Relaunch of Winona Online Democracy

WOD Logo

Back in the early days of E-Democracy.Org, we partnered with some folks in Winona, Minnesota to help set up the first Local Issues Forum in our network, outside of the Twin Cities (Minnesota).

While, the folks of Winona Online Democracy did not always get the attention that our larger forums did in St. Paul and Minneapolis, the leadership of Winona Online Democracy were innovating and experimenting in ways that would eventually change the way E-Democracy.Org structures our projects. It was in Winona that we had our first steering committee for an Issues Forum, something that we now require of any new project entering our network.

Despite their early success and strong leadership in the E-Democracy.Org network, the Issues Forum in Winona has struggled over the last few years. Today, we’re pleased to announce the relaunch of Winona Online Democracy. Today, we’ve moved the Issues Forum in Winona to our Groupserver platform, along with all the other E-Democracy.Org projects.

The launch of the Winona Online Democracy 2.0 was pushed up by about a week, when early last week the state of Minnesota announced the closure of the Hwy 42 bridge that crosses the Mississippi, from the heart of Winona to Wisconsin. The closure of this bridge, meant a trip that used to take minutes would now take over an hour by car.

To see what the folks in Winona are saying about the closure of the bridge, check out the Issues Forum in Winona.


Twitter Logo

My first encounter with TwitterMania, was at eDemocracy Camp, back in March. Since them, I’ve been slowly testing the waters and trying to figure out what this goofy tool is all about and whether or not its of any use to me – or to E-Democracy.Org.

It wasn’t until I attended a Twitter Workshop at Minnebar that I really began to appreciate the value of Twitter and to make local Twitter friends. I’m still not convinced that Twitter is here to last. But, at the same time, I’m blown away at the number of really cool people who are using Twitter. I’m finding myself, suddenly much closer connected to the entire social media scene in the Twin Cities than I was before Twitter (which is, I think, a good thing).

Anyway, the entire point of this entire post – is really nothing more than a chance for me to invite folks with a shared interest in E-Democracy and Twitter, to follow me. In following me, you’ll get updates on the latest developments at E-Democracy.Org as well as the occasional update on the score of my son’s latest soccer game.

Tim’s Twitter Account = EdemTim

“Best of” Local Issues Forum Topics

I quickly compiled this list of interesting topics, appearing in the various E-Democracy.Org forums. Thought I would share it here. These are all recent topics, that have been active on our site in the last 1-2 weeks.

Check to see if we have a Local Issues Forum in your area. Click here, for Latest Topics across our network.

RNC demonstration route
40 posts — by 25 authors
St. Paul Issues Forum, Minnesota, USA

Cleveland Circle

Highfield seeks to prevent rat-running
14 posts — by 10 authors
Headington & Marston Neighbourhood Forum, Oxford, UK

Recycling a thing of the past?
22 posts — by 16 authors
Minneapolis Issues Forum, Minnesota, USA

How to start a compost pile
16 posts — by 6 authors
Las Vegas Issues Forum, New Mexico, USA

$60M School Referendum Prop
43 posts — by 25 authors
Minneapolis Issues Forum, Minnesota, USA

Local vs Global
15 posts — by 9 authors
Brighton & Hove Issues Forum, UK

Historic Preservation –Is it necessary?
There are 6 posts — by 5 authors
Central Ohio Regional Issues Forum

City Council Vacancy: Selection Criteria
15 posts — by 11 authors
Roseville Issues Forum, Minnesota, USA

Noise polution
9 posts — by 6 authors
Headington & Marston Neighbourhood Forum, Oxford, UK

Reforming liquor laws to combat crime
19 posts — by 12 authors
Canterbury Public Issues Forum, New Zealand

2008 Conference on Online Deliberation

Online Deliberation Conference Logo

A couple of years ago, I attended the Second (2005) Conference on Online Deliberation: Design, Research, and Practice at Standford University. Of all the conferences I’ve been to in the last few years, this was the most academic of them all – and I loved it. I really enjoyed the mix of academic papers and discussions about real world projects, with folks who I’ve know for years and others I’d long been hoping to meet.

This year, through some kind of clerical mistake, I was asked to serve on the program committee for the 3rd Conference on Online Deliberation.

However it was that I ended up on the committee, I’m honored to have my name on this list of prestigious academics and practitioners of online deliberation.

    Here is the latest news about the conference:

Tools for Participation: Collaboration, Deliberation, and Decision Support – Conference on Online Deliberation

Sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility and UC Berkeley School of Information, University of California (Berkeley, California, USA)

June 26 – 29, 2008

It has been twenty-one years since the DIAC Symposium for exploring the Directions and Implications of Advanced Computing was first convened in Seattle.

Now, in the early days of the 21st century humankind faces challenges of even greater proportions than those perceived in 1987. The ability of people around the world to discuss, make decisions, and take action collaboratively is critical to addressing these challenges. Unfortunately, this fact is rarely acknowledged or promoted by decision-makers.

Researchers, scholars, activists, advocates, artists, educators, technologists, designers, students, policy-makers, entrepreneurs, journalists and citizens are rising to these challenges in many ways, including the development of new communication technologies that build on the opportunities afforded by the Internet and other new (as well as old) media.

DIAC-2008 combines CPSR’s 11th DIAC symposium with the third Conference on Online Deliberation. The joint conference is intended to provide a platform and a forum for highlighting socio-technological opportunities, challenges, and pitfalls in the area of community and civic action.

In addition to the wide range of planned events there will be extensive opportunities for collegial discussion at the conference. Register now for an innovative and compelling exploration of the future of meaningful social participation. We have kept registration fees low to encourage wide attendance.

For more info

State of the City

YouTube Preview Image

These video statements were collected by St. Paul E-Democracy volunteers, at the Rondo Community Outreach Library, as part of their State of the City collaboration with the Mayor’s office.

An online Issues Forum is about more than the technology necessary to host an online discussion. A successful E-Democracy.Org Issues Forum is based upon local volunteers working in their community to connect their online discussion with existing processes for public participation and policy making.

Recently, the volunteers of St. Paul E-Democracy (myself included) demonstrated how a local Issues Forum can be part of a larger effort to create discussion in a community.

St. Paul E-Democracy volunteers partnered with the Mayor’s office to combine an online discussion with a series of face to face “town hall” meetings where members of the community were able to raise their concerns and publicly discuss the “state of the city.”

Mayor Chris Coleman invited participants of the St. Paul Issues Forum to raise questions and discuss the State of the City in the forum as part of a broader effort to engage the public. Later, Mayor Coleman recorded video responses to questions and issues submitted via the forum.

YouTube Preview Image

To see additional responses by Mayor Coleman:

Rural Voices – Placeblogging

Our work on our “Online Rural Voices” initiative is underway. Phase one, is identifying community blogs, citizen journalism projects, and other online citizen media projects in Greater Minnesota.

If you live in Greater Minnesota, we invite you to fill out our SHORT SURVEY. We’re using this survey to gather some data about how people in Greater Minnesota use the internet to share news and information with others in their local community.

See (and add to) the list of projects that we’ve identified, so far.

On the topic of community blogs, a national conference on Placeblogging is coming to the Twin Cities this summer.

Journalism That Matters

“New Pamphleteers/New Reporters: Convening Entrepreneurs Who Combine Journalism, Democracy, Place and Blogs.”

This conference is targeted at active citizen journalists and placebloggers interested in sharing best practices. Registration from the conference is $139, but stipends are available.

E-Democracy: Las Vegas Style

Las Vegas, New Mexico

Just over two weeks ago, E-Democracy.Org launched our latest project in Las Vegas, New Mexico. The Las Vegas Issues Forum launched with just over 70 participants on February 23rd.

The Las Vegas Issues Forum is being managed by Bob Wallace and Julie Olague, who became the first people to launch a local Issues Forum in their own community, using our “Start-A-Forum” template.

In its first few weeks, the Las Vegas forum has been focused on issues such as:

  • Recycling and trash pick-up
  • Natural Gas
  • And the results of a recent mayoral election
  • We now support at least 14 active community based online Issues Forums in over 10 different communities in the US, UK, and New Zealand.

    2007 Accomplishments

    Now that we’ve firmly established ourselves in the new year, it seems appropriate to look back at what we’ve accomplished over the last year. 2007 was a really big year for E-Democracy.Org, with lots of exciting developments.


      1000 New Participants: Over the course of the last year, participation in our core group of forums grew from 1750 – 2600. (We hope to have 10,000 by the end of 2008.)
      5 New Forums: In 2007, we launched 5 new forums, bringing us up to a total of 11 forums.

      Relaunch of Minnesota Politics and Issues Forum: We relaunched our oldest forum on our current web site, connecting it with our other forums. We first launched MN-Politics in 1994.
      Start-A-Forum Template: We launched a beta version of our “Start-A-Forum” template, to help users walk through the process of launching their own Local Issues Forum.

    Strategic Planning:

    During the first quater of the year and beyond, E-Democracy.Org spend alot of time looking inward. Evaluating where we were at the moment and where we wanted to go. Highlights of that process included:

      Board Retreat: Our board met face to face for the first time, since we’ve begun to expand and refresh its membership. Out of state board members from the UK and Colorado, visited Minnesota on one of the coldest days of the year for a full day of strategic planning.
      Participant Survey: For the first time, we surveyed participants across our various forums to get their input on the future of our organization.
      Strategic Plan: We created and published our first ever strategic plan or our roadmap for the next 3 years.
      Budget: For the first time ever, we actually put together a detailed budget for the next year and set concrete fundraising goals.

    Fundraising / Resources:

      CTEP – Americorps: We placed our first Americorps volunteer with the St. Paul E-Democracy outreach project.
      Rural Voices – Online Citizen Engagement and Media: The Blandin Foundation awarded us $49,000 for an 18 month project to promote rural voices in Minnesota online (full proposal PDF).
      Neighborhood Forums in High Immigrant/Communities of Color/Low Income Areas of the Twin Cities: The MSNet fund of the Minneapolis Foundation awarded us $25,000 to deepen our local e-democracy efforts in Minneapolis and St. Paul through our new neighborhood forum efforts.

    Two New Neighbourhood Forums in Oxford, UK

    Headington Marston
    (Photo found on, taken by ‘Travelling Steve’)

    Over the next couple of days, two new neighbourhood forums will be launching in the UK as part of the E-Democracy.Org network, bringing the total size of our network to 13 forums, spread across the UK, USA, and New Zealand.

    These new neighbourhood forums are excellent examples of how E-Democracy.Org can work with local volunteers and council officials to create sustainable online spaces, where members of the community can connect with each other and their local officials to work towards a better community.

    According to Shey Cobley, Online Communications Officer for the Oxford City Council, “as a council we are supporting the two forums but they are being run by the community, and anyone living, working, or studying in those areas is free to join and discuss any topic that they wish. Also, if people living in other areas of Oxford are interested, they are welcome to contact me about the possibility of launching a neighbourhood forum in their area.”

    The Headington Marston Neighbourhood Forum, will likely launch this weekend, Dec. 15th, with Stephanie Jenkins as the forum manager (and key local organizer). Providing support and direction for the forum are a group of volunteers from Headington Action, a charity representing groups in the Headington and Marston area including residents’ associations, employers, businesses, schools and higher education, health, local councils, and churches.

    On Monday, December 17th, we expect the Oxford – Central, South and West forum to open, with Shey Cobley as the forum manager. The Central, South and West forum will cover the following: Jericho, Botley Road area, Osney, Abingdon Road area, and Central Oxford.

    For more information about launching a forum in your city or neighbourhood, please email us or visit our web site.