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Community foundations -

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Community foundations


Community foundations play a vital role in strengthening the civic life of local communities. This is a selection of links compiled by Steven Clift (E-Democracy Chair, Ashoka Fellow, and Knight News Challenge Winner) to help guide your exploration of the potential of the Internet in building local civic life.

In its early years, the Internet was used to "go to world" and more recently to build personal social networks based on their private life. However, in recent years local public life is beginning to emerge online - people are coming home online. Unfortunately, in most cases the interactive local digital "home" is being modeled after highly partisan and conflict ridden national politics online. While local media wouldn't print a substantial number of the online reader comments they post on the web, most promote anonymous comments online because that is what everyone else seems to be doing. This does not bode well for building local community online. There need to be alternatives.

Are there other models for local engagement online? Yes.

  • Community Forums and Place Blogs
    • Issues Forums - E-Democracy.Org hosts ongoing, multi-issue local Issues Forums in cities and neighborhoods led by a citizen committee and facilitated by a volunteer forum manager. Live examples are available from and a free 60 page guidebook, videos, and other resources are available. Issues Forums may be launched by volunteers or increasingly with funded special assistance and dedicated resources for "new voices" outreach. The premise of an Issues Forum is equitable participation like a face-to-face conversation around a table.
    • Place Blogs or Community News Blogs - While many local blogs are created in opposition to the local government or against/for one local cause, other blogs take a community media approach. Many place blogs are modeled on the Hyde Park soap-box model and depending upon the individual owners approach to facilitation and compelling content, a community of commentators may develop. A related model is a community news blog where the editor (or team of editors) take a more journalistic approach. Placeblogger has scores of links to place blogs and the Knight Citizen News Network hosts a directory of citizen media projects. Two specific examples include Locally Grown Northfield and the West Seattle Blog. Most of these efforts are run by individuals as hobbies or small business start-ups while others are registered 501.c3 organizations.
  • Online Events (or online consultations, e-consultations)
    • An online event is a time-limit exchange on specific themes. "E-consultations" as they are called outside the United States have developed in Europe, Canada, and Australia. Many of them are hosted by governments, but in the United States the non-profit or media sector may make more ideal hosts.
    • Ask Bristol - An example from the United Kingdom
    • Consult Queensland - How the Queensland government gathers input on reports.
    • E-Debates - E-Democracy.Org has a unique model for non-partisan candidate debates which take a deep deliberative approach over two weeks. The 2006 Minnesota Gubernatorial E-Debate (funded by the Blandin Foundation) is a recent example. E-debates are labor intensive, but the potential to host substantial candidate exchange down the ballot in this is significant be they funded or volunteer-driven.
    • Consult @ DoWire.Org - An online community of practice for those interested in online consultation,
  • Greater Access to Government Information

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