August 2009 E-Democracy News — From the Executive Director

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From the Executive Director

Have you exchanged e-mail addresses with your neighbor?

That was my question to attendees at the Personal Democracy Forum in New York and later at the National Civic Summit in Minneapolis.

While many in the e-democracy field are legitimately quite excited about the Open Government Dialogue hosted by the White House in June, I am concerned and surprised that the federal government might be leap-frogging state and local government with their willingness to use interactive social media.

I had the opportunity to represent local “e” democracy builders at a dynamic event called Strengthen Our Nation’s Democracy 2 where the leading “democracy movement” organizations huddled to develop top priority strategies to move participation, deliberation, information access and transparency, and electoral reform forward in the near term.

I was pleasantly stunned when event guest and White House official Beth Noveck recognized the “pioneering work” of E-Democracy.Org in her remarks and used the phrase “e-democracy movement” many times. I guess the “e” is appropriate noting her position as the Deputy Chief Technology Officer for Open Government. Later I noted to conference attendees that the “d” in e-democracy is what matters most (as I took a victory lap in my mind).

Let’s get back to our neighborhoods. Here are a few important items:

1. Go Frogtown – With a small outreach grant that we received, we’ve focused this summer on the launch of the Greater Frogtown Neighbors Forum. We contracted with college student Marny Xiong to lead grass roots outreach this month. Look for her video explaining the forum in Hmong (at least 40% of Frogtown’s population is Asian American). See our blog for outreach lessons you can use in your community.

2. More Neighborhoods – We are going deep now instead of wide. Inspired in part by Frogtown publicity, two new neighborhood forums have been proposed by volunteers in St. Paul and three more are in the pipeline in Minneapolis taking our base from six forums to 11 Issues Forums at the neighborhood level. As part of early stages “Participation 3.0” exploration, we are also recruiting hyper local places to pilot members-only electronic block clubs. Stay tuned.

3. Help Run our Donation Drive – We are looking for someone over the next few months to help coordinate an effort to actively seek donations from our participants and supporters. Someone based in the Twin Cities/Minnesota is preferred since that is where we will focus first. One idea is to organize house parties in all our forum communities to celebrate our 15th Anniversary in addition to promoting online donations. Now is the time for existing forums to cover the roughly $10US/per participant/year through donations, sponsorship, advertising, local government service fees (UK), and other ongoing revenue. The more we grow within our existing communities (members and new neighborhood forums), the lower the revenue needed per participant.

The hard fact is that despite the fact that 90% of the labor required to support your forum is volunteer, we have actual and growing participant support and technology costs.  As established communities contribute their fair share, we will again be able to justify further special outreach efforts to help grow and improve existing forums and expand into new completely new areas because the math adds up. If you want to learn more about this paid opportunity to assist us on a part-time contract, drop me a note and I’ll share the details:

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