E-Democracy’s 2015 Year in Review

E-Democracy’s 2015 Year in Review Highlights





1. Your Neighborhoods/Neighbourhoods

  • We love neighborhoods! – Our strongest Neighbors Forums continue to thrive – from lost dogs being reunited to free stuff to vital community issues being discussed the local communities online movement is spreading – particularly on Facebook Groups – all around the world. Our “how to” lessons with Neighbors Online are useful across all platforms. Our volunteer-based, non-profit, inclusive public space and open source for local communities online remains a unique around the world. In addition to serving our communities, we are a lesson-building test bed and passionate about open sharing. What new ideas do you have for communities online? Share them! Let’s get creative.
  • Twin Cities Participant Survey Released – Amazing insights were shared with all from a whopping 1300 respondents on our blog. 56% credit their forum for being more satisfied with their local community. 79% more informed about community issues, 45% learned more about how to influence community decisions, 32% learned more about neighbors of different races and ethnicity, 22% do more favors for neighbors than before, 41 attend more community events, 42% visit local businesses or hire neighbors for odd jobs more. Over 750 people have reviewed these results and the University of Pittsburgh continues to generate related research from our activities.
  • Finished BeNeighbors.org Report to Knight Foundation – We strongly believe that inclusion is vital including connecting local communities online across race, income, and immigrant/native born is vital. If you would like review our grant report, please contact us. Unfortunately, the venture funded and commercial-based neighbors online connecting efforts with the major resources today are hyper-connecting the most wired and higher income neighborhoods far more than lower income areas. They are not working to intentionally building bridges among diverse communities. We have have many ideas about what is needed to promote more inclusion that is socially essential to counter the exclusive resident-only gated-community approaches so attractive to Silicon Valley investors. Get in touch if you want to help us make those ideas a reality. We will continue to build on our inclusion mission with volunteer capacity in our neighborhoods to show how openness and inclusion works.





2. Your Community

  • Growth – Our community-wide efforts in Framingham and now Westwood in Massachusetts continue to grow. The Saint Paul Issues Forum was a hopping forum this year and the #stpaul15 Election 2015 directory and experimental Local Candidates Facebook Interest List collecting posts from scores of local candidates promotes social media connecting with candidates and elected officials.
  • Our city-wide “online townhall model” – like the Minneapolis Issues Forum – remains an important missing gap for participation in almost all cities. While neighborhoods online is spreading on many platforms, spaces for city-wide civil discussion of happenings in local city councils remains very rare.
  • Open Twin Cities with Code for America – E-Democracy is the proud fiscal agent for one of the world’s best local “Brigades.” With 2 local meetups each month and hackathons, this is a great example of community-wide open government and civic technology innovation.


3. Our Democracies – Local Democracy on up to Worldwide Impact

(These are volunteer or contract revenue generating activities that further support our forums.)

  • Global Convening – E-Democracy’s exciting Open Government and Civic Technology Facebook Group is approaching 5,000 members from 100+ nations. Join in on this global sharing engine. This year we’ve hosted civic tech social gatherings in Washington DC (after our Executive Director met one on one with staff from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy) and Brussels via the “events” feature on the group. Our Democracies Online Newswire email list remains our most powerful knowledge sharing tool and our directory of over 100 e-democracy related online groups remains popular.
  • Taiwan, Philippines, Community of Democracies in El Salvador and more –  E-Democracy’s work and 20 years of e-democracy lessons were shared by our Executive Director Steven Clift as a guest of the U.S. State Department in Taiwan in July. Check out this geekier version of the presentation in video (with Chinese translation). Presentations continued in the Philippines including one to nearly 1,000 students at the City University of Manila. Weeks later, we presented a case study on E-Democracy from our neighbors online work at the 106 nation Community of Democracies conference (a network of national governments promoting democracy). Next up is participation in the World Forum for Democracy hosted by the Council of Europe next week. Steven has been working for the UK-based Knowledge Hub and his 1 Radio News start-up while volunteering for E-Democracy which he co-founded in 1994. These efforts need to be thanked for their flexibility with time spent on E-Democracy.
  • Online Deliberation – E-Democracy finished our report to the Kettering Foundation on lessons from our pilot use of their Common Ground for Action platform for online deliberation. E-Democracy provides contract services where possible as grants for inclusive online civic engagement work have dried up with more focus on technological solutions and open data. E-Democracy remains a people first, technology second organization.
  • Global Civic Tech Collaboration – Contracted by UK-based mySociety.org, E-Democracy led a special three month project to expand online engagement in the Poplus.org civic tech collaboration effort. Unlike most tech projects that under-invest in human-centered outreach and engagement, Poplus.org made engagement a priority. We increased the number of countries represented on the group from 60 to 80 and added 200 new members. Read the exciting round of introductions.
  • YourNextRepresentative – E-Democracy is collaborating with DataMade in Chicago, mySociety in the UK, and Congreso Interactivo of Argentina to deploy YourNextRep for the Minnesota state legislative election early in 2016. This will be the first pilot deployment of the innovative UK YourNextMP project which made candidates for parliament far more accessible online. The crowd-sourced data was so good, Google used it as the semi-official data source of candidate links. Join the Poplus.org online group and/or MN-Politics forum to get involved or contact us.
  • Ideas for Open Government and Inclusion – In our meetings with White House staff, the Sunlight Foundation and others, people have expressed an interest in new data from a census survey of 40,000+ Americans on their Internet use which includes a question on e-government service use. We analyzed the previous survey here and see an opportunity for the “open government” community to better understand who is and is not being reached with government online so we can target our scarce resources to do something about it. Join here and contact us for more information. We are seeking funding to lead a research and dissemination effort building on this just released data (which buried e-gov use in “other”). We also included use of this data in a Knight News Challenge proposal about the “democratic data deficit.” That proposal includes some of our latest thinking about filling the gaps with open government/civic tech/e-democracy that need to be filled.

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


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 BeNeighbors.org 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 PewInternet.org 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.



Facebook-Native Politicians – Slides, Webcast and Live Hangout Q and A Dec. 3/4

Minneapolis City Council Members - Source MinnPost

Are you ready for something completely new?

Introducing the “Facebook Native Politician” … meaning someone on Facebook from their teens or college days now entering elective public office. Facebook user first, politician second.

In my view, Minneapolis has the most exciting 24/7 “Facebook” engaged City Council in the world.

With this embryonic case study, you can decide for yourself, explore the lessons, and adapt them to your community.

This unfolding story is about what happens when you elect seven new city council members with an AVERAGE age of 33 who are Facebook Natives. This is combined with 6 returning council members and a new Mayor who in their own right  are also quite social media savvy and engaged online with their constituents.

This is no longer a story of using social media to gather votes and then going silent once power is gained. This “engagement generation” sees things differently.

You may have heard about #pointergate. Now check out the deeper context of social media engagement in Minneapolis public and political life and join our live online Hangouts and Facebook Group topic to share Facebook engagement stories from your elected representatives around the world.

Image Credit: MinnPost


Watch the snappy half-hour presentation by E-Democracy Executive Director Steven Clift hosted by Involve with the University Westminster’s Centre for the Study of Democracy  (Clift starts at 5:15):

YouTube Preview Image


Google Slides (includes updates)

SlideShare (as of Nov 18 2014):

Blog Posts

About this event/presentation:




UK Engagements 2014 – Consultation Institute, SOCITM, Involve, Norbiton, MozFest, mySociety and more

Steven Clift, our Executive Director, will be visiting the UK on a speaking and engagement tour from October 20-28.

My Facebook Native Councillors presentation starts at 5:10 and goes for 28 minutes:

YouTube Preview Image


While I will not be offering my Neighbors Online seminar on this trip (unless someone would like to sponsor it the morning of Oct 27 or on Oct 28). These current slides and and two earlier video options, one with discussion mixed in and the other with discussion at the end, are available.

Poplus – E-Democracy supports collaborative civic coding, Chicago gathering


PoplusCon Partcipants
PoplusCon participants say, join in!

Special event: Join us in Chicago on Tuesday, August 5 for information session on Poplus and learn about Open Twin Cities and service design as well.

E-Democracy is a big supporter of the global Poplus civic coding federation. In particular, we are gearing up to help with strategic outreach for the highly interactive online group and related committees.

Check our slides from the Chicago event to learn more. Includes short video clips.

New – Video from the Chicago event thanks to the Smart Chicago Collaborative – Forward to 8:22 to skip E-Democracy 1994 mini presentation:

YouTube Preview Image


Below is a guest blog post by Myf Nixon from mySociety about Poplus.

Poplus: reusing code across international borders


All around the world, governments work to different models. The problems that citizens face differ, too. So it’s something of a surprise, perhaps, to realise that their democratic or civic needs can be broadly similar.

In any nation, people benefit from being better informed about what their politicians and rulers are doing on their behalf. In any regime, transparency of information is a boon. And everyone wins when citizens can report problems within their own community.

It is with these broad parities in mind that Poplus was founded. Poplus is a new international initiative to promote the sharing of code and online tools that meet the needs of citizens everywhere.

It was originally conceived by the UK’s mySociety and Fundación Ciudadano Inteligente in Chile, and is now an international federation that is open for anyone to join.

Civic experience

mySociety has been creating civic websites and tools for a decade. During that time, we’ve gained a lot of experience and learned from a lot of mistakes. We knew we could help other groups around the world who were attempting to do the same things we do: hold governments to account, make freedom of information more accessible, and open the channels of citizen to government engagement.

Our code has always been open source and free for anyone to use, but over the past few years we’ve come to realise that this isn’t enough. If we really wanted to help other organisations, that code needed to be supremely easy to install, and it needed to work with as few modifications as possible, no matter what the political landscape.

So in 2012, we partnered up with FCI to create Poplus to tackle this problem face on. Poplus aims to support coders to make Components – bits of interoperable code that should be easy to implement, are non-country-specific, work alone or with one another, and are available open source.

April of this year saw the first Poplus conference in Santiago, Chile. Delegates came from 27 different countries. There was a mix of coders and campaigning organisations, all with differing experiences, differing needs, and a thirst to communicate.


Poplus Conference video round-up

The conference was a great way to kickstart the initiative, putting together people who make code and the people who need it, and then sending them home to every corner of the world, with a mandate to both stay in touch with one another, and help spread the word about Poplus.

Since then, communication has been via a lively mailing list, its members meeting the challenge of shaping an international federation across many different time zones, different languages, and working entirely online.

This network brings us many strengths, so it’s worth overcoming the logistical difficulties.

Global growth

Clearly, with people all around the world we can spread the word about Poplus more quickly. We can learn from one another, and that will feed into making Poplus Components more shareable and usable in every type of jurisdiction. We can tap into translation resources. We can find the local groups who will most benefit from our work because we have people on the ground.

Right now we’re very aware that Poplus is in its infancy. It’s an idea that has a lot of buy-in, and several concrete projects that organisations can start using. We would like to see Poplus grow, with many more Components on offer.

We’d like organisations that need software to come to us, and if there isn’t already a Component that can help, we’d like them to be able to explain their needs to an ever growing pool of coders, some of whom might take up the challenge of making it.

Everyone is welcome to join Poplus, whether you are a coder, an organisation that would benefit from using code, or just someone who is very interested and would like to help. The first step is to join our mailing list and introduce yourself.

– Guest blog from Myf Nixon, mySociety

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 “BeNeighbors.org” 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

Sharing Lessons – New Voices: Civic Technology, Neighbors Online, and Open Government – Video and Slides

E-Democracy hit the road to share lessons widely as we closed out an amazing 2013.

In a recent trip to New York hosted by the UNDP with outreach via betaNYC, Steven Clift went in-depth on raising new voices with civic technology. Thanks to Joly MacFie with the Internet Society New York for sharing this video. To join a future online event/teleconference Q and A discussion on these topics, indicate your interest here.

The slides are available here with active links. As noted in the video, here are the civic technology investment and civic technology and inclusion/justice discussions from the Code for America Brigade forum.


For a slightly more concise presentation (where the questions came at the end), watch this version from Finland. It was part of a four city European speaking tour.

Stories from the Sidewalk, November 2013

Stories from the Sidewalk

Message from E-Democracy – Donate Now!

Steven Clift, Executive Director and Cirien Saadeh, Communications & Outreach Assistant

Nonprofits all over the state today are participating in GiveMN’s “Give to the Max Day.” E-Democracy is joining them as we get ready to launch our year-end giving campaign. This comes right on the heels of a great weekend at CityCampMN 13 and the ensuing hackathon. E-Democracy is coming up on its 20-year anniversary. It started as the nation’s first election information website, and now has over 20,000+ members on its neighborhood forums, building community every day.

Many of you probably use the forums and do not realize the costs associated with making E-Democracy the organization and website that it is. In this year alone, we hired eight part-time staff members to knock on doors and engage individuals on the forums. At the same time, we filled out our core team to include part-time technology and development coordinators. We’ve also worked hard to make sure we have the best volunteer team around, keeping the forums active and safe places for online community-life exchange. A pat on the back to all who make E-Democracy tick!

Organizations like E-Democracy run on the bread & butter of individual donations, from $10, $25 to $50. While those individual donations may seem small, they add up, and moving forward they need to grow to become the most important part of our annual budget.

Today, Give to the Max Day, marks a new beginning for E-Democracy. Get connected to our social media, (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) and watch for our year-end giving campaign! Our 2013 goal is to reach 100 donors by the end of the year. Please check out the video above for a little inspiration on why to give to E-Democracy!

If you didn’t already know, you can always give here.

Digital Inclusion

This past week, E-Democracy and Open Twin Cities took inclusive online civic engagement to a whole new level at CityCampMN 13: Engaging Civic Innovations where active citizens and community organizers from highly diverse communities joined digital technologists and government leaders in a day of exploring how data applications can help us build stronger neighborhoods. We ended day one with the broadly diverse audience doing “ideation” for the more deeply tech crowd coming on day two. Developers loved not having to think up ideas in isolation.

Check out photos from both CityCampMN 13 and the hackathon, and watch this brief photo slideshow!

Click here to support the work of OTC!

Media Coverage


Stories from the Forums

A yellow lab was found outside of the Seward Co-op in the Seward neighborhood …now reunited. Check out the exchange here! There is also a lost cat in St. Paul’s Hamline-Midway that could use your help.

In Frogtown, Cycles for Change is looking to hire 3-5 young women to take part in a bike-related apprenticeship. Details here.

And on November 14th, there is a discussion on housing and crime issues being hosted by the Payne-Phalen District 5 Planning Council. More details here.

Nuts & Bolts

We make donating easy!

You can make a tax-deductible donation to E-Democracy and help build democracy in three easy steps:

  1. Visit our donate page
  2. Choose whether you’re going to donate via GiveMN, PayPal, or through mailing a check!
  3. Donate what you can!

And voila! You’ve helped build digital democracy and your neighborhood in less than two minutes!


A big thank you and a huge round of applause to our outreach staff who are completing their last weeks with E-Democracy. Since the first week of June, a handful of outreach staff have knocked on thousands of doors and attended dozens of events, inviting neighbors to join the forums and online community.

Please join us tonight at Sweeney’s in Saint Paul, 96 Dale Street North, 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.

Welcome to E-Democracy!

Get Started!

♦  As a forum member

♦  Start a forum in your neighborhood!

♦  E-Democracy help desk

Be Sociable, Share!

Submit feedback about Stories from the Sidewalk to news@e-democracy.org

CityCampMN 2013 – Engaging Civic Innovations – Unconference Sat. Nov. 9 – St. Thomas Minneapolis Campus

 CityCampMN 2013 Live – Photos, News, Links

CityCampMN 2013

Engaging Civic Innovations

CityCampMN is our region’s unconference* for passion-fueled, technology-enhanced civic ideas and solutions.

Join us to connect active citizens, community leaders, technologists, and government officials for a day of learning, discussing, and imagining how to use technology to strengthen communities and create more open government.

Bring your ideas, energy, voice, diverse perspectives, and skills. Everyone is welcome.

  • When:  9 AM – 4 PM, Sat., Nov. 9th, 2013, Reception 4-6 PM
    See below for optional day two civic hackathon at DevJam.
  • Where:  University of St. Thomas – Minneapolis Campus, Schulze Hall
  • RSVP: Register Here – We expect ~150 participants
  • Ticket Options:  $10 Guaranteed Spot, Open Donation, or Free (Lottery, as space is limited) – All include free lunch and appetizers and at least one drink at the reception.


Participants provide the unconference session topics. Propose a topic online now or at the event. Those who show up, drive each topic. For those new to CityCamp, topics may include:

  • open government

  • civic technology apps

  • open data,  visualization and analytics

  • tech for social justice and equity

  • neighbors online

  • digital youth empowerment

  • online engagement

  • digital journalism

  • civic hacking and maker projects

  • digital inclusion

  • social media for good

  •  your new idea here!

*What’s an Unconference??

An unconference is the dynamic, informal exchange of information and ideas among participants.

This is CityCampMN’s second installment of the wildly popular CityCamp “unconference” series taking off in places like London, San Francisco, and Buenos Aires.

In short, the coffee break becomes the conference – with some structure, of course:

  1. Everyone rapidly introduces themselves with just three words about their interests/why they came
  2. Participants pitch session topics (building on online proposals)
  3. Popular “Ignite-style,” six-minute presentations will be back and expanded
  4. Behind the scenes, ideas are sorted into break-out sessions, each session will have a discussion chair
  5. Discussion sessions galore – In 2011, we had over 125 participants with nearly 30 ~45 min breakout sessions throughout the day
  6. New – One minute breakout summaries shared with all, recorded for the world
  7. New – End day with “Ideation” launch for the optional, day two hackathon (see below)
  8. New – Reception/Celebration

You are the engine for change and innovation!   Register now.

 CityCampMN Hackathon – A Hack for MN Mini-Camp/Workday – Sunday

Hack for MNThe following day, Sunday Nov. 10th, Open Twin Cities will hold a civic hackathon at DevJam Studios in S. Minneapolis to “code” upon the issues and ideas discussed at CityCampMN.

To RSVP for the hackathon, simply answer ‘Yes’ when asked when you register for CityCampMN.

Like all civic hackathons, this event is open to everybody who has passion for their community and an idea and/or desire to make it stronger. You need not be a software developer, designer, etc. to participate and share hands-on value.

The “ideation” phase for Sunday’s hackathon will start at CityCampMN.

 Thank You Sponsors 

CityCampMN is organized by E-Democracy and Open Twin Cities. Open Twin Cities is a Code for America Brigade partnered with E-Democracy.

Contact E-Democracy (fiscal agent) for sponsorship details.  Sponsor CityCampMN, Open Twin Cities, and Hack for MN in one simple package for the next year.

Gold Sponsors

Knight Foundation 

University of St. Thomas



Lockridge Grindal Nauen Attorneys at Law


Code for America

Silver Sponsors

Ben Damman


More sponsors to come! Contact E-Democracy for information.See our full Sponsors page for all our sponsors and list of individual boosters.A special thanks goes to the University of St. Thomas for venue sponsorship and Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP for sponsoring our combined CityCampMN/White House Champions of Change reception and celebration.Schulze Hall


CityCampMN is hosted by E-Democracy and Open Twin Cities                 E-Democracy.org Logo        Open Twin Cities


After You Register

  • Share your ideas for small group break-out sessions here or rate the ideas (soon) submitted by others.

  • Join the global ongoing online  CityCamp Exchange  to connect with others

E-Democracy News: Stories from the Sidewalk, September 2013 – Minnesota Edition

Stories from the Sidewalk


Stories from the Forums
—Dayton’s Bluff Home Repairs

In June, Olga, an elderly and disabled woman living alone in the Dayton’s Bluff had water leaking into her basement due to faulty gutters, but she had no money to hire someone to take care of the problems. On June 11th, her neighbor, Lorri Barnett, posted to the Dayton’s Bluff Neighborhood Forum asking for assistance locating community resources that might help Olga with the repairs. Ben Greiling, a fellow forum member with experience in rehabilitating houses, offered to stop by to see what he could do. Within a few days, Ben, along with another E-Democracy forum member, spent four hours realigning the gutters to stop water from leaking into the basement. They also patched Olga’s front step, tightened a sink faucet, fixed a handrail, and repaired a dryer vent.

This story is a great example of how E-Democracy’s Neighbors Forums impact communities and connect neighbors for the common good.

All across our forums, stories like this are being shared and we’d love to hear yours. Share your story by emailing it to stories@e-democracy.org. You can also support your forum by making a donation on our GiveMN page.

Becoming a Community

Cirien Saadeh, Communications & Outreach Coordinator

Forum Engagement Leader Pastor Devin Miller connects online to help the neighborhood move forward in a positive direction.

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.

After the story on Ray Widstrand hit the press, the 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.

It’s empowering to think about how our neighborhoods use the forums to meet, discuss and plan, and communicate about our shared responsibilities to each other. I say this because I want to leave you with one last thought: the BeNeighbors Forums provide shared opportunities, what are you going to do with them?

Learn more about the Payne Phalen response on our blog.

Digital Inclusion Update—Open Twin Cities is Gaining Momentum

Bill Bushey, E-Democracy Technology Coordinator and Open Twin Cities Co-Founder

Formed October 2012, Open Twin Cities is coming up on its one-year anniversary …and it’s been a busy year!

Monthly Meetups started in January. In February, Open Twin Cities organized the Twin Cities Open Data Day. In April, co-founder Bill Bushey presented at Minnebar and GovDelivery sponsored his participation in CityCamp Kansas City. In May, thanks to sponsorship by the Sunlight Foundation, Bill presented at TransparencyCamp in Washington, D.C. and Open Twin Cities promoted and participated in CURA’s data visualization and neighborhood-focused hackathon event, Visualizing Neighborhoods. June was a big month, with Open Twin Cities organizing HackforMN, which gathered 75 participants at DevJam and resulted in 13 projects.

See the energy at HackforMN!(Thank you Knight Foundation)

In the Works

Open Twin Cities recently announced the distribution of an Open Data questionnaire to Minneapolis Mayoral and City Council candidates and launched the Eventbrite page for CityCampMN – November 9, 2013 (location to be determined).

Come one, come all!

Open Twin Cities strives to develop inclusive solutions to open government by:

  1. Strengthening collaboration with the local government deepening government connections to the local civic technology community, and
  2. Tapping into the local talent of diverse populations for inclusive technology development to address community needs.

Sample OTC Projects

Too often, civic projects are undertaken without inviting the community—the people the projects are intended to serve. CityCamps are unconferences focused on issues at the intersection of technology, government, and community. CityCampMN is an opportunity for you to have your voice heard. Come join us!

E-Democracy seeks to demonstrate that all communities, regardless of income and diversity, can be part of an integrated neighbors online revolution. We focus on less represented groups within our most highly diverse neighborhoods to create inclusive online spaces where neighbors can collaborate to improve neighborhoods, spark community problem solving, and build healthy communities.

Watch for a forthcoming announcement about OTC becoming an official CfA Brigade!

How to Get Involved

Corrine Bruning, Outreach Manager

A key component that sets E-Democracy apart from others doing online neighbor connecting is our intensive outreach. “Outreach” can be defined as “an activity of providing services to populations who might not otherwise have access to those services” (Wikipedia). Our services are for everyone in a community. The main service E-Democracy strives to provide is online neighborhood level forums/listservs for neighbors to connect with each other, help inform each other about local issues or events, share resources, and work together to build stronger communities. We do our outreach work because we feel the whole community deserves access to this resource that we truly believe has the ability to empower people to be local changemakers.

We invite you and everyone in the community to use this service as your own local changemaking tool. We’ll be sharing posts of the day from our network via Twitter and sharing stories in this newsletter to help everyone see examples of how the forums can be used. Here’s some ideas on how to use these spaces:

  1. Did your cat sneak past you at the door again? Post to the forum and you’ll have a local group of people to help you find your pet.
  2. Start a gardening group or neighborhood kickball team for the kids
  3. Let neighbors know about your small business and invite them to check it out
  4. Discuss a local issue
Get to know Outreach Manager, Corrine Bruning


Donor Spotlight

E-Democracy would like to thank the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative for their $20,000 grant to support our BeNeighbors program in Central Corridor neighborhoods.

Through this grant support E-Democracy will:

  • Grow our forum membership directly along the Central Corridor to at least 4,000 members
  • Stimulate Central Corridor-related exchange on our Cedar Riverside forum (with over 600 members already), with hundreds of East African participants
  • Help ensure that all communities in the Central Corridor are able to benefit from online neighborhood engagement playing a vital role in shaping their area’s future and civic agenda

The Central Corridor Funders Collaborative is a group of local and national funders that strongly supports the Central Corridor Light Rail Line because it offers opportunities to strengthen the regional economy and make the adjacent neighborhoods better places to live, work and access opportunity. They work with local resident organizations, community groups, nonprofit and business coalitions, and public agencies to create and implement corridor-wide strategies aimed at ensuring the adjoining neighborhoods, residents, and businesses broadly share in the benefits of public and private investment in the Central Corridor Light Rail Line.

On the Blog

Upcoming Events

  • October 16: Virtual Roundtable on New Voices and Civic Engagement in the Digital Age, 1:00 PM (EDT) (RSVP here)
  • November 9: City Camp MN, 9:00AM-8:00PM (Register here)
  • December 10-12: MN IT Symposium – Open Twin Cities member Colin Lee and co-founder Bill Bushey will be presenting on The Future of Grassroots Innovation. (Sneak preview)

Nuts & Bolts

Many of our forum members are new to technology—and that’s okay!

You will get so much more from your participation in your Neighbors Forum if you post a message to ask a question, share some information, or reply to a neighbor.

How to post a message:

To post, simply send an email to your forum’s email address from the email account you used when you registered with E-Democracy.org. Your forum’s email address can be found at the bottom of every email message or at the top of the Topics column on the right side of your forum’s home page. You can find your forum here.

To reply, simply use the “Reply to All” option on any email message from your forum.

Check here for more details on how to post using the website.

How to check, change, or update your email address:

  1. Log in to E-Democracy.org at http://forums.e-democracy.org/login.html
  2. Click on your profile link in the upper right-hand corner
  3. Click on “Change Email Settings” to the left

If you have difficulty logging in or resetting your password or you are not getting messages from your forum, or for any other help, contact our support staff at support@e-democracy.org

Message from E-Democracy

Steven Clift, Executive Director and Cirien Saadeh, Communications & Outreach Assistant

Much has happened since our first newsletter last month. National Night Out 2013 was a huge highlight, with almost 200 new members joining our BeNeighbors forums in Saint Paul. Our outreach continues this fall with some extended door knocking along the Central Corridor thanks to the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative.

Community Partners CornerWelcome St. Paul Public Schools!
Saint Paul Public Schools

We are pleased to announce that we are now an official partner of the St. Paul Public Schools. The City of St. Paul and St. Paul Neighborhood Network are official BeNeighbors.org partners. (Learn more about partnering.)

This month’s newsletter theme is “Back to Fall, Back to School, Back to E-Democracy.” We’ve worked hard all summer to build a stronger community and participation. As our fall routines settle down, we hope that engagement on the forums, this community newsletter, our upcoming, easier-to-use website design (sample), and our Digital Inclusion Resource Guide will make your fall that much more community-based and connected.

The Neighbors Forums are your tools to use, so whether it’s a community event to promote, a neighborhood news update, or a local issue to discuss, we would love to see you join your fellow neighbors in creating even more empowered community through open and inclusive communication.

In the last 12 months compared to the previous year, posts to our St. Paul Neighbors Forums are up 252% to 5,722.

Watch out Minneapolis, here comes Saint Paul!

Welcome to E-Democracy!

Get Started!

♦  As a forum member

♦  Start a forum in your neighborhood!

♦  E-Democracy help desk

Be Sociable, Share!

Submit feedback about Stories from the Sidewalk to news@e-democracy.org