Â May 2009Â
Volume 1, IssueÂ 5Â
Volunteer of the Month: Sara Bergen
Local issues forum managers are perhaps the most unsung of the unsung heroes in online civic engagement. The task requires tremendous commitment, time and dedication. And volunteer Sara Bergen recently took the level of commitment to a whole new level, following the birth of her third son.
Bergen is the manager of the Powderhorn Neighborhood forum in Minneapolis. With a background in community planning, she began the group on Yahoo! nearly two years ago and moved the forum to E-Democracy.Orgâ€™s platform during a recent push to expand neighborhood forums in Minneapolis.
Bergen and the forumâ€™s steering committee have cited goals focusing on connecting residents, building community relationships, and giving the community a voice in decision-making. In addition, the group commits to making the forum a place that is reflective of the community at-large â€“ religiously, ethnically, and socio-economically.
E-Democracy.Org Board Chair David Woolley also serves on the forumâ€™s steering committee. Woolley said he didnâ€™t know Sara prior to the creation of the Yahoo! neighborhood group. He described her ability to manage any issues that arise on the forum as graceful and even-handed. He said she is intelligent, cheerful, friendly, and open-minded. And she employs a strategy while managing the forum that calms tempers, â€œa great talent to have,â€ Woolley said.
Every forum needs a booster, and Woolley noted Bergenâ€™s ability to highlight the forumâ€™s value to the larger community. â€œOn election day last November, she took the opportunity to spend a few hours at the local polling place with her clipboard, talking to people about the neighborhood forum and getting quite a few of them to sign up for it,â€ he said.
And Bergen has shown she wonâ€™t let anything get in the way of making sure the forum runs smoothly â€“ not even childbirth. As she was resting following her sonâ€™s birth recently, she was checking email and assuring other E-Democracy.Org volunteers that she had her eye on the forum and ready to jump in if necessary. Now thatâ€™s dedication!