E-Democracy.org hosts a growing number of neighborhood-wide Issues Forums simply called "Neighbors Forums" or "Neighbours Forums." We have forums in three countries including the UK, New Zealand, and the U.S.. They are big "C" community life and complement our city-wide big "P" politics forums.
The area/population covered is determined by the volunteer forum managers, but in general we like forums that either conform to the service areas of neighborhood councils or are based on a strong sense of local identity. Our special neighborhood inclusion efforts are funded.
We have three regional branded Neighbors/Neighbours Forums promotional pages:
- BeNeighbors.org - Initially the Twin Cities, Minnesota, USA
- neighbours.cc - Christchurch, New Zealand
- UKNeighbours.org - United Kingdom
In recent months we've reached a tipping point (see recent blog post) with neighborhood associations and individual neighbors now asking, "we want this here" and we are willing to make it happen. The key to successfully starting a neighbors forum is in-person recruiting.
If you would like to start a neighbors Issues Forum in your area, contact us.
Our lessons and stories are documented via our project blog including this in-depth update.
The forums run on the open source GroupServer platform that we use and are also fed into both Facebook and Twitter. Our default is e-mail delivery, which clearly remains most effective way to build new and sustained connections online among local people. Key is to give more "wired" participants options other than e-mail in such a way that they do not become isolated via their technology choice from what works best for most everyday people online. This is our unique approach.
Our work in this area is informed by our explorations of social media in local public life and these example neighborhood forums. We are putting special effort into lower income, highly diverse neighborhoods with our Ford Foundation funded Inclusive Social Media effort. We are proposing an initiative to connect and potentially train the hosts of similar local e-mail lists, web forums, place blogs, and neighborhood social networking groups via Locals Online.