Survey Says – 56% credit their Neighbors Forum for increased community satisfaction and more

Make article

While we have more in-depth analysis to do, we wanted to share the top line results from our 1350 respondents. That’s a big pool – about 10% of our individual participants just on our Twin Cities Neighbors Forums (not our city-wide forums or other cities) with active accounts.

If you are new to E-Democracy and our Neighbors Forums (our project), our online neighborhood spaces (combined email/web forum/social network) connect up to 30% of households ~daily in some areas.

Here are our top line results in PDF and responses comparing Minneapolis and St. Paul forums (PDF) (notable differences) – the answer tables for questions 9-12 are most insightful.

connecting-neighbours-online-strategies-for-online-engagement-with-inclusion-london-2013-13-638The questions PDF might be useful for those creating similar surveys for use elsewhere – we spent nearly two years crafting these based on dozens of surveys we collected and gathered feedback along the way including support from Network Impact who was commissioned by the Knight Foundation to work with a number of leading civic technology projects they had funded.

We will add more analysis as it is available here.

Here is some useful background on the three year inclusive outreach project which ended with 2014 funding wise. We even received some White House Champions of Change recognition along the way.

SONY DSCWe used Census data to help target our Saint Paul outreach and our forums use official city neighborhood boundaries which in theory mean Census data can be used in further analysis (we used this data source on neighborhood profiles extensively). We are seeking opportunities to further this extremely unique online inclusive engagement work as part of a research initiative for greater lesson-sharing. Along those lines, our public forum data is generating useful research and leading to academic papers and publications. We are interested in how survey data might be combined with forum data (of course on an anonymous basis) to generate more knowledge on impact and what works.

Some analysis now:

Some compelling results …

Percent of participants who said “as a result of information or discussions on your Neighbors Forum” (Q11) they:

  • 79% are more informed about community issues
  • 67% were introduced to new ideas and views
  • 45% learned more on how to influence community decisions
  • 32% learned more about neighbors of difference races, ethnicities (39% in the lower income parts of St. Paul we targeted for inclusive field outreach)

And amazingly (to us anyway):

  •  56% credit their forum for making them “more satisfied with my local community as a place to live or work.”

In deeper analysis, we’ve found that increasing community satisfaction is an indicator question where respondents on our four most engaged Minneapolis forums credit their forum far more at 70% for increasing satisfaction. For neighborhoods and cities seeking to attract and retain residents including new talent, fostering online neighborly connections appears to be part of the secret sauce “welcome mat” for great communities.

While our funded inclusive outreach makes our network perhaps far more representative than other online civic engagement/online neighborhood efforts, participants are essentially self-selected. To that end, we are excited to share our rough analysis from the 3,000 respondent Minneapolis Digital Inclusion survey which actually allows us to see our forum’s likely direct impact on the population as a whole.

In terms of prompting action (Q12), forums that led “you to do or increase any of the following” the forums delivered (Yes, I did this AND it increased because of the forum):

  • 8.5% more volunteer locally (39% did this already at level not increased because of forum)
  • 11% donate more often to a local charity or cause (43% did this already…)
  • 15% work more with residents to make change (32% did this already…)
  • 16% sign a petition more often (34% did this already…)
  • 17% meet community members in-person more (36% did this already…)
  • 18.5% contact elected officials or government more (32% did this already…)
  • 22% do favors or share goods with neighbors more often (31% did this already…)
  • 28% attend more community meetings (28% did this already…)
  • 41% attend more community events and festivals (35% did this already…)
  • 42% visit a business, restaurant or hire someone recommended on forum more (25% did this already…)

See question 12 for results on what people already did (Neighbors Forums do attract community-spirited people). Separating out those who would have generated social capital anyway without our forum from those who credit the forum with moving the needle on civic engagement is hugely important. Future analysis on the characteristics of forums generating more action will be useful. Future projects that build on these positive outcomes would be exciting the explore.

Emerging analysis

  • Other Platforms – With question 19, it is notable to point out that only 19% of our respondents are members of NextDoor and 29% report being on a private online group/email list for their nearest neighbors. 32% in St. Paul compared to 23% in Minneapolis report being on a public or large Facebook group or other forum outside of E-Democracy for their larger neighborhood. In St. Paul, folks who are both E-Democracy and NextDoor members compared to all E-Democracy members are somewhat less likely to be immigrants or the children of immigrants, higher educated, less likely to be a renter, more white, and higher income. This requires more analysis, but initial results support our concern that without inclusive outreach online neighborhood groups will cement ties among neighbors who are most similar or already socially connected and leave out vital parts of our local communities by the design of their systems even if not by intent. (Mar 3)
  • Gender – Also notable is that 64% of our respondents were female. A 2010 survey by found a similar gender mix. Notably a recent participant survey of mySociety’s online political participation efforts had the reverse gender mix – it is our view that intentionally connecting neighbors online up into civic participation is perhaps the best path to better representation in civics online. (Mar 3)
  • Word of Mouth Power – Despite the focus on our in-person outreach on St. Paul, more people in Minneapolis learned of their forum offline (44% offline, 38% online) compared to St. Paul (37% offline, 48% online). Why? An active and engaged online civic forum like those in South Minneapolis can spread via community connections face to face. Such invites probably increase trust in the forum building a virtuous circle. Of course this also suggests just how challenging it is to go into new neighborhoods with less existing civic capacity from scratch AND how important it is to do what we did with inclusive intent to go beyond existing ties. In future work, combining our inclusive outreach with our strongest existing forums presents an untapped opportunity for reaching all neighbors with an integration oriented and inclusive bring all neighbors approach (for example Latino outreach in Powderhorn or East African outreach in Seward neighborhoods).Here is a recap on how our participants found out about their forums:
    • St. Paul – 48% Online, 37% Offline
    • Minneapolis – 38% Online, 44% Offline
    • Of those who found out offline:
      • St. Paul
        • Door – 20%
        • Community event/festival – 41%
        • Word of mouth – 27%
        • Community newsletter – 7%
      • Minneapolis
        • Door – 1%
        • Community event/festival – 29% (we did table in Mpls at major/ethnic events)
        • Word of mouth – 66%
        • Community newsletter – 7%

(Added Mar 8)

This article is a work in progress …

Survey Says … (text from our e-newsletter)

The exciting participant survey results are coming in from Minneapolis and Saint Paul with over 1350 responses. They show great comparative success in reaching the broader local community with inclusion in Saint Paul while clearly our Minneapolis neighborhood forums are stronger.(1)

Door to door worked. Community festivals worked.

Working with two awesome summer outreach teams that spoke ten different languages total over two summers was amazing. The dedication and perspiration of young people who once lived in refugee camps in Kenya and Thailand to an African-American Grandmother homeless and living with friends when we hired her was was amazing.

Here is what participants find “very important” in ranked order:

  • Get community news and event announcements
  • Neighbors helping neighbors
  • Learn about local businesses and services
  • Share information or ideas
  • Discuss or understand others views on community issues
  • Get involved in local initiative or causes
  • Meet neighbors and other community members (in-person)

The survey tells us that the more active your forum is the more you are actually satisfied with your community as a place to live. Wow.

Because of your forums directly, more of you attend community events (41%) or meetings (28), visit local businesses or hire neighbors for odd jobs (43%), do favors for neighbors (22%), donate to local groups (10%), contact elected officials (18%), sign petitions (16%) or work for local change (15%), or volunteer in the community (8%). This is above and beyond the many who said they already did these things and did not credit the forum for an increase. Our members are community builders.

In fact, on our four super active forums in South Minneapolis 70% agreed that because of their forum, they are “more satisfied with my local community as a place to live or work.” On our less active Saint Paul and Minneapolis forums, the average who agree with this came in under 50%. Notably however, those who better represent the diversity of Saint Paul that we signed up at their door reported in with one of the highest percentages strongly agreeing with this statement – more so than all but one of our super active forums!


(1) Our South Minneapolis forums became well established a few years earlier before the diffusion of local online spaces like Facebook Groups and NextDoor. These new choices divided neighborhood attention and likely attracted the engagement of people in St. Paul similar to those who naturally flocked to our Minneapolis forums and to this day share community content actively. Participants who share – who post useful content are key to engagement. While not all Neighbors Forums in St. Paul today are more limited one-way community announcement services, two-way community discussions and trust-building community engagement on our strongest Minneapolis forums continues to thrive.


Key Tables and Charts

Here are someone detailed results. See the full PDF for more including how people learned about their forums specifically.


9. How important to you are the following things you can do on your Neighbors Forum?



10. To what extent is your forum meeting your needs? How *satisfied* are you with the opportunity that your forum has provided in the last 12 months to…


11. As a result of information or discussions on your Neighbors Forum, in the last 12 months…


It will be very interesting to compare Minneapolis and Saint Paul results related to learning about neighbors across diversity. As our field outreach was only funded for St. Paul and our four most active Neighbors Forums are in Minneapolis, to really test this goal new resources to do inclusive outreach in S. Minneapolis would be crucial. It is our experience that location-based neighborhood connecting, particularly on commercial sites, connect wired, wealthier, whiter home owners most easily and that inclusive outreach requires real intent and resources.

Being more satisfied with their community as a place to live because of their Neighbors Forum tells a big story about about forum quality. Those one our four “super” forums as noted above were far more likely to give their forum some credit. In forums that are honestly relatively quiet (particularly in areas of St. Paul with competing Facebook Groups or Next Door traction) I our view people were more satisfied than they should have been. If they only knew what they were missing from how our active forums really thrive. This question showed the impact of a strong forum versus those not used on a literally an hourly basis to connect the community.

12. In the last 12 months, did something on your Neighbors Forum lead you to do or increase any of the following?



Here are open ended survey responses sorted into theme.

Select survey comments/stories sorted by theme:

  • Promoting local festivals and events –
  • Promoting local businesses and service providers –
  • Discussing community issues and happenings –
  • We especially appreciate the neighborhood councils, recreation centers and libraries using the forums –
  • And the connections made between being alert about crime and building strong neighborhoods –
  • And other local issues that matter –
  • Being connected and informed helps us take action –
  • Together, we make things happen –
  • Our ideas get carried forward to committees and local councils –
  • We build strong communities when we meet –
  • That keep us in touch with our humanity –
  • We strengthen our connections when we exchange things –
  • And, together, we care for our companions –
  • And build welcoming communities –
  • And yes, there’s more work to be done –
  • But in the end –


Having just completed the participant survey, this is an opportune moment to give a shout out to those who make the forums thrive by:

Promoting local festivals and events –


  • Because of this forum my family attended several summer events in the area. Thank you.
  • Events shared are always appreciated and make me feel more involved in my community.
  • Without a neighborhood newspaper the forum has provided basic community happenings, which has improved my sense of community.


Promoting local businesses and service providers –


  • I think one of the biggest things the Neighbors Forum does is help you when you’re looking for a service. We discovered a new mechanic who we are extremely happy with thanks to the forum. Same goes for our plumber. It’s great to hear the different suggestions and experiences folks have had. Invaluable.
  • As a local business owner, I make an effort to support other local businesses near my own. I try and use the hardware store, gas station, restaurants and other service providers in my neighborhood.
  • I just contacted one person highly recommended for handyman, and discovered he had lived across the street on my block since 1980–the same year we moved here! He’s going to patch our ceiling soon.
  • Our neighbors forum has been celebrating small business in the area. My partner and I are launching our own venture, and it has been so helpful to have community support behind our shop. This has been made possible by the Neighbors Forum, as we meet people that we don’t really “know” but have a mutual affinity for, as they are neighbors, locals who really want us to succeed.
  • I found amazing locally sourced fresh strawberries available the last few autumns by a local farmer only available with E-Democracy.
  • Someone shared CSA options in the neighborhood and I signed up for one and I very much enjoyed it this summer.
  • Finding recommended vendors and service providers has taken the stress out of guessing.


Discussing community issues and happenings –


  • The forums keep me up to date on the issues of the city, especially the controversies that people want to talk about. They’re the best place to learn about what is going on with proposed developments, vacant lots, city ordinances that impact the neighborhood.  [combined]
  • Even though not all topics are of interest to me, reading them gives me a better understanding of community perspectives other than my own. I believe this to be a crucial component of an inclusive and diverse community.
  • I did learn a little more about the complexity/differences between long-standing community members and newer residents, differences in perception regarding whose voice is “authentic,” “credible,” “legitimate”.


We especially appreciate the neighborhood councils, recreation centers and libraries using the forums –


  • I work for SENA – the neighborhood organization for Standish & Ericsson. The forum has been a very valuable means for us to get information out to a large part of the community.
  • We were able to get the word out about National Night Out and had lots of participation from the neighborhood.
  • Excellent programs and lectures at the library are posted. I have discovered this is a much better resource than expected.
  • A community member on the Forum read one of my library postings about the Library Card Art Contest. She entered her art piece and it was picked as a runner-up!
  • I like when the police liaison and the neighborhood association chime in on discussions.



And the connections made between being alert about crime and building strong neighborhoods –


  • It has made a big difference to me to know about crime in my neighborhood and how connecting with others can make a difference in how we watch for each other.
  • Being informed and aware of what is going on has made me feel safer and more connected.
  • I think in general when someone shares about crime or suspicious activity in the neighborhood it is helpful. Everyone knows to stay more aware and keep their eyes open for things like that.
  • There was a lot of discussion about the Ray Widstrand incident — very heated at times, with opposing voices being heard, albeit not without some hurt feelings. I felt this ongoing discussion was very enlightening because it gave insight into how differently neighbors from the same community saw this and other negative events that occurred around the same time.
  • A few years ago, when the woman was sexually assaulted in Powderhorn Park at gunpoint, with her children present — the way people in the community organized an event and got the word out through the forum was great.
  • We have helped each other be more aware of increases in specific crimes, and helped each other take precautions against them.
  • We’re not in the safest neighborhood, but when we heard gunshots right outside our house, our friend and neighbor was quick to find the police report and post it for everyone. It made me feel a little safer, just that everyone was talking about what happened, not ignoring it or hiding, or becoming too scared.
  • I attended the open forum on crime at the local police station which was advertised in the forum. The tips on how to make your home, garage, and yard more secure were very helpful. I really appreciated the time and effort of the neighborhood crime specialists to share their expertise with the public.
  • It’s kind of like a virtual neighborhood crime watch. I love knowing what is going on in the area!!  It makes me feel more secure. [combined]


And other local issues that matter –

(formerly Campaigns/Elected Officials)


  • It really helped me to understand the rationale behind some decisions being made by our local government. It was nice to hear others opinions, both those that agreed with me and those that did not.
  • When I was an appointed official, it helped me stay connected to the community and plugged into their thoughts/ideas, and what was important.
  • It has been a very useful source for information about candidates running for public office.
  • Powderhorn Park hosted a school board candidate forum which was mainly geared toward the Spanish-speaking community. As a white person, it was fascinating to listen to the stories and hear candidates point of view.
  • The discussions about Ranked Choice Voting in St. Paul allowed us to discuss different opinions on that important subject, including a lot of misconceptions.
  • I enjoy reading others’ take on city matters–what our politicians are doing and the progress or lack thereof in the school district.
  • I like it when people who know the facts of a matter can share those facts and change perceptions and the tone of a discussion.


Being connected and informed helps us take action –


  • I learned about the city’s Adopt a Trash Container program and got one placed in a garbage-strewn area. It REALLY made a difference!
  • I attended several forums/community meetings because of the Neighbors Forum.
  • I went to a local meeting and learned about the plans for the Snelling and University area.
  • I learned about the Library Love Run and Historic Hamline Village and attended a community meeting.
  • It got me to attend a couple of meetings about biking and bike lanes at the NE Library.
  • I heard about meetings concerning the new co-op that I was able to attend.
  • I heard about – and attended – a crime meeting at Matthews Park.
  • I went to the community meeting at the church next to the Arlington library and got introduced to the Youth Ambassadors. I learned a lot.
  • I was prompted to attend a MPRB meeting about “the yard” and to speak at the meeting.


Together, we make things happen –


  • We were trying to get bike racks installed at the post office. I shared information about the City of Minneapolis bicycle rack program with neighbors and now we have two new bike racks at the post office. [two combined]
  • The city parks department was going to tear down a bunch of trees and make a parking lot in our community and the neighborhood forum announced it and organized a group to make our voices heard and we were successful in stopping their actions.
  • We helped to build the new playground at the St. Paul Music Academy.
  • We helped get the co-op built.
  • I volunteered to help spread the word about the Powderhorn365 Kickstarter campaign, and we used the forum extensively.
  • Our direct neighbor was being cited for junk by a new inspector. Everyone on the forum and many others signed a petition and got them to understand it was garden art. It worked.
  • We used the forum to help spread the word about the privatization of a local recreation center and got over 100 people to attend a meeting with officials. This stopped the process and allowed us to set up a community task force to discuss what a partnership would look like.
  • We used forum to organize group to care for Hamline Park– “Friends of Hamline Park.”
  • The controversial Marshall Avenue median galvanized me and my neighbors, and the forum was instrumental in exchanging ideas and motivating attendance at meetings associated with the issue. The forum helped coalesce support to reduce the proposed length of the median on Marshall at Wilder. [two combined]
  • I have been very grateful to the work and efforts of the folks trying to get MAC to listen to our neighborhood concerns about increased air traffic, decibel levels, and noise/air pollution. They have kept us much better informed about studies, meetings, and issues than the local news.
  • When I saw that the studies on the Snelling Avenue road design were coming to a close, I was able to dig a little deeper into what that meant for our block and intersection, the West side of Snelling and Taylor Avenues. We organized, met, and discussed how the closure of the left turn lanes would affect residents on our block, and the surrounding area. This led to a signed group letter, individual letters, and documentation being sent to the proper MDOT and other government staff involved in this project. As of today, we’ve been told that the project will leave the northbound left turn lane onto Taylor Ave. W. open. I credit e-democracy in alerting us to this important study while we could still have an impact on the outcome. It is important for us to be involved in important decisions which affect our everyday lives in our community. [Edited down]


Our ideas get carried forward to committees and local councils –


  • There have been discussions about a household hazardous waste site that was going to be placed in the neighborhood and due to a lot more discussion than some local officials expected, it appears such a site will be located in a different and more desirable location than originally proposed.
  • I enjoyed the discussion on the forum about what to do with the old Rainbow store building and brought some of those ideas to the Longfellow Neighborhood Development Committee.
  • I sent an email to the list to explore ways neighbors could work together to make their homes more energy efficient. Several people responded and as a result, a group of us met several times during the year and several homeowners did energy efficiency home improvements. We are continuing this energy efficiency work now through the District 10 Environment Committee.
  • When I was on ParkWatch we posted minutes and Park Board agendas on the forum with opinions of what we thought this meant to the city. This led to the MPRB actually putting their agendas and minutes online and actually announcing newly released agenda on this forum
  • I first learned about some controversial issues (Randolph Ave) in the forum and was able to bring those issues to the MGCC Transportation committee and worked with Ramsey County to provide feedback.
  • Discussions on the forum showed me that I was just as informed on issues as anyone else, so I decided to have more influence on the community by joining the Highland District Council.


We build strong communities when we meet –


  • I was asked to lead a neighborhood history tour (posted on the forum) that led into two free sessions (posted on the forum) for neighbors to learn how to research their houses’ histories at the Hennepin County library. Forty people got to know each other and talk about their houses. Soon I will invite them all (via the forum) to share their research findings at the Hennepin County History Museum.
  • We organized a book reading with a local author at our house. A lot of people from the neighborhood whom we did not previously know came to the event. A big driver for this was the announcement posted to the forum. A lot of neighbors met each other for the first time because of this.
  • I went on a Seward Walk and met a lot of people from the neighborhood while learning some great history and having a hoot!
  • It was a source of networking for my family and me when we first moved into the Powderhorn Neighborhood and did not yet know anyone. We were able to post about ourselves as a family and offer a gathering for other people interested in meeting for social engagements.
  • I have always liked the “introduction” email that pops up at intermittent times. Sometimes I wish people shared more about where they lived (900 Block of Wilson Ave, for example) because if I “meet” someone on the forum, it would be nice to know how close they are relative to where I live. At times I have taken the next step to ask more about them and say “welcome!”  [Edited down]


That keep us in touch with our humanity –

(formerly Help neighbors in need)


  • I like hearing about neighbors who help others and make a difference in the lives of others in my neighborhood.
  • A local neighbor with a lot of history died recently and her funeral was announced on the forum. I believe many more people came than would’ve otherwise. It was a great time to catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and learn some fascinating neighborhood history.
  • One of my friends who is getting older needed some help with heavy things, and he found a young person through the forum who was happy to help him. He didn’t know where else to turn.
  • I used the forum to create a list of those in need of snow shoveling help and those that could offer such help.
  • Last year during a huge storm that downed 100s of large trees in the neighborhood there was an outpouring of email exchanges sharing tools and offering help to residents who were affected. Wonderful to see.
  • I learned how quick neighbors are to help one another in times of need.
  • I am new in the neighborhood and had a bike stolen from my yard. A neighbor told me about the forum and when I posted, I think three people offered to lend me bikes if I needed one.  Heartwarming kindness and real neighbors!
  • After the New Year’s building explosion/fire last year, the forum was a great way to see what had happened and to know where/what to donate to survivors
  • I offered up some free worms for composting. Two ladies took me up on the offer so I left containers of worms on my porch for them to pick up. Later I got an email from one of the ladies. She had noticed my concrete front steps were falling apart after the brutal winter. She wanted to pay it forward and she offered to fix my steps for free. I agreed but wanted to learn a skill so I joined her. She told me that her neighbor had taught her the simple fix and she was so excited when I wanted to learn the skill, knowing that I could pass it on to others.
  • There was a call for the high school baseball team needing equipment that really stuck with me. I hope there are more requests from good people doing good things who could use more community support.


We strengthen our connections when we exchange things –


  • The reuse opportunities have been very valuable. When a neighbor took down a chimney, we were able to salvage them to better our property. They saved on hauling away costs and we saved by not having to purchase landscape materials.
  • I had a friend moving into the neighborhood from another state who was needing support with resources. I was able to help her find items for her home through postings from neighbors who were giving things away.
  • I was able to get a very nice ceiling fan for free because one of my neighbors was giving it away on the forum.


    • I have used the Neighbors forum to connect with other gardeners in the community, and we have shared plants. It’s fun to connect with other gardeners and to learn about gardening from people with actual experience in our neighborhood, and the plants I’ve gotten from them have been much more successful than nursery-grown plants.


  • I had a lawnmower that I wanted to get rid of and was able to give it to a new neighbor because of the forum.


    • I was looking for raspberry bushes and the forum help me find options to transplant from a neighbor.


  • I was able to find a free A/C unit for my daughter’s father for his apartment. The outreach from the forum was enormous and fast! I really enjoy the frequency and timeliness in which people share their ideas/post questions, etc. on this site. I visit every day!


  • I was looking for a Cherry tree branch to graft onto my Cherry tree. I happened to find the exact variety I needed through a neighbor.
  • I was feeling overwhelmed by yard work and hired a youth in response to his mom’s post. Not only was I glad for the help, I enjoyed connecting with the mom and the young man.
  • I was able to get many perennial plants for the teen program I facilitate at a homeless shelter downtown.


  • I have been trying to find a home for Christmas tree that was given to me, and was delighted to pass it along and so relieved to have it out of my house.


And, together, we care for our companions –


  • I love all of the posts about missing pets. Having lost a pet, I understand how hard it can be. Given our technological advances, it pleases me that we go to the forum before sending a rogue pet to the shelter. Very inspiring!
  • We rescued a puppy and needed to fence off our yard quickly. We posted on e-democracy and within 30 minutes a neighbor offered to lend us his posts and wire fencing and we were able to contain the pup immediately and keep her safe until we could put up a more permanent fence.  
  • We moved in to this neighborhood in March. I posted about our cat who escaped and many helpful neighbors responded and we got him back!
  • A chicken appeared in our yard and we were able to locate the owner via the forum.


And build welcoming communities –


  • I just moved here from out of state, and it has been incredibly helpful to know that there’s a community of people out there working to make this place a more welcoming, equitable, livable place.
  • We are new to the community so having access to the online forum helped us decide if it was the right neighborhood for our family. We were able to gauge how involved people are and what they do. We are looking forward to participating in this on a regular basis.
  • I enjoy living in a large city, and the sense of community that the forum provides enhances the experience.



And yes, there’s more work to be done –


  • I wish the city council leadership and police had actively used the forum to help us understand the discussions.
  • In the last few elections, even the primaries, I didn’t just feel like I was checking off random names on the ballot based on a few lines of political propaganda written by someone’s campaign manager; some of these people had actually engaged with each other over local issues in a forum that wasn’t carefully vetted and scripted, which too few of our candidates for elected office are willing to do these days.


But in the end –


  • It’s really inspiring to see how benevolent the community is. I appreciate reading about people taking animals in, or giving away free stuff, or standing up for things.
  • I just love that it exists. It makes me feel connected to the people in my community.



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

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 website. Submit your idea by July 24.

Join our special public drafting effort via Google Docs.

Neighbors Online Workshop @ DigiDaze June 20 – St. Paul Rondo Outreach Library

It’s time to get excited about digital inclusion in the Twin Cities!

On June 20th, the Community Technology Empowerment Project hosts DigiDaze from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the St. Paul Rondo Community Outreach Library at the corner of Dale and University. Free Parking – enter on University going east before Dale.

From 2:00 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. in the e-classroom, join Steven Clift and “” volunteers and participants for an insightful and in-depth presentation on inclusively connecting neighbors online. Check out DigiDaze booths before and after the presentation.

With 20,000 participants across our Twin Cities neighbors forums combined with the world’s most inclusive local online civic engagement outreach effort and challenging efforts to engage across community diversity, we have lessons to share and questions to ask. If you want to connect neighbors and communities online – across ANY platform – these tips will help us all connect thousands more residents.

RSVP not required.

But let us know if you hope to attend. Or say you are coming via Facebook Events.

If you can’t make it, watch this video version from NYC.

The session will cover:

  • Bonus – Opening preview from Knight Green Line Challenge
  • Startling national statistics on the income, racial, and related divides in terms of online civic participation
  • Ten awesome things strong neighborhood online groups produce (be it hosted by E-Democracy, Facebook, and others)
  • Specific lessons from our inclusive field outreach and ideas on how online groups outside of our BeNeighbors network can go beyond the easiest to reach residents to intentionally bring ALL kinds of neighbors together

Here is more information about DigiDaze …

DIGIDAZE COMMUNITY TECHNOLOGY FAIR comes to Rondo Library on Friday June 20, 10:30 AM to 4 PM

Every year, CTEP and the Saint Paul Public Library sponsors a free public fair to showcase learning opportunities related to technology for youth, adults and seniors. There will be laptop computer giveaways throughout the day, free food, classes on animation for youth and using online library services for adults, face painting, free tech advice, media production games, and sign ups for free classes about computer and employment skills in your neighborhood.

Where: Multipurpose Room, Rondo Community Outreach Library in Saint Paul 
Who: Sponsored by the Community Technology Empowerment Project (CTEP) AmeriCorps program and the Saint Paul Public Library.

Click here for a slideshow from past DigiDaze Fairs.

E-Democracy Outreach-001

Payne Phalen Responds to Violence: Neighbors seek solutions during a time of crisis via E-Democracy


While wider Internet commenting was filled with recriminations and conspiracy, E-Democracy’s Neighbors Forums raised voices against violence by seeking solutions.

Payne Phalen Neighborhood

On August 4th, 2013, Ray Widstrand, 26, was brutally beaten by a group of young people who had gathered outside to watch a fight between two girls near midnight. Ray was walking through the group of approximately 50 young people when he was randomly attacked, almost beaten to death.

The 5-7 attackers were mostly juveniles and according to the police reports, were affiliated with primarily African-American street gangs. Ray is white. Others in the crowd attempted to mace the attackers and boldly stayed when police arrived to be witnesses to this senseless and extremely random violence. The incident has heightened fears among parents of young African-American males about how they are being viewed by the police and others in their daily lives and the randomness has people of all races in this multi-ethnic neighborhood on edge.

The Payne Phalen neighborhood of Saint Paul has seen its share of violence over the years. Just recently, Vincent Allison, a 17-year-old, was shot to death by another 17-year-old during a gang clash. Large groups of young people have been plaguing the streets of Payne Phalen, blocking traffic, harassing residents, and inciting fear among those who call Payne Phalen home. The police blame Twitter for frequent flash mobs late at night.

After the story on Ray Widstrand hit the press, the 800+ member E-Democracy Payne Phalen Neighbors Forum was buzzing about the assault. Neighbors used the forum as a way to discuss what had happened, to share concerns about the neighborhood’s ongoing safety, and to exchange ideas on how to stimulate change. This organic exchange was different than what was being presented elsewhere online. From vitriolic online news commenting on regional newspaper websites, to seeing the story used as a foil globally on racially charged websites, even local journalists took notice of the dramatic difference in what the most local people were doing online. There weren’t over the top outcries of panic, blame, or hatred, nor using the story to further some political agenda, but collaborative dialogue among residents searching for answers from within.

Forum posts encouraged people to attend a community meeting held on Thursday, August 15th at Arlington Hills Lutheran Church and offered suggestions on how best to come prepared with questions for the panel. There was a lot of discussion around the lack of activities/opportunities available to neighborhood youth and how to keep these young people off the street. There were even posts from youth speaking out about their neighborhood and what they feel is needed to make change happen. There was also active discussion around increased police presence, continuity surrounding the enforcement of curfew and other applicable laws, and when to call the police when witnessing dangerous behavior.

The key element driving the organic exchange on the Payne Phalen Neighbors Forum was the online neighbor-connecting that had already taken place before the assault occurred. Because these neighbors already had a space built to stimulate dialogue and information sharing, the exchange happening on the forum was more constructive and focused than what was seen elsewhere. Online Neighbor Forums help highly local communities build resiliency – the ability to rebound or spring back from catastrophe. Families experience resiliency in times of crisis, and so do neighborhoods.

E-Democracy’s program connects neighbors online for community-focused interaction. With a focus on low-income, immigrant, and culturally diverse populations, E-Democracy is working to create inclusive online opportunities to spark dialogue, spread community information, and raise voices to take action. The project creatively promotes social belonging and a shared community experience that promotes local problem solving and collaboration of those with common interests – and in the process strengthens neighborhoods by growing their capacity to respond to challenges whether they be crises or opportunities.

The Payne Phalen Neighbors Forum is just one of many neighborhood-level spaces E-Democracy hosts, and we see this same type of exchange and dialogue happening all across the Twin Cities urban core. The Payne Phalen forum is a great example of how our Neighbors Forums and, in general, how providing inclusive online community engagement can have a positive impact on neighborhoods and citizens during times of crisis.

Quotes from the Forum

Voices of Concern“I am newly graduated teen that lives, breathes, and interacts with all these so called gang members. Sadly I am family members, best friends, childhood friends, etc. with all of these young kids out here and I know a lot of them wouldn’t be doing the things they are doing if they had things to do. I feel the city doesn’t do for the community as they should.”
—Jaysha Jiles“I am a resident of the lower east side and have been concerned for a while now with the escalation of what I am seeing happen in my neighborhood. I cannot wait to both speak about what I see and listen to what some of the solutions might be. I love where I live, I love the diversity and absolutely enjoy this area. I just don’t like feeling scared or having my 8 year old ask me to avoid driving up our street because he doesn’t like to see what is happening on a daily basis. Nobody should live in fear. They sure don’t have this type of environment in more ‘expensive’ neighborhoods, why is it happening here?”
—Danette Allrich“I’m a parent of 5 black boys and I feel we are prisoners in our own home. I’m scared for them. They stay in the house or on the block, how sad is that. Until we recognize the ills of society and take action, including myself, we are never going to accomplish anything.”
—Michele Davis

“We who live here know the area for what it is, good and bad. People from the “outside looking in” just see the bad and the news headlines and know they can go find another area to live in. So it’s a vicious circle. We ALL have an investment in community here with homes, businesses, LIVES – and one that’s not paying off well – we deserve better.”
—Susan Forsberg

Voices for Change“We need to help the police by policing our community. How do you do that? Report anything and everything that you witness that appears to be against the law.”
—Derrick Minor“We all know we have a problem here, and the police know this too. We want safe streets – the voices in our community who will support this approach are louder and more numerous than those who don’t. This is where “the most livable city” sloganeering hits the road, and we have to demand it all the way to the top if necessary.” —Luke I.“One thing that is troubling to me is the level of services for youth on the Eastside. With literally half the school age kids all being on the Eastside, we should have, it seems, concentrated in our neighborhood, half the stuff to do for kids. The cops may need to stop problems once they happen, but we also need to look for solutions to prevent the problems.” —Alec Timmerman

“We must take a deep look and the politics, policies and laws implemented and promoted by these people [district representatives] and ask the tough questions about whether these policies are helping or hurting the community and what trickle down destructive impact they are having.” —Shelley Leeson

“There are many spokes in this wheel – political, financial, public safety, personal responsibility to name a few. All should be addressed in a comprehensive way by the immediate community and the City. This will take time and effort. This very unfortunate incident has forced us to actually face the reality of our neighborhood.”
—Marjorie Ebenteiner


Ray Widstrand poster

Meet our BeNeighbors Outreach and Engagement Team Members – St. Paul’s 2013 Dream Team for Community Building

By Cirien Saadeh and Steven Clift Coming to a St. Paul neighborhood near you!

Many of you joined E-Democracy because one of our summer staffers knocked on your door, and in the true spirit of inclusive community building, invited you to join the E-Democracy forums. Going door-to-door in St. Paul has been a major focus of our team this summer and last, as we work to reach the goals of our campaign.


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We recently hired our new summer staff as well as “forum engagement” leads to help foster on forum dialogue. Men and women of all different ages and backgrounds are covering almost every inch of St. Paul. They may even have already knocked on your door. The outreach staff work about 15 hours a week and the forum engagement leads put in about seven.

We wanted to give you a brief introduction to the summer team and let you know a little of the work we’re doing.  We will be adding some related photos and videos to our Facebook page.

  • Siciid Ali joined the E-Democracy staff this summer as one of our outreach coordinators. He’s concentrating on outreach to the Somali and East African community.
  • Donna Evans has been with our team since the beginning of last summer. She is connected deeply in St. Paul. She is a jack of all outreach trades from small community events to library storytime outreach.
  • John Slade is both a new father and a new E-Democracy summer team member. He’s doing a lot of work in Dayton’s Bluff and the Greater East Side.
  • Gloria Castillo has been active in efforts to pass Minnesota’s DREAM act. She’ll be doing special outreach to St. Paul’s Latino communities.
  • Chia Lor is a college student and hip hop artist who will be doing outreach work in the Asian-American community and in Payne-Phalen.
  • Cirien Saadeh is active in food justice issues and is both helping with communications and outreach field logistics this summer.
  • Devin Miller runs a virtual ministry and is a long-time community convener in St. Paul’s African-American community. He is working to boost forum engagement in Summit-U Rondo, Frogtown and other forums.
  • Hawi Awash just graduated from high school in St. Paul. She is very active in the community. She joined our team and will being doing some special outreach in Highland to the growing Ethiopian and other immigrant communities.
  • Dan Gordon just rejoined our summer team from last year. A Spanish speaker, he will boost our door to door efforts through the summer.
  • Tong Thao works with Frogtown Farms and is making ends meet delivering pizza. He is our Asian-American Forum Engagement lead.

Much like last summer, our summer outreach team, will be going door-to-door in St. Paul to reach out to ALL people and especially working to reach communities of color, immigrants, lower income residents, and others who are vital parts of our community. Every one of them has joined the team because they believe in digital inclusion and civic engagement – and they believe in St. Paul. They believe that St. Paul can be a willingly and joyfully engaged community.

Make sure to check out our About and People page for our most recent list of contract team members and opportunities to get involved.

As of July 22, 2013 – Here is our Outreach and Engagement Team


Cirien SaadehCirien Saadeh, Communications & Outreach Assistant
Cirien is assisting with communications, social media, and outreach logistics and organizing, and is passionate about social justice, particularly racial equity as it relates to sharing our untold stories, “I think it’s really, really important we help people learn how to tell their stories. Storytelling is something we share across all cultures, and it’s through listening to each others’ stories that we create a common language. That’s why E-Democracy is so important. It provides a way for people to learn each others’ stories without having to go to a community meeting set up to support someone else’s agenda.” Cirien graduated with a degree in Political Science in 2012 from St. Catherine University and is a trained community organizer through the Organizing Apprenticeship Project and citizen journalist (video and print) through The UpTake and other projects. In her spare time, Cirien is a martial artist in training, a new gardener, and a writer.

Chia (Chilli) LorChia (Chilli) Lor
Chilli was born in Chiangkham, a Hmong refugee camp in Thailand, and came to the United States with her family at the age of two. She lived in the McDonough Home Projects until 2000 when her family moved to the Greater East Side. She graduated from Central High School and is currently a student at St. Catherine University double majoring in Sociology and Critical Studies or Race and Ethnicity. Her passion for racial justice began with her refugee/immigrant experience and she is a trained community organizer through ISAIAH and TakeAction MN where she interned as a community organizer on the Central Corridor Light Rail Project. “I am a firm believer in grassroots organizing, because only through getting everyone at the table can there be authentic decisions.” As a poet, hip-hop artist, and b-girl (a girl that break dances), Chilli is a huge advocate for using the arts as a tool for social justice. This spring she interned at the Plymouth Youth Center (PYC) Arts and Technology High School where she helped students produce the school’s first school wide Hmong show. She is an active member of the youth group at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church and volunteers as a youth mentor artist with East Side Rising, a project of the Payne Phalen (D5) Planning Council. Chilli co-leads outreach in Payne Phalen, Greater East Side, North End, Dayton’s Bluff and the Asian community.

Pastor Devin MillerPastor Devin Miller
Pastor Miller is a leader in the African American faith community. He is an Ordained Elder of the Church Of God In Christ and an Ordained Minister of the National Baptist Convention, and has worked with several communities and congregations to promote cultural understanding and improve services. “There’s a new generation of media savvy leaders coming up that have not made the connection to the African American communities. There needs to be a bridge, and neighborhood is a place where common interests can bring us together.” Pastor Miller is working to promotes African American forum engagement on the Frogtown, Greater East Side, Summit University Rondo forums.

Donna EvansDonna Evans
Donna is a deeply committed community volunteer. Her most recent efforts include collaborating with Saint Paul City Council members, the Aurora St. Anthony Neighborhood Development Corporation (ASNDC) and neighborhood residents in a successful campaign for three additional Central Corridor LRT stops. She also served on the Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood Advisory Board and volunteered with the Promise Neighborhood high school Solution Action Groups. She has an Associate of Arts in Computer Science. Donna co-leads outreach in central Saint Paul (Frogtown, Summit U, Union Park, and Hamline Midway) and is focusing her efforts in Summit University and Union Park. Donna first joined E-Democracy as a member of the 2012 Summer Outreach Team.

Gloria CastilloGloria Castillo
Gloria was born and raised in Mexico City. She moved to Minneapolis at the age of 12 where she graduated from Roosevelt High School. She went to Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for two years, and is transferring to Minneapolis Community and Technical College to continue her studies. Gloria has been involved in many civic organizations mainly focused on the immigrant community. She helped to organize Dream Act rallies in Minnesota and has marched for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Gloria is passionate about social justice, and happy to be working with E-Democracy this summer to help grow a more connected, collaborative Saint Paul. “It’s very hard for the community to get together. Using the forums is a way for people to build trust among their own neighbors. They help people get along and get things done.” She co-leads outreach in Dayton’s Bluff, West Side, West 7th, and on the Greater East Side, and promotes forum engagement in the Latino community.

John SladeJohn Slade
John is a Minnesota native who has lived in the Twin Cities since 1983. He has been working as a community organizer since 2007, first with the Metropolitan Interfaith Coalition on Affordable Housing and until recently for Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity. “Access to electronic media, the freedom of the internet, and media alternatives are critical to democracy, which is why is so important. Our work helps level the digital playing field.” John has a BA from Macalester College and an MA from the University of Minnesota in Linguistics. He became passionate about social justice as a college student and has worked as an environmental canvasser, union organizer, and media activist. He was a founder of the Twin Cities Independent Media Center (TCIMC) and has been on the board of KFAI Fresh Air Radio (90.3/106.7 FM) since 2006. John co-leads outreach in Dayton’s Bluff, D1, Payne Phalen, and on the Greater East Side.

Siciid AliSiciid Ali
Siciid came to Minnesota with relatives at the age of five, leaving behind his mother and brothers and sisters and the turmoil in Somalia, where his father was killed in the civil war. As the oldest child of a family that eventually grew to include 13 siblings, Siciid began working as a breadwinner at a young age. It was a tough decision to go to college. He recently earned his Masters in Public Administration with a focus in public management from Mankato State University where in 2011 he earned a BA in Urban Planning and a BS in Professional Geography, and obtained certificates in Geographic Information Science and Nonprofit Leadership. He has worked with the Senator Amy Klobuchar’s office, the State Department of Commerce, Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Housing Services, and the Brian Coyle Community Center in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis. From 2008 to 2011 he was a member of the Mankato State University Somali Student Association where served as Vice President and organized annual cultural shows, led community gathering to promote understanding about Somali culture, and mentored Somali students. “I was raised by the community with a lot of mentors. This is my time to give back. The forums are a place where we can talk about our issues and concerns within the community. I am working to get the message out that they are welcoming and can help people find the information they need to accomplish goals and results.” Siciid co-leads outreach in District 1, Union Park, Dayton’s Bluff, and West 7th/Fort Road.

Tong ThaoTong Thao
Tong was born and raised in St. Paul and has been living in Dayton’s Bluff for over 10 years. He discovered his passion for community organizing while working for the Frogtown Neighborhood Association (FNA) and interning with the Local Initiative Support Corporation (LISC) as a Housing Coordinator/Community Organizer. “Community is all about the people. Without the people there is no community, and if the community raises its voice about what they want to see, we can build a stronger community.” Tong is a 2012 graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College where he majored in Geography. He is working to promotes Asian forum engagement on the Dayton’s Bluff, Frogtown, Greater East Side Neighbors, North End, and Payne Phalen forums.


Dan GordonDan Gordon
Dan was raised in Duluth, Minnesota and graduated with a degree in Urban Studies from the University of Minnesota. He’s been involved with organizing campaigns in the Twin Cities for immigrants’ rights, equal access to higher education, and putting an end to police brutality. Having served as a human rights observer in Guatemala, Dan is deeply interested in Latin American politics and global affairs, and has a particular interest in using journalism to tell the stories of people who are marginalized by the mainstream media. Dan is assisting field outreach where needed in year two of his work with us.


Hawi Awash

Biography being drafted …

Neighborhoods USA Presentation – Slides and Video

We had a great time at the Neighborhoods USA conference the other week here in Minneapolis.

We added some general content on email newsletters and Facebook Pages for neighborhood associations presented by Executive Director, Steven Clift and then a nice and condensed version of lessons from our inclusive effort by our Outreach Manager, Corrine Bruning.

Long story short – don’t underestimate the value of neighbors inviting you into their email inbox where you retain full control over when and how you want to communicate with local residents. With Facebook “edgerank” determining whether your updates are actually seen by those who use Facebook regularly, ironically you might find your organization using email to drive viewers to your Facebook Page with the hope of it then being shared with that social ecology.



Video – Part 1 – Opening, Email Newsletters, Facebook Pages – Steven Clift

Small Groups Reports –  available here, but poor sound quality

Video – Part 2 – Inclusive Online Engagement – Corrine Bruning (fast forward to 7:22 to get to Corrine’s main presentation, note that the final 3 minutes are cut off)


One interesting side note – as you can’t see the raising of hands during the in-room survey. It was clear that very few of the neighborhood-focused government civil servants and neighborhood association staff wanted to use their named personal Facebook accounts as part of their public work … except for some the elected officials in the room (of course a third are also blocked from Facebook at work). Facebook terms only allow you to have one account. We think it is vital that staff with community groups and government offices (from the place of worship secretary to the local park director or librarian) should be able to engage the local public online without over exposing their private life online.

One other survey result – while well over half of the room reported “electronic block club” like activity in their community, when I asked if it covered more than 5% of blocks, all but one hand went down. This put the challenge of how we spread online nearest neighbor connecting beyond those block with a communications “maven” or leader.

Hmong American Day…And let us know about your upcoming Twin Cities events!

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This past Sunday members of the E-Democracy Team spent the day tabling and doing outreach at the Hmong American Day event at the Lao Family Community Center in St. Paul. The first part of the day was a memorial service and program dedicated to the Hmong cultural history and the secret war in Laos. The second part of the day was an Open Mic Night with performances from mostly-Hmong youth (and even some members of the E-Democracy team).

There are dozens of upcoming events coming up this summer: fairs, fests, and farmer’s markets. E-Democracy team members are going to be at as many of them as we can, so look out for us! But, as we begin the organizing for our summer outreach plan, there’s a few things you can do to help! Check it out:

1) If you’ve got a neighborhood event coming up, post it on the forums and let people know!
2) If you’ve got an event coming up and you want E-Democracy there to talk how how great a resource and meeting space the forums are and how we can work with you, let your neighborhood forum volunteer, forum engagement leader, or me (Cirien Saadeh) (at know! Make sure to include the whens, wheres, whats, and contact information.

Also, please check out some of the photos and video from the Hmong American Day Open Mic Night below!

Community Outreach Team 2013 – Exciting Summer Work in St. Paul – Deadline May 8

Join our 2013 “BeNeighbors” Community Outreach Team! – APPLY BY MAY 8!

SONY DSCWe are deepening our Knight grant-funded inclusion campaign to grow our St. Paul forums with the greatest diversity possible to over 10,000 members. We’re also planning fundraising to include Minneapolis and other communities in future years.

  • Do you care passionately about building inclusive community?
  • Do you believe commitment to diversity is an important institutional value?
  • Do you want to be part of raising diverse voices?

If so, consider applying for one of 5 part-time, contract outreach positions. These new outreach staff will work both individually and with a team to recruit members for our neighborhood forums primarily among African-American, Southeast Asian, African immigrant, and Latino communities.

Location: Saint Paul with some travel in the Metropolitan Area

Description: Work as part of a team to develop and carry out diverse community outreach. Tasks are likely to include tabling at community events and venues (including outdoor events in sometimes inclement weather), interacting with attendees and/or presenting at neighborhood meetings and events, door knocking and posting flyers, and conducting face-to-face, phone, and online recruitment. The team goal for the summer is to recruit 2,000 new members to the Saint Paul neighborhood forums by focusing efforts on our most highly diverse, low income neighborhoods. Imagine the possibilities for empowering all voices!

Your outreach efforts will be supported by initial training, weekly team debriefs, coordinated outreach strategies and activities, and shared lessons in inclusive outreach and digital technologies. You will also work closely with other E-Democracy staff, contractors and volunteers to develop, refine, and further the goals of the inclusive outreach campaign.

Time Commitment: 12 weeks from late-May through mid-August 2013. Contractors will work 10-20 hours per week and must be flexible, reliable, and able to work mostly late afternoons, evenings, and weekends, sometimes with short notice.

Rate: $12.50/hour. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for all of your own Federal, State, Social Security taxes, and any insurance you choose to carry.


  • Passionate and enthusiastic; positive outlook and willing to lead. Inspires other contractors and volunteers to do high-quality organizing and outreach work
  • Proven ability to work as part of a team. Willing to pitch in to help others with day-to-day project tasks (event logistics, preparing/delivering materials, record-keeping, data entry, etc.).
  • Excellent personal accountability and follow through. Can meet deadlines and manage multiple tasks in a fast-paced work environment; highly flexible and able to handle high-stress situations. Highly self motivated, self directed, and organized.
  • Effective communicator.  Values and fosters open communication; uses and understands the importance of active listening skills, and is an effective public speaker with above-average English-language writing skills.
  • Detail oriented and respectfully work with volunteers
  • Willing to learn and values self-improvement. Able to accept and offer praise and critical feedback; seeks and offers feedback and evaluation.
  • Reliably and consistently available via email and mobile phone
  • Must have reliable transportation to anywhere in the Twin Cities, including ability to haul materials for events and activities

Desired Qualifications and Experience

We are looking for exceptional people who may have talents in the following:

  • Experience or training in leadership development, multicultural outreach and communications, political science, online civic engagement, digital technologies or other related fields
  • Field outreach or organizing in diverse communities (tabling, door knocking, etc.)
  • Bilingual in Hmong, Spanish, Somali,Ethiopian, Burmese, Oromo, etc. (Not required.)
  • Deep connections to the targeted communities in Saint Paul, including involvement in neighborhood/community organizations
  • Proficient with Google Apps, social media, and digital video devices

edemsquarelogoHow to apply: Send a cover letter describing your qualifications and how you heard about the position. Also, attach your resume with three references to by Wednesday, May 8, 2013. We will make the final decision shortly thereafter. Use the subject line: Community Outreach Leader Application. Include any questions in your email. No calls please. For more information, about this effort, please our website, and click on both “Blog” and “About”.

If you see this posting late, check here to see if the position is still open.

E-Democracy builds online public space in the heart of real democracy and community. Our mission is to harness the power of online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities, and build democracy.

¡Junta con tus vecinos por el Internet con E-Democracy! (with English translation)

Last summer Dan Gordon of our summer outreach team wrote this article on BeNeighbors/E-Democracy for La Prensa. Below is the article in Spanish (on La Prensa) and below also in English. Note our BeNeighbors information page in Spanish.

On a related note, we seek Spanish speaking volunteers as well as candidates for our current Latino forum engagement position. In the Summer of 2013, we will have additional outreach positions.


Somali E-Democracy outreach lead with Latin American Native dancers
E-Democracy es una organización con una meta sencilla: crear un espacio en el Internet donde cada barrio puede tener su propio voz, sin costo. Fundado en 1994, hemos crecido poco a poco con la ayuda de donaciones, becas, y voluntarios.

Ya tenemos más de 40 foros sobre Minneapolis y St. Paul, con más de 15,000 vecinos participando. Cada foro es un lugar para discutir cualquier asunto que se aplica a la comunidad. Ahora mismo la mayoría de la conversación es en Inglés, por nos gustaríamos que hay comentarios en Español y cada otro idioma hablado en el barrio. Algunos han tenido éxito en usarlo para encontrar una mascota perdida, otros para anunciar que hay un negocio local nuevo que viene al barrio, y otros para discutir la delincuencia y maneras para combatirlo con otros vecinos.

Somos “E-Democracy” porque creemos que la verdadera “democracia” tiene que empezar con encontrando soluciones locales a los asuntos que todos enfrentamos como vecinos. Por la primera vez, gracias a una beca de la Fundación Knight, tenemos un grupo que está dedicado a hacer alcance comunitaria, para asegurar que nuestros foros representan toda la diversidad de cada barrio.

Hemos pasado este verano tocando puertas, visitando a organizaciones comunitarias, y dando charlas sobre nuestra misión-creando un sitio de web donde todos pueden participarse como iguales. La comunidad Latina representa una gran parte de los barrios en Minneapolis, especialmente en Powderhorn (32%), Phillips (31%), Corcoran (28%), y Whittier (20%). En San Pablo, tenemos el West Side (27%), y Dayton’s Bluff (14%), que también tienen una población muy significante.

Tenemos foros en cada uno de estos barrios, y nuestra esperanza es incluir más voces Latinos en las conversaciones que están tomando lugar sobre su barrio por el Internet. Para inscribirse, sigue a O, si te gustaría ayudarnos con nuestro alcance, contacta a E-Democracy. ¡Bienvenidos a tú barrio de Internet!



Meeting with your neighbors by Internet E-Democracy!

E-Democracy is an organization with a simple goal: to create a space on the Internet where each local area can have its own voice, without cost. Founded in 1994, we have grown gradually with the help of donations, grants and volunteers. We already have more than 40 forums on Minneapolis and St. Paul, with more than 15,000 participating neighbors. Each forum is a place to discuss any matter that applies to the community. Right now most of the conversation is in English, but we may comment in Spanish or any other language spoken locally in the neighborhood. Some have succeeded in using it to find a lost pet, others to announce  a new local business in the neighborhood, and others to discuss crime and ways to combat it with other neighbors.

We are “E-Democracy” because we believe that true “democracy” has to start with finding local solutions to the issues we all face as neighbors. For the first time, thanks to a grant from the Knight Foundation, we have a group that is dedicated to including all, to ensure our forums represent the diversity of each neighborhood. We have spent this summer knocking on doors, visiting community organizations, and giving talks about our mission, creating a web site where anyone can participate as equals. The Latino community is a big part of the neighborhoods in Minneapolis, especially in Powderhorn (32%), Phillips (31%), Corcoran (28%), and Whittier (20%). In St. Paul, we have the West Side (27%), and Dayton’s Bluff (14%), they also have a very significant population. 

We have forums in each of these neighborhoods, and our hope is to include more Latino voices in the conversations that are taking place in your neighborhood by the Internet. To register, follow Or, if you would like to help us with our power, contact E-Democracy. Welcome to your neighborhood Internet!

Join E-Democracy’s 2013 Inclusive Forum Engagement Team!

BeNeighbors Collage


MAR 19 UPDATE: Applications are coming in, but we need your help to spread the word in particular in the Latino and African-American communities.


Be an Inclusive Engagement Leader – Apply Now

We believe in building strong, inclusive and connected neighborhoods. This can happen in many ways like having great public spaces such as playgrounds and trails decorated with public art. This can also happen by creating opportunities for all neighbors to be able to connect with one another and build the kind of community in which they want to live.

Our Neighbors Forums are online spaces where neighbors connect with one another, learn about local events, ideas, or issues they can be involved in and build real community. In Saint Paul, we already have over 7,000 diverse forum members across 17 active online forums focused on different parts of the city.

We are looking for passionate community builders in Saint Paul who are highly skilled in communications and community organizing, and are strongly connected to their cultural communities. We have four contract ~5 hours a week positions for individuals who are interested in bringing these Neighbors Forums to life with community content and dialogue reflecting the great diversity of our neighborhoods.

National statistics on neighbor connecting online demonstrate a huge income gap and some dramatic ethnic gaps in terms of participation. We expressly seek to address that problem by building online and in-person bridges among neighbors from ALL cultural communities as well as immigrants and lower income residents.

Each Engagement Leader will work at the intersection of race/ethnicity and place with a focus on different cultural communities in Saint Paul, including:

  • Latino communities – Focused on the West Side and East Side
  • East African communities – Working primarily on the lower East Side, but also in other areas with concentrations of East African community members
  • Southeast Asian communities – With an emphasis on Frogtown, the North End, and the East Side
  • African American communities – With special attention to Summit-University (Rondo), the East Side and Frogtown

E-Democracy has additional team members involved with general outreach to all community members.

We seek resumes and letters of interest from those who can help us pave the way for multicultural dialogue in these communities.

Position Description

Title: Diverse Communities Forum Engagement Leader

Context: Your efforts will be supported by initial training and regular team meetings, coordinated engagement strategies and activities, and shared lessons in inclusive online engagement and digital technologies. You will work closely with other E-Democracy contractors and volunteers to develop, refine, and further the goals of the inclusive online engagement campaign.

Scope: The Inclusive Community Engagement Online project is primarily focused on the lower income, higher immigrant, and/or highly diverse neighborhoods of Saint Paul, but opportunities can include events and activities throughout Saint Paul as well as in other Twin Cities communities.

Key Roles

  • Intentional content seeding: Join targeted Neighbors Forums as assigned and post information relevant to the cultural communities with significant populations within the forums.
    • Attend community events and share short stories/summaries of the event with photos (with permission) or short YouTube videos; training will be provided.
    • Monitor ethnic press and cultural organization websites and share links to important news and information with the Neighbors Forums with a local connection. Knowledge about Google News Alerts and monitoring web feeds will be useful.
    • Meet with and train cultural organizations and community groups on how to join, post, and generally use the forums to reach out to the community; provide ongoing coaching and support to organization staff, as needed.
    • Build transferable relationships with community organization leaders and staff.
  • Promote community dialogue:
    • Identify and build relationships with diverse forum members initiating conversations to mentor/coach inclusive forum engagement and provide support for overcoming barriers to participation. Identify and promote intentional online discussion topics to promote digital storytelling about community life experiences and happenings across the community.
    • Collaborate with other E-Democracy contractors to provide digital capacity building training/tools to the community.
  • Deepen community engagement:
    • Encourage diverse community members to join area forums of interest.
    • Help the community feel empowered to raise their voices by recruiting volunteers to help build community in their neighborhoods via the forums.

Secondary Activities: Additional activities include field outreach, grassroots organizing, team communications and reporting, project evaluation and lesson sharing. More information will be provided.


  • Highly values personal accountability and reliability. Can meet deadlines and manage multiple tasks in a fast-paced environment.
  • Highly self-motivated, self-directed, and organized. (As part of the contract process we will ask candidates to sketch out a rough work plan.)
  • Excellent written communication skills, preferably with a background in or experience with journalism.
  • Effective communicator. Values and fosters open communication; uses and understands the importance of active listening skills and is an effective public speaker.
  • Bilingual in one of the many languages spoken in Saint Paul, such as Spanish, Somali, or Hmong, and able to connect as a liaison with your primary cultural community.
  • Deep connections to the targeted communities, including involvement in neighborhood, community, or cultural organizations. Applicants with both deep Saint Paul and cultural community connections are strongly encouraged to apply. Residency is not required, but regular and consistent connections to Saint Paul are a preferred.
  • Passionate and enthusiastic; positive outlook and willing to lead. Inspires others to do high-quality work.
  • Deeply believes in the power of community building.
  • Willing to learn and values self-improvement. Able to accept and offer praise and critical feedback; seeks and offers feedback and evaluation.
  • Reliably and consistently available via email and mobile phone.
  • Must have reliable transportation to anywhere in the Twin Cities, including ability to haul materials for events and activities.

Desired Qualifications and Experience
We are looking for exceptional people who may have talents in the following:

  • Experience or training in leadership development, multicultural outreach and communications, political science, online civic engagement, digital technologies or other related fields.
  • Field outreach or organizing in diverse communities (tabling, door knocking, etc.).
  • Proficiency with online technologies, including online forums/social networking, Google Apps, social media, and digital cameras/video devices, uploading video to YouTube, etc., preferred.

Time Commitment: 200 hours from April through December 2013 averaging 5 hours / week over the course of 38 weeks. Contractors must be reliable and able to work on a flexible schedule.

Rate: $15.00/hour. As an independent contractor, you are responsible for all of your own Federal, State, Social Security taxes, and any insurance you choose to carry.

To Apply: Send a statement of interest describing your qualifications and resume with three references to Use the subject line: Inclusive Engagement Leader Application. Be sure to include any relevant work samples and/or links to online content you’ve generated (blog posts, articles, digital media, etc.). Include any questions in your email. No calls please.

Deadline for Applications: We are looking for applications NOW and are conducting interviews in March. However, these positions will remain open until the people with the right skills, community connections, and time availability are found. To apply after March 25, email to ask if there are still openings.

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