E-Democracy News: Stories from the Sidewalk – Global Edition

Stories from the Sidewalk

Welcome to the new E-Democracy Newsletter – Global Edition

Greetings E-Democracy.org Forum users and past newsletter subscribers.

Below is a link to the Minnesota Edition of our new email newsletter.

We are sending this special version to folks subscribed to the global online communities of practices we host and members of our past UK, New Zealand, U.S., and Global newsletter “editions.”

For those following our Blog (archive), @edemo Twitter account (and my @democracy Twitter account), or our Facebook Page, you’ve picked up lots of activity based on our large grant from the Knight Foundation for our BeNeighbors.org effort.

Ironically, going deep in St. Paul to create the world’s most inclusive local online community engagement effort means we’ve had to focus on our funded work while our volunteers continue their good work with relatively less attention.

We have more going on now than ever before – more participants, forums, staff, etc. – here are some key updates:

Quick “global” interest updates:

  • New Newsletter – Below is our detailed newsletter. It starts with some exciting and humbling news – I’ve been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Open Government (see the Minnesota edition). The main newsletter is written by our awesome team. Did I say awesome? Yes awesome. Check-out our summer outreach and engagement team as well.
  • Inclusive Civic Technology Virtual Meeting September 18 (Tentative) – We are taking a global lead promoting greater outreach, inclusion, and relevancy to all people within the civic technology movement. With updates shared on our Digital Inclusion Forum, we’ve hosted gatherings in DC (notes), Boston, and San Francisco (notes). We are finding inspiration in a major PewInternet.org report with some startling numbers we have to change. Folks in the White House’s open government efforts have asked us to keep them briefed on this important work. We’ve talked up inclusion on a panel the Personal Democracy Forum in New York and picked up great interest in the theme at the MIT/Knight civic media conference. Last week we met with staff at Google to talk inclusive civic tech and introduced it to the Civic Collaboratory network as well.
  • Lesson Sharing Galore – We are planning a virtual in-depth seminar on inclusively connecting neighbors online. Whether using Facebook or some other service, joining our BeNeighbors network, or plotting a deliberative democracy exercise online, our slides, video, and audio lessons from presentations in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis allow you to go in-depth.
  • Welcome New Board Members – Carol Hayward from New Zealand, Mike Huggins from Wisconsin, and Melody Ng and Laura Waterman Wittstock from Minnesota to our very global Board. Read their full profiles.
  • USWelcome Framingham, Massachusetts – With the sudden passing of cherished local volunteer Steve Orr, volunteers with the independent Framingham Neighbors (Frambors) email list asked to join our network. Over 1,000 people made the move to FramBors and FramGov. We are honored to have you join us. In other U.S. news, we’ve embraced the Code for America Brigade by participating in their civic tech forum. As the Open Twin Cities fiscal agent (also a CFA brigade), we’ve secured a $10,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to support Hack for Change in Minnesota (awesome video), the next CityCampMN, and future code-a-thons and volunteer outreach under the Open Twin Cities banner. Bill Bushey, our Technology Coordinator, is an Open Twin Cities co-founder.
  • UK – Headington and Marston in Oxford remains our leading forum in the UK. Norbiton in Kingston upon Thames is just starting up with crucial in-person outreach – 6,000 leaflets being dropped door to door soon. Globally, with the Facebook “network effect” we see more civic interactivity receding into the private personal profiles of community leaders and local activists – it feels more open, but it only reaches community insiders. This impacts our forums and other public spaces online as well. Some Facebook Groups (based on our similar open to all geographic model) and our most active forums, are countering this troubling trend. In our view, to be inclusive you must reach people across multiple technology platforms with civic engagement online.
  • NZ – The Canterbury Forum continues with spikes in activity. Our new Board Member Carol Hayward is just starting to explore a new Neighbours Forum for the Kaipatiki community of Auckland. Today, with some many choices online, a successful launch requires in-person outreach to break through inclusively. As a reminder, the open source GroupServer technology we use from OnlineGroups.Net comes from New Zealand. Best wishes to Richard Waid, our past and long-time technology developer who made a move to Silicon Valley to work for LinkedIn.
  • Tech Updates – We are testing new daily digest options for our 20,000+ forum users. Here is a live sample. More changes coming. Some love it. Some hate it. Your feedback is crucial. One goal is to reach the growing number of mobile email users and share some recent post excerpts to bring more people to the web version of the forums. Stay tuned for a forum design update. If you want to help provide feedback, join our Projects online group and our new special Design volunteer group.

Thank you everyone, for being part of the E-Democracy network. If you like what you see above and below, please consider a donation. It makes a huge difference.

Steven Clift
Executive Director, E-Democracy.org

Click here to read Stories from the Sidewalk – Minnesota Edition

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