke through with a three year grant – our first multi-year grant ever. Our work is on fire and our staff team (many are part-time, seasonal) is awesome. I want to give them more work and create more summer jobs for students (mostly.)
Even with social media exhaustion, there are thousands of people to reach – from new residents and immigrants to young people and seniors who are online (our likely oldest poster is 93 and has lived in Phillips since 1958 … her son types for her due to arthritis ) – who if asked would join you on your forum tomorrow. Let’s make this happen.
If you’ve read this far you are awesome … let me note that while grants can help us bolster inclusive outreach on a temporary basis in some targeted areas, it will be your donations, forum sponsorship, and local events that drive our volunteer-supporting work in most communities. The more people who step up and donate any amount, the more likely other funders will be inspired to help us reach more people in great leaps.
So there we go, it is up to you, if you value your forum today or want your start-up forum to reach hundreds more people and join the fun, please donate today on Give to the Max Day:
E-Democracy is proud to count Edward Andersson among our Board members.
Passing this along …
Participation Compass and its features
Involve is proud to announce the launch of our new practitioner site ParticipationCompass.org. The site is a revamped and improved version of the PeopleandParticipation.net site that was launched in 2005 and is still used by thousands of people every month. Participation Compass is a new site for a new decade; its content and appearance has been updated to reflect this. We hope the site will serve as a hub for participation practitioners and enthusiasts where they can share their experiences and insight.
So what is new with Participation Compass? Past users ofpeopleandparticipation.net will find the same wealth of information on participation case studies and methods. In addition to the good bits from peopleandparticipation.net, Participation Compass also contains a revamped ‘Library’ containing guidelines, studies and useful websites; an ‘Experts’ section that includes a directory of organisations that practice public participation or are knowledgeable on the subject; a ‘News’ section that contains commentary on the latest developments within the field; and a search tool that will tailor the sites content for users depending on their aims and resources.
The site is intended to be open and inclusive. We therefore invite users to contribute to the development of the site in the aforementioned sections. As always your feedback would be greatly appreciated, so please get in touch to share your thoughts about the site. As an added bonus, the Participation Compass will shortly feature a mobile app for iPhones and Android devices allowing you to access participation information when and where you need it. We are all very excited to launch this new resource –we hope you enjoy it.
Once you have shelter, food, heat and the power back on, what’s next?
How do you connect with your nearest neighbors to rebuild your own community when the volunteers go home and the relief sites scale back?
These tips are written for the “e-connector” or organizer in your building, on your block, or covering your wider neighborhood as you shift from crisis response mode to community recovery and rebuilding. This article assumes that we are in this together, there is a surplus of noisy information, and the longer people cooperate with their nearest neighbors the better the results. It builds on the many benefits of neighbor connecting online and IRL (in real life) neighbor to neighbor activities in good times and bad.
For our participants in Ramsey County, E-Democracy Board Member Anne Carroll has compiled a special collection of voter resources from official sources. As Anne says, “Go Vote!”
This year Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. Below is information on a variety of topics to help you, family members, friends, and neighbors have all the information needed to vote on Tuesday. Sources include the Minnesota Secretary of State and Ramsey County Elections.
Eligibility to Vote
You can vote in Ramsey County if on Election Day you:
· will be at least 18 years old
· are a citizen of the United States
· are a Minnesota resident for 20 days immediately preceding Election Day
· are a resident of Ramsey County and the precinct in which you wish to vote
· are not under court-ordered guardianship in which the court revokes your right to vote
· are not found by a court to be legally incompetent to vote
· U.S. Senate: Minnesota has 2 US Senators, Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both serving the entire state; they serve 6-year terms; one of our two Senate seats is on the ballot this year; the other will be on the ballot in 2014
· U.S. House: Minnesota has 8 members of the US Representatives, each serving a different region of the state; they serve 2-year terms
· Minnesota Senate: Although Minnesota senators typically serve four-year terms, they are elected to a two-year term during the first election of the decade. This allows for legislative elections to fall shortly after redistricting is completed. Since Minnesota Senate terms are not staggered, all 67 will be on the ballot.
· Minnesota House: All 134 members of the Minnesota House are up for election this year; they serve 2-year terms.
· Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice and two Associate Justices: all contested
· Minnesota State Court of Appeals: 2 seats, neither contested
· Second Judicial District Court judges: 12 seats, none contested
· Two proposed amendments to the Minnesota Constitution: one on the definition of marriage and one on voter identification
· Conservation district supervisors for two districts
· In St Paul, a referendum for St. Paul Public Schools; this is on the back of the ballot, so make sure to turn it over
Before you can vote, you must register. You may register before Election Day, or on Election Day at your polling place. Your registration remains current until you move, change your name, or do not vote for four consecutive years. More Voter Registration Information.
· If you need assistance with voting, you can ask the election judges at the polling place. You can also ask a relative, friend, or neighbor to help you.
· All polling places in Ramsey County are fully accessible to elderly and disabled voters, with clearly marked accessible doors and parking spaces. Each polling place will be equipped with an accessible voting device for use by persons with disabilities.
· If you can’t easily leave your car, you can ask for the ballot to be brought out to you in your car.
· If you are confined due to illness or disability, you can vote by absentee ballot.
· If you have limited vision, we can provide you with voter registration and absentee ballot instructions in large print, on cassette tape, in Braille, or by TDD.
Problems at the polls
If you see or experience anything that concerns or frightens you at your polling place, Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky advises you to immediately let the head judge at the polling place know about any problems that are occurring. If this is not having the desired effect, you can then contact the Elections Office at 651-266-2171 or at . Please provide as much detail as possible to either the head judges or Ramsey County staff.
Campaign literature on Election Day
According to Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky, it is legal to provide voters with campaign materials on election day and voters may use these materials in the polling place to help them vote. However, these materials may not be distributed or displayed in the polling place, nor can they be distributed within 100 feet of the building in which a polling place is located and if it’s a public building, the distribution of these materials cannot take place on the public property on which the building is located. (See Minn. Stat. § 211B.11, subd 1.)
Voters must include their current residence on their voter registration application. Residence is considered to be the place where you sleep, so if you sleep in a shelter, at a friend’s residence, or under a bridge, this is your residence. If your residence is a place where the post office will not deliver mail to you, then you should include your mailing address on the registration form, if you have one.
If you pre-register and do not have a mailing address, then your record will be flagged as “challenged” and you will have to answer some questions before being allowed to vote. You will be challenged because the county would not have been able to verify your address prior to the election. The election judge will ask you about where you live and you will have to swear that you are eligible to vote before you will be given a ballot.
Homeless individuals who have not pre-registered to vote often have difficulty providing proper proof of residence, as is required to complete Election Day registration. As such, the law makes special accommodations for those who are staying at homeless shelters. In this case, employees of the shelter are allowed to “vouch” for the homeless individual, meaning that the employee signs a sworn statement that they personally know that the homeless individual resides at the shelter.
Voting When Civil Rights Are Restored (persons with a felony conviction)
In Minnesota, you cannot vote while serving a sentence as a result of a felony conviction. However, once the full sentence is completed — including parole and probation — commonly called “off paper,” the right to vote is automatically restored.
· If you reside in Minnesota and are “off paper,” you can vote. This is true even if your felony conviction was in another state.
· Do not register to vote before you have completed your sentence, even if you will be “off paper” by Election Day. It is a felony to register if your rights have not been restored.
· In Minnesota you can register to vote on Election Day if you have not pre-registered.
· Even if you are “off paper,” the county elections office may not have been notified that your civil rights have been restored. In this case, there may be a note on the list of voters at the polling place directing the election judge to challenge your eligibility to vote. If so, explain that you have completed your sentence and your civil rights have been restored. The election judge may require you to swear an oath that your rights have been restored, before allowing you to vote.
You cannot be denied the right to vote due to the fact that you are in a mortgage foreclosure process. Ramsey County residents who are involved in a foreclosure proceeding can still vote. Just because a home is in foreclosure it does not mean that the owner no longer lives there. The owner still has rights to the property for a period of time during foreclosure and may continue to live in the home for at least six months after the sheriff’s sale. As long as you are living in your house, you can claim it as your residence, even if it is in foreclosure.
State law requires that anyone challenging an owner’s eligibility to vote must have personal knowledge that the individual is not eligible to vote – that he or she does not live in the precinct and has vacated the residence (through either a voluntary move or eviction proceeding) and does not intend to return.
An owner who has vacated the property in foreclosure with no intention of returning cannot vote from that address. Instead, that person must vote in the precinct of current residence, whether it is the home of a friend or relative, a homeless shelter, etc., as long the person has resided in Minnesota for 20 days.