Reaching out to "New Voices"
Starting with Women
E-Democracy.Org claims, that the more local discussion are, the less partisan AND the more likely they are to attract a greater percentage of female participants.
In 2002, our survey of Minnesota forum participants (both statewide and local) found that 42% of respondents were women and 58% men. This is a decent starting point, but should be improved.
Our guesstimate of female participation in more national online political discussion forums in terms of posts, is something like 90% male. No researchers have released gender breakdowns of postings to our forums. Outreach needs to get people to the forums and forum facilitation needs to help create a climate for outgoing diverse participation.
A future survey, including our new UK-based forums would be of great interest should an academic researcher step forward with an interest.
Minority and Immigrant Communities
Perceived increases in minority participation, particularly in Minneapolis, have not been measured. We are working from the assumption that current participants are well educated, middle to upper middle class, and mostly white.
In our forums, we seek "New Voices" to raise the concerns of a community in our agenda-setting discussions.
In Minneapolis, the African-American, Somali, and Latino communities have visible participants. Political necessity is the biggest incentive for a community to raise their voices, but getting that argument out to diverse communities is an in-person, on the ground affair. In St. Paul, public posting by members of the large Hmong community is something that could be achieved through effective outreach.
Plans for a New Voices grant are in development and your participation is required. We've determined that the kind of outreach required goes beyond the capacity of an all volunteer effort. At a minimum a paid outreach coordinator is needed to lead on the ground outreach. (In-person outreach is the most effective.)