E-Democracy.Org Internships Ideas
(In general this proposal addresses Strategic Plan Items: 5.1.c - Strengthen organization's ability to effectively manage projects --AND-- 5.1.e - Increase number of volunteers, provide training, and effectively engage them in roles at all levels of the organization.)
In recent discussions, the suggestion has been made that we identify some possible projects that might work well for interns, including the possibility of remote internships, that can be done by students at remote institutions for credit.
Right now, it should be assumed there is no funding for any of these internships - but that they might be interesting and/or educational projects for a student to undertake. E-Democracy.Org would make a commitment to provide supervision, feedback, and regular support to make the project a success.
Currently, we are at the brainstorming stages. Please, help me list ideas for projects that would further our mission and build our capacity as an organization. At a later point, we might want to prioritize the list a bit and present a narrower range of options to potential partners willing to help us identify possible interns.
Here are the ideas (please add more):
Stories From the Field
For this project, the intern would work with E-Democracy.Org staff and volunteers to identify a set number (maybe 10-20) of stories that illustrate success and/or frustration within our various forums. The intern would then be responsible for following up on each story by:
- reading relevant posts/topics
- interviewing relevant participants
- identifying lessons (that might have been) learned
- summarizing what happened
- possibly writing a blog post about the event and its implications for our work
( Strategic Plan Item: 5.4.b - Develop full complement of communications products including fact sheets, brochures, video clips, audio interviews, information packets for potential major donors/foundations, etc. --AND-- 5.4.c - Make use of interactive tools, including the E-Democracy.Org project blog, to disseminate best practices and generate more interest in and awareness of E-Democracy.Org’s work)
Topical Discussion Coordinator
For this project, the intern would be responsible for coordinating a monthly "cross-community" discussion about a "local" issue (meaning an issue that is normally dealt with at a local level), but that is common to many communities. (Examples: Dog Parks, Graffiti, Billboards, Recycling, Traffic or Transportation Issues, Etc.).
The intern would be responsible for:
- working with volunteers to identify upcoming topics
- drafting and posting invitations in relevant local forums
- identifying some participants and/or guests with particular expertise in this topic that could help frame some discussion questions
- managing (if not facilitating) the actual online discussion
( Strategic Plan Item: 1.2.f - Expand civic relationships among individual participants within forums and over time across communities)
One possible project for an intern, would be to monitor various forums (with support of local steering committees) and watch for opportunities to:
- look up factual information or resources on the topics being discussed and insert them into the discussions.
- fill a lull in the discussion, with a link to a recent article or blog post about a NEW topic that is relevant to that forum (but potentially has not yet been discussed)
- to briefly summarize a discussion and ask a question that might take it in a new direction
E-Democracy.Org staff could provide training and support on how best to do this, and offer ongoing feedback.
(Strategic Plan Item: 1.2.d - Identify and promote local volunteer roles such as discussion starters, content gatherers, and new member greeters)
Many participants are reluctant to post their thoughts into our forums, for a number of reasons ranging from nervousness about the feedback they will get, lack of confidence in their opinions, or simply a sense that their opinion has been adequately stated by someone else.
The unfortunate side effect, is that this make their presence in the forum relatively invisible and other members don't have a good sense of where the silent majority is on any issue.
We'd like to have someone responsible for helping local forums create short and very informal polls that draw new voices into the forum. I'm envisioning one poll every 2-4 weeks (per forum) that focuses on one or two issues, with no more than 5 or 6 questions (half of which are open-ended).
These polls would be positioned as an alternative way for lurkers to be "heard" in the forum.
An intern could be responsible for developing and implementing these polls on a regular basis, in cooperation with local steering committee's, and tracking/reporting on the results.
(Strategic Plan Item: 1.2.a - Increase registrations and level of participation in existing forums --AND-- 1.2.b - Increase and sustain diverse participation including efforts to raise “new voices” in local Issues Forums)
For this project, the intern would help plan (with much assistance) and coordinate a 2 week recruitment drive that would cut across all of our forums. They would focus on helping to develop materials and messages that local projects use to help recruit new members and coordinate activities with recruitment volunteers identified in each community.
(Strategic Plan Item: 1.2.a - Increase registrations and level of participation in existing forums)
Tech Support Intern
For this project, the intern would help with basic technology support questions asked by users and help develop a comprehensive FAQ (or other materials) to help users address their own tech questions in the future.
(Strategic Plan Item: ???)
Help us update and revise the tool we hope to use to evaluate the success of various forums, implement the evaluation, and help process the results.
( Strategic Plan Item: 5.2 - Develop effective evaluation structures, tools, implementation, compilation, and reporting)
Launch an Issues Forum
For this project, the intern could take it upon themselves to launch an Issues Forum in their local community. They would be responsible, over the course of the internship, of identifying local volunteers and walking the group through the process of organizing, launching, and the early stages of maintaining a local Issues Forum. Critical for this project, would be that the intern pay attention to the details necessary to ensure that the project is sustaining after the internship is complete.
( Strategic Plan Item: 1.1.b - Enable Issues Forums to be created in communities based on volunteer initiative)
Develop a New Member Orientation
For this project, the intern would be responsible for developing a self-guided or group orientation for new participants in E-Democracy.Org forums. The purpose of the orientation would be to introduce new members to the rules and expectations in E-Democracy.Org local Issues Forums & provide advice on how to effectively and effeciently participate. Such an orientation might increase our retention of "new voices" and attempt to promote and support our "civility" standards.
( Strategic Plan Item: 1.2.b - Increase and SUSTAIN diverse participation including efforts to raise “new voices” in local Issues Forums --AND-- 1.2.e - Create educational content and training that helps participants promote and support a civil discussion environment)