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From E-Democracy.org

Back to Participation 3.0

From our now dated detailed discussion draft, this rough list illustrates potential of next generation online civic engagement features for local communities.

A completely new and updated list will be generated in the first quarter of 2010 based on an initial round of input and convening, but this will connect you with our thinking.


Features:

Possible core Phase One features:

1. Social networking style registration built from geographic location

Each (Issues Forum) participant will have a "public life" profile page and tools they can use to encourage others to join them (people will be able to participate directly online or connect via interfaces like Facebook or their iPhone). Based on personal distance preferences people will choose to be displayed in a private Neighbors Directory accessible to their verified neighbors (~automatic "Friending" in social networking speak based on proximity) where the technology is designed to build new connections and social capital among neighbors.

2. Electronic block clubs

Actively support private group communication among those who live very near one another - key features will support the ability of a block captain or motivated person to organize their block online and use this tool to solve the number one challenge of block leaders: communication This and item 3 below will be the initial engine for public interest and participation. Phase two features might include integration of telephone-based options to reach across the digital divide to ensure the most important alerts get to all.

3. Neighbor forums and exchange

These public online spaces support a broad range of hyper-local exchange building on E-Democracy.Org's 15 years of Issues Forum experience - from discussions of local public issues to community problem-solving to neighborly exchange on local service providers, this is the first level of "public" or visible to all exchange. In terms of revenue generation, sponsorship and online advertising options may have the greatest potential at this level based on current E-Democracy.org trends.

4. Issues Forums

Community-wide, Multiple languages - Enhance the classic E-Democracy.org online townhall with additional social media approaches and citizen journalism/media. Options for regional/state-wide Hmong, Somali, and Spanish language (e.g. Minnesota Somali Civic Forum) Issues Forum are being discussed with potential partners to create a place for local and state public issues discussions that complement efforts for inclusive outreach to those constituencies for neighbor forums in diverse areas as well. The real name, civility-based Issues Forum model stands in stark contrast to anonymous online news commenting that are designed to bring out the worst in people and promote unaccountable conflict and divisiveness in local communities. A Phase Two extension could syndicate forum hosting (including cost-effective volunteer facilitation and community self-governance) for branded use by smaller media organizations looking to host higher quality exchange with far reduced staff burdens or new technology costs.

5. Community Solutions Tool

The ability to "do something" using integrated tools for small groups to take a discussion and get organized to act. The key approach to promote is direct public service and voluntarism, rather than typical NIMBY eadvocacy which is well supported across the Internet. These tools will be useful in both the civic "input" and collaborative "output" use among stakeholders working to jointly address a public challenge (e.g. affordable housing, greening the neighborhood, graffiti removal, etc.). This may be a prime example for coordinated use of a third-party tool. We bring the participatory audience and we leverage free to use commercially provided tools.

6. Community Survey and Consultation Platform

An innovative "open sourcing" of online surveys weighted for greater representative value based on broad participation and securely held demographic information volunteered by survey participants (building on the successful Issy, France online citizen panel model). Government and community organizations will be able to field surveys in a cost-effective manner. The public themselves will have the opportunity nominate and vet questions for public surveys with access to thousands of respondents. In addition to the survey tool, the technology used for "Issues Forums" will be adapted to encourage organizationally sponsored and structure online consultation sessions on key issues, draft reports, yearly "town hall" special events, etc. Online "participatory budgeting" exercises outside the U.S. in particular offer insight into the structuring and hosting of online consultations.

Phase Two - Additional opportunities with specific budget resources/funder interest:

1. Who Represents Me Look-up and How to Get Involved Wiki Guide

Note: Being explored in 2010 here Who Represents Me.

A layer of objective citizen-centric advice on how to effectively participate. This will include a dynamic directory of all elected officials and appointed members of area local government committees, commissions, and task forces, etc. with advice on how to effectively participate. Despite all of the web sites providing details on state legislators on up, we are aware of no such site that covers the smaller local offices in an integrated manner. Our directory will include links into "Web 2.0" options including Wikipedia entries, FaceBook profiles/fan pages, and other places where community leaders are meeting the people outside of their official online "office." This idea would be intensively piloted within a specific community.


2. Community Task Force Engagement - An online toolkit for "transparent" use by government, neighborhood associations, and other community-based task forces that provides deep public access to all documents, links to webcasts, and support for completely public and transparent information exchange among members with options for public input. The system would be designed to tackle concerns about private email exchange among members of public bodies and open meeting laws by creating a fundamentally accessible and transparent system that takes the spirit of such laws to a new level of openness.

3. PublicMeetings.Info

Note: Being explored in 2010 here Public Meetings.

A community meeting notices, agendas, and webcasts directory system that leverages government meeting calendars and integrates neighborhood associations and others into a comprehensive meeting awareness and participation tool. The system will provide e-notification options for tracking, asking questions about, and commenting on agenda items at public meetings. In addition to on-demand webcast links, low cost audio webcasting leveraging incumbent conference room teleconferencing equipment will be explored to make it economically feasible to webcast/digitally record any or every public meeting (particularly those that don't justify the cost of video staffing). A prototype system for gathering (customized "scraping") public meeting information enhanced with geographic/jurisdiction details would be tested in Minneapolis (and potentially St. Paul) based on the resources available. Ideally, local governments would share this information automatically in a standardized XML format with would be aggregated and used by many web sites including local media sites. This local prototype is required to demonstrate the value of making that happen nationwide. The reuse of U.S. Congressional data is far less complex because it comes from fewer sources than the thousands of local government websites presenting public meeting information is dramatically different ways. Gathering data from at least 20 websites in Minneapolis would be required to present a solid citizen-centric directory of public/civic meetings.

4. Community Views Dashboard

A special online aggregator tool/collection specifically designed to held elected officials and community leaders follow "feeds" from across the local "Web 2.0" environment so they can better understand the pulse of the community being expressed publicly across the Internet.

5. Elected/appointed community leader profiles with e-news and input options

While all elected and appointed officials (in our geographic launch area) will be recruited to participate in these efforts, in this phase, next generation tools the help them "lead" and "listen" will be integrated into the initiative.

6. Other

With a local Issues Forums also in the UK and New Zealand and organizational leaders with vast international connections, E-Democracy.org has access to e-democracy innovations and ideas from around the world. With the United States just waking up the the potential of online engagement and transparency (unfortunately with most attention focused Federally at this time), much of the experimentation in governance has occurred outside the United States. Participation 3.0 will intentionally scan and monitor lessons, models, and tools that can be imported to the United States as well as national efforts that can be adapted to local use. One example that has developed considerably is e-petitioning hosted by government itself in the UK. E-petitioning in the U.S. is currently an advocacy activity designed to acquire e-mail addresses and donations from supporters and has never been incorporated by a government into a platform integrated with official public input. Reuse of software in this area for direct input into a local government (where they agree to address petitions reaching certain parameters as official meeting agenda items) could be explored.

 

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