Neighbors Online Video, London Networked Neighbours and CityCamp Unconferences

Here is a video of most of my presentation at the Networked Neighbourhoods event in London the other month. I start on the third minute. Unfortunately my FlipCam filled up so the rest of the even. Also see the blog recaps by Networked Neighbourhoods, and Kevin Harris. This was part of my UK trip in July.

Also, speaking of the UK, Networked Neighbourhoods is having an unconference on September 25th and CityCamp London is October 8-10. is a big supporter of CityCamp and host the ongoing online exchange. We invite those attending the London neighbourhoods online event to join their international peers on the similar Locals Online exchange.

Neighbors Online Presentation from on Vimeo.

Below are the slides from the Activate Conference which I adapted for the presentation above. Sorry about the abrupt end to the video. Want more? How about a 90 minute webinar reviewing the field? After I concluded with comments on our Inclusive Social Media efforts and Neighbors Online stats, the event went into discussion mode. It was a great event. Thank you Kevin and Hugh for making it happen.

UK Week – Bristol, Activate Conference, London Neighbourhoods Event, Pub Gatherings, and More

UK Parliament

Thanks to the folks at The Guardian and their Activate 2010 conference I’ll be in the UK next week.

The “official” Twitter hashtag I’ll use for updates during the week is #edemuk – I’ll use this for logistics and announce any spontaneous opportunities to connect.

My big message all week will be Local Matters, Civility Matters, Inclusion Matters. In terms of “what’s new” and exciting since my last UK visit are the emerging digital inclusion lessons from our Inclusive Social Media efforts in lower income, high immigrant neighborhoods. If you can’t make any of the event, watch my recent webinar.

  • July 1 – LondonActivate Conference – Watch the video preview of my keynote speech. Other speakers include Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, Tom Steinberg with mySociety, Clay Shirky, Beth Noveck with the White House, and many more. My job, as described so well recently by a BP official, is to tell the story of how we “small people” are using the Internet to empower ourselves. 🙂
  • July 3 – London – UK Meeting – At 10 a.m. on Saturday, our UK-based Board Members Mary Reid and Edward Andersson invite any of our local Issues Forum leaders and volunteers (potential volunteers welcome too!) to join us near Kings Cross. Contact us for the full details. (Mary Reid is new Board Chair of, blog announcement pending.) No plans as of yet for Saturday evening, but I hope to connect with some of our Newham forum friends.

Connect in Oxford, England on Oct. 2 with E-Democracy.Org (Oct. 1 at a pub too)

On October 2, 2008, local E-Democracy.Org volunteer leaders and participants from Bristol, Brighton and Hove, Oxford, and Newham along with e-democracy/community empowerment/social media experts from around the UK will be gathering at Oxford Town Hall. We hope to gather 15-20 people for a highly interactive and dynamic exchange. Steven Clift the founder and leader of E-Democracy.Org who is based in Minnesota will be leading the first two sessions.

The event is free, expect you’ll need to cover your own lunch.

Also note the informal pub gathering the evening before on Oct. 1 @ 19:00 in Headington.

The Oct. 2nd agenda – you may RSVP via our wiki for those parts you plan to attend below.

* 1. – 9:30 – 10:30 – Issues Forums Introduction and Training (Pre-Conf Session, Slides available)

* 2. – 10:30 – 12:30 – E-Democracy.Org UK – Input and Ideas for Citizen-based Local Issues Forums and E-Democracy in the UK – Plotting our future

* 3. – 12:30 – 14:00 – Networking Lunch (location TBD, pay own way) – An opportunity to get to know each other informally

* 4. – 14:00 – 15:30 – Discussion: Future of Local E-Democracy for Online Community Empowerment – An open and broad discussion post-ICELE on what should or could happen next in the UK to foster greater local public participation and community engagement using the Internet in councils, media, and the community and voluntary sector.

Join us.

Bristol Wireless

Another great day in the UK. I began the day by spending some time with a friend of E-Democracy.Org, MJ Ray. MJ is very interested in the work that we are doing, but also great at providing feedback and constructive suggestions. I always enjoy my conversations with MJ, whom I first met in King’s Lynn, over a year ago. Recently, MJ has been somewhat involved in an online forum the community where he now lives, Weston-super-Mare.

In particular, MJ and I had a great discussion about how E-Democracy.Org might make better use of RSS feeds on our site. I think I talked him into doing a quick demo for us, about how we might create an aggregation of RSS feeds from a specific community and somehow link them to one of our forums (a demo project).

Later MJ and I went over to meet with the guys from Bristol Wireless.

Bristol Wireless Lab

I’ve been a big admirer of the guys from Bristol Wireless, since I first met them over a year ago (even though I found out, that they no longer crawl around on the roof tops of Bristol). They are doing great work at:

  • providing free access to the internet
  • promoting the use of free and open source software
  • setting up and maintaining community access computers
  • helping non-profits/charities set up networks
  • recycling old computers and equipment and putting it to great use
  • and taking their portable computer lab to alternative festivals and events, where they hook up to the internet using solar/wind power and satellite technology.
  • I did a 10 minute interview with the guys from Bristol wireless. I’ve not yet had time to format it into a polished podcast, but here is the raw footage for your listening pleasure.

    LISTEN: Bristol Wireless

    Greater Bedminster Neighbours

    See link to podcast interview at bottom of post.

    After an early start today, I was off to Bristol. In Bristol, I spend time catching up with a friend and colleague, Carol Hayward. About noon, Carol and I spoke to a small group of council staff and partners about the concepts of Issues Forums and E-Democracy, and how they make make use of these tools. It was a brief presentation, but several folks seemed to leave the room, excited about the possibilities.

    Later this afternoon, we presented the concept of Neighbourhood Forums to a local community organizer, with the purpose of gauging his interest in potentially supporting one in his community. I can’t be sure, but I think we hit a “home run” (now, what would that be in Cricket). He was very enthused – the kind of enthusiasm that is infectious. I feel pretty confident that a second online Neighbourhood Forum will be launching in Bristol, in the near future.

    The OTHER Neighbourhood Forum in Bristol, is in the Greater Bedminster neighbourhood. Tonight, they took advantage of my visit to gather together in a local pub (the Tabacco Factory) and discuss the progress that they are making in their forum.

    Greater Bedminster Neighbours

    One of my goals for this trip, was to practice the “citizen media” skills that we’ve been teaching to folks in the Rondo Community Outreach Library. On Saturday, I posted a short YouTube video to my blog entry. Yesterday I posted a simple photograph. Today, I went all the way, and recorded a podcast.

    Listen to interview: Greater Bedminster Podcast (6 min)

    Added: A new topic has been started in the Greater Bedminster Forum about the evenings events (Click here).

    On the Road Again

    Well, as of tomorrow, I’m on the road again. I’ll be in the UK for 8 days for the “e-Democracy 07” conference and other meetings, followed up by a short visit to Scottsdale, Arizona – where I’m co-presenting a full day workshop called “Using Online Tools to Support Public Participation.”

    Tim Erickson in London

    As usual, I’m always eager to meet folks interested or involved in online democracy. I’ll usually go out of my way to connect with anyone who wants to exchange stories, share lessons, or just chat about the future.

    My schedule for the UK is still a little bit flexible, so its not too late to try and schedule an informal visit OR a free workshop for your group on Local Issues Forums (if I’m close enough to where you are).

    Here is my schedule for the next 12 days.

  • Nov. 3 (Sat) – Brighton & Hove – I arrive in the UK early in the morning, then its off to Brighton & Hove. I’m meeting up with Dan Jellinek, member of the E-Democracy.Org board to catch up on things and make final arrangements for the upcoming week. If possible, we’ll try to meet with other e-democracy folks from the Brighton & Hove Issues Forum.
  • Nov. 4 (Sun)- Brighton & Hove TO Bristol – I’m told that if I get to Bristol, I might be able to catch some fireworks AND meet up with folks from Bristol Wireless. Last time I was in Bristol, those guys taught me all about a nifty British drink called cider. I might be up for a pint (although last time, they recommended that as an American, I ought to start with a half pint).
  • (EDIT: I am currently in Brighton on Nov. 4th, where Dan and I have much to discuss, so I may stay here until early tomorrow, at which point I’d make my way up to Bristol. Unfortunately, this will mean missing the fireworks in Bristol. I’m still considering my options.)

  • Nov. 5 (Mon) – Bristol. I expect to spend the entire day in Bristol. This is my chance to connect with a good friend and colleague Carol Hayward. E-Democracy.Org has been hosting the Greater Bedminster Neighbourhood Forum and while I’m in Bristol I hope to connect with others interested in launching additional neighbourhood forums in Bristol. In the evening, I’ll be connecting with members of the Greater Bedminster Neighbourhood Forum at the Tobacco Factory. If I’m lucky, I might even meet up with my friends from Delib, as some point during the day.
  • Nov. 6 (Tue) – No Plans – I’m available for informal discussions, formal presentations, or workshops about Issues Forums. I’m willing to work for lodging (and/or beer).
  • Nov. 7 (Wed) – Oxford – We’re hoping to help launch a Neighbourhood Forum in Oxford (Central, South, and West) in the next few weeks. I have several meetings scheduled in Oxford, including a public presentation in the evening.
  • Nov. 8 (Thur) – London – From 8:15-9:15, E-Democracy.Org is hosting a pre-conference briefing on Local Issues Forums at the “e-Democracy 07” conference in London. At 11:45, I’ll be on the international plenary panel, with Matthew Ellis and Andy Williamson. In the evening, I’m hoping to arrange an informal dinner and/or drink with anyone interested. Contact me.
  • Nov. 9 (Fri) – No Plans – I’m available for informal discussions, formal presentations, or workshops about Issues Forums. I’m willing to work for lodging (and/or beer).
  • Nov. 10 (Sat) – No Plans – See above.
  • Nov. 11 (Sun) – Travel Day
  • Nov. 12 (Mon) – Scottsdale, AZ – TRAINING: Online Tools To Support Public Participation. Any online democracy folks in the Phoenix, AZ area interested in meeting for dinner and/or drinks.

    If you have any questions or are interested in meeting me during this trip, please contact me at: email or (+1) 651-246-5045 (mobile).

  • Issues Forums in the UK, Meet Tim Erickson in November at London E-Democracy 07 Conference

    Tim Erickson will be visiting the UK in early November to check in with our growing network of council-wide and neighbourhood level Issues Forums. This includes a pre-conference event tied to Headstar’s E-Democracy 07 conference on November 8. Details were posted to our Liftoff online group. Liftoff is where you join if you are interested in starting a new forum in your community or run something independent and want to trade notes.

    Speaking of the UK, an evaluation of the UK Local E-Democracy National Project pilots for the International Centre for Excellence in Local e-Democracy flew by us earlier in the year. Unlike the excellent Bristol report, we missed this one.

    Here is what they said in the report on page 19 about Issues Forums:

    Issues Forums

    Once established, Local Issues Forums provide “any time, anywhere” opportunities for local citizens participate in their communities on a sustained basis based on citizen interest. They consist of online discussion boards and accompanying guidance material to make the forum sustainable.

    Executive Summary

    Issues Forums are a model for community discussion groups and a piece of software supplied by of Minnesota, USA. As a model they seem sound and successful in Minnesota and Brighton and Hove and the software is simple and impressive.
    Both the model and the software have plenty of competition with a plethora of hosted and not-hosted discussion board software and a variety of models which all meet the basic requirement of providing a convenient space to discuss local issues.

    Perhaps the most surprising thing about Issues Forum is the lack of take-up. Nobody thought discussion forums were a bad thing, (although one respondent was concerned about the potential for abuse), but there is a split between some councils believing “ownership” of the forum is important and those who feel that the council can’t own the Forum. Also the need for forums to fit into a wider engagement strategy has probably held some councils back as they formulate those strategies.

    Ultimately though it would seem as one respondent put it “councils are just scared of forums they can’t control and don’t have the resource to pre-moderate”. ICELE’s role should be to help councils get over this fear. Help them to take the risk by promoting the upsides and guiding them on minimizing the potential downsides.

    The two main actions that we recommend for ICELE are:

    1. Promote the benefits of community discussion forums to Councillors and officers. Make it easier for Democratic Services Officers to get approval for supporting forums.

    2. Research and promote alternate ways for councils to support local discussion groups either through providing forums, finance, or

    This might seem a bit negative, but in the context of the full report, Issues Forums did very well.

    Earlier the report also pointed out “‘golden nuggets’ [that] deserve to be pulled out and published in a more accessible format” including a section of our Issues Forum guide book starting on page 52. So here is the text in a more accessible format on our wiki.

    In summary, this section tells local councils in the UK how to roll their own Issues Forum. Why? Because E-Democracy.Org’s Issues Forum are fundamentally a citizen-centered model and not government directed. If a council wants a more controlled model independent from our shared network, they would need to adapt our lessons to their situation.

    That said, we’d rather have more councils, just as Bristol and Oxford councils have engaged us post-pilot phase with neighbourhood forums, work with us directly. A council and their local democracy will be significantly strengthened by funding the launch of an Issues Forum in their area. They also have the added benefit of not being liable for what happens nor face the potential political pressure to close it down or be called censors. So the evaluation reports interview quote that “councils are just scared of forums they can’t control and don’t have the resource to pre-moderate,” highlights the misunderstanding that Issues Forum are similar to government hosted consultations. While most of the National Project and today’s ICELE focus is on e-democracy choice of local councils, Issues Forums are a choice of local communities – meaning citizen volunteers and the local council working together in a strictly non-partisan, non-commercial manner to create meaningful online public space that connects citizens to one another within the context of local governance. The reason the model works and is probably the most cost-effective e-democracy investment a council has (we encourage councils to first fund the start-up and recruitment phase (~10K GBP)while we help build the the long-term voluntary sector based support structure, then councils could provide smaller yearly funding for social inclusion outreach in particular) is that from the start we make it clear that the value of the forum is based on what citizens put into it and by attracting a critical mass of participation then local councillors, civil servants, and the local media will engage based on realistic, real-world political considerations. It short, while government can help kick-start the process and from time to time demonstrate that is it listening to the conversation, the success of the forum is in the hands of community as a whole. Local democracy is about everyone in the local community not just formal institutions.

    Steven Clift

    Who is reading this blog?

    The E-Democracy.Org project blog has been fairly active for about 6 weeks now. When Steve Clift set it up, I was a little bit skeptical about how useful it would be and whether or not it would be worth the time. It took me several weeks to post my first entry, but was hooked almost immediately. I’m bit ashamed to say, that this has been my first sustained effort at blogging – and I like it.

    I like it, because it has great potential as the E-Democracy.Org voice to the outside world AND because it provides a good space to link our various projects together, without asking participants to join ONE MORE online group (or listserve). This should become the place where our enthusiastic supporters and volunteers come to get NEWS from the world of E-Democracy.Org.

    Since I’ve started to use this blog, its become how really apparent how much incredible news and what great stories are emerging from our network that ought to be shared. This feels like the right place to do it. While I know that a few folks out there are reading the blog or have stumbled across it (and I recognize that it will take time for others to take their first taste), I am curious about who we are reaching so far. If you have a minute, please send me a quick email with some comments or feedback on:

      The fact that you are, or have at least once, checked our blog
      What kind of information do you find most useful in the E-Democracy.Org project Blog?

    Contact me at: Tim Erickson

    Tim Erickson

    New Forum to Launch in Knowle West, Bristol (UK)

    E-Democracy.Org is pleased to announce the launch of the Knowle West Neighbourhood Forum, this coming Wednesday October 11th, 2006. Local organizers in the Knowle West neighbourhood of Bristol, expect the forum to open with approximately 50 local participants, with a goal of reaching over 100 participants within the first few weeks of operation. The purpose of the Knowle West Neighborhood Forum will be to share news and information about the community and to strengthen ties between residents and organizations working in the neighbourhood.

    E-Democracy.Org hopes that Knowle West will be the first of many local neighbourhoods to adapt the E-Democracy.Org “city-wide” Issues Forum model to a “neighbourhood” scale. Neighbourhood Forums will differ from the Issues Forum model, by focusing more on “daily life” issues such as sharing referrals for local services, recommending various community resources (private and public), and connecting local residents to each other and organizations in the community.

    If you would like to launch an E-Democracy.Org city-wide Issues Forum or a Neighbourhood Forum in your community, please contact contact Tim Erickson at: 651-246-5045.