Connect with E-Democracy’s Steven Clift Across Europe – Nov 25 – Dec 2 2013


Now that CityCampMN and Give to the Max Day are behind us, I (Steven Clift) can focus intensively on preparing for a ten day speaking trip across Europe. This all started with an invite to participate in the World Forum and then others stepping forward to sponsor additional stops and gatherings. I am grateful.

These wonderful invitations provide an opportunity to both share lessons from our inclusive civic technology work and synthesize some “it really matters” trends combined with big big questions challenging us to ensure that open government/civic technology/e-democracy actually make democracy BETTER and fundamentally embrace all by engaging new voices.

For the next week via my Democracies Online Newswire (and other online spaces) and @democracy Twitter account you will see me reaching for examples and reactions – I fundamentally believe that the intelligence is in the network, but sometimes it needs the right questions to spark an outpouring of insightful conversation.


This trip is sort of a “back to the future” experience for me. Prior to my Ashoka Fellowship in 2006 and grant support from the Ford and Knight Foundations, I used to use speaking and consulting to support E-Democracy’s then all-volunteer network. One of my goals with the embryonic New Voices Working Group exploration is to develop funded programming that will bolster E-Democracy’s convening role that remains informed by cutting edge online civic technology work in the field like our effort. We see this as a grounded one-two punch for the future of democratic engagement online.



Webinar Monday – Nov. 1 Webinar – Social media use by local government in the US: What are the hurdles to doing it well?

Watch the webinar or listen to the full event in MP3 format. See the source blog post from the webinar host Griff Wigley for additional details.

Slides used by Steven Clift,, Executive Director:

CROSS-POSTED: By Griff Wigley

Nov. 1 Webinar – Social media use by local government in the US: What are the hurdles to doing it well?

With my civic and business hat on, I’m hosting a free webinar on social media use by local government on Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT. It will feature:

* A tour of several local government websites (primarily cities in the US) to see some best practices of how social media tools (blogs, web forums, email lists, webinars, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, etc.) are being used to enable more transparency and engagement.
* A discussion about the hurdles that local government officials face when implementing the use of social media.

The panelists (all bloggers), all have some Northfield connections:

* Betsey Buckheit, Councilor, City of Northfield, MN
Prior to her election in 2008, Betsey served on Northfield’s Charter Commission, Planning Commission, Non-Motorized Transportation Task Force, and Library Board. She’s been a Humphrey Institute Public Policy Fellow and part of the Blandin Community Leadership Program. See her Council news, local issues, and public policy blog here.
* Steven Clift, founder and Executive Director,
Steve is also a speaker and consultant on e-democracy and was the guy who brought the UK e-gov delegation to Northfield in 2004 (hosted at the Contented Cow) and a field trip to Northfield for the International Symposium on Local E-Democracy in 2005 (hosted at the Cow and the Archer House). See his Democracies Online (DoWire) blog here.
* Scott Neal, City Manager, City of Eden Prairie, MN
Scott was Northfield’s City Administrator from 1996-2002. His last day at Eden Prairie is today. He begins his new job as City Manager for Edina, MN on Nov. 8. See his Eden Prairie City Manager blog here.

Please register for the free webinar on social media use by local government for Monday, Nov. 1, at 8 PM CDT.

If you’re unable to attend, the webinar will be recorded and archived on the web.

Got questions or comments? Attach a comment here or contact me.

Real Names – The View Shared with BBC Radio 4 and more

BBC Radio 4 LogoBBC Radio 4 LogoThe other day I had the privilege of participating in a debate on BBC Radio 4’s You and Your’s program about anonymity in online commenting. Have a listen.

At the Guardian’s Active conference I asked, why major online news sites are so content with empowering the angriest people in society with the design of their online news commenting systems. I am personally most interested in the local level where I see the mainstream media with online news commenting essentially promoting division and discord by intent online in local communities. They are not reflecting a conflicted society, they are giving mega phones to the 1% on the extremes and allowing the other 98% of us to be driven away. At some point I hope media sites begin to survey their communities on the damage to their own reputation for poor stewardship of online interactivity. Our own experience is that simply promoting real names as the default (and I recommend pre-moderating those unwilling or unable to stand behind their words with their real name) deals with 80% of the incivility problem.

While I certainly oppose government requirements that people must use their real names online, I strongly encourage democratically spirited organizations to promote real names because it gives people far more power and influence not to mention making online spaces more attractive with greater civility. Facebook is eating the interactive lunch of online news sites stuck in the 20th Century of “no one knows you are a dog” online. That said, I don’t care if World of Warcraft uses aliases or real names (link to Guardian article that tipped off the BBC).

Update: Listen to my interview on the Guardian’s podcast starting at minute 14:00.

Bristol Wireless

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

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

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

Bristol Wireless Lab

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

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

    LISTEN: Bristol Wireless

    Issues Forums – Our Training in Estonia, Slides from Finland, Podcast from Denmark, and a Picture from the Netherlands

    The other month I prepared an hour and a half in-depth training on how to set up and run a local Issues Forum for a seminar in Estonia organized by the e-Governance Academy.

    The new slides (6MB) are now up along with the full 90 minutes of audio (mostly in English).

    I also managed to stop in Finland, Denmark, and the The Netherlands on the way home where I also presented on Issues Forums.

    In Denmark, I appeared on national Danish radio’s Hard Disk program. My interview starts after an introduction in Danish.

    In the Netherlands, I connected with e-democracy giants Tom Steinberg, with UK-based mySociety and Steven Lenos, with the Dutch Instituut voor Publiek en Politiek to advise the Dutch government on e-participation possibilities (there is a lot going on the Netherlands all ready.)

    Here they are checking out the amazing city hall from a distance in The Hague.

    Tom Steinberg and Steven Lenos

    Tom Steinberg and Steven Lenos

    St. Paul E-Democracy creates their first PODCAST

    As part of their outreach efforts at the Rondo Community Outreach Library, St. Paul E-Democracy volunteers are trying to demonstrate the power of various digital media tools and how easy they are to use. Last week, three SPED volunteers (Kevin Marshall, Marc Trimble, and Tim Erickson) recorded and published the first SPED Report, a podcast recorded at the library.

    Download the Podcast here:

    St. Paul E-Democracy – Rondo Outreach

    Podcasting 9/3/06 Members of St. Paul E-Democracy have launched an outreach program at the newly opened Rondo Community Outreach Library, in St. Paul. Every week, volunteers from St. Paul E-Democracy sit at a table answering questions about the internet and showing folks how they can use digital tools to voice their concerns.

    In addition, they have scheduled weekly workshops on topics ranging from “how to set-up and e-mail account,” or “how to find things on the internet,” to “the power of digital video.”

    At least once a month, SPED volunteers hope to make a podcast in the library. Ideally working with library patrons or local youth. Check out our first attempt, the SPED REPORT, a podcast about basic blogging.

    The SPED Outreach Committee hopes to bring new voices into the St. Paul Issues Forum, but that is not its main purpose. The primary goal of the effort is familiarize St. Paul residents, with limited internet experience, on the many ways that they can use digital tools (including the internet) to improve their lives and become more engaged in the community.

    E-Debate Audio Rebuttals Test Telephone to MP3 Recording

    E-Democracy.Org is allowing Gubernatorial candidates to share their four major theme rebuttals in audio recorded via a telephone a service.

    Listen in as I explain how it works. [audio:]

    PhoneBlogz post by E-Democracy

    This is what the PhoneBlogz tool allows us to do.  We will use it to collect e-debate rebuttals.  We could also use it to gather other audio voter guide type content with volunteer interest.

    A PhoneBlogz message has been left by E-Democracy! Click here to listen to it! Flash movie looks like this: [audio:]