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Difference between revisions of "Minneapolis neighborhood forums 2007 grant application" -

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Minneapolis neighborhood forums planning grant


Also see the Minnesota State Network Fund Guidelines


Cover Sheet for Minnesota State Network Fund (MSNet Fund) Grant Request

  • Organization Name: E-Democracy.Org (officially Minnesota E-Democracy as 501.c3)
  • Project Name (if applicable): Neighborhood Forums Online
  • Address: 3211 E. 44th Street
  • City: Minneapolis
  • County: Hennepin
  • State: Minnesota
  • Zip Code: 55406
  • Telephone: 612-822-8667
  • Fax: 612-605-0137
  • E-mail Address:
  • Web Site:
  • Contact Person: Steven Clift
  • Title: Board Chair

Amount Requested: $33,000 (perhaps $42,000)

Annual Organizational Budget: Under $10,000/year in previous years. However, E-Democracy.Org is in the process of substantial expansion of activities in 2007 and will likely have a significantly larger budget.

Project Budget (if applicable): $33,000 (perhaps $42,000)

Tax Status:

  • ____X____501(c)(3)
  • ________Yes ___X_____ No Does the organization file 501(h) election?
  • ________Tribal Government Entity
  • ________501 (c)(4)
  • ________Tax-status pending. If tax status is pending, please provide the following information: Fiscal Sponsor, Address, Contact Person, and Phone number

Minnesota State Network Fund [MSNet Fund] Grant Request

Briefly describe the lead organization (applicant organization) including mission, number of years in operation, and other information related to the organization’s capacity to implement the project:

E-Democracy.Org ...

List partnering and cooperating organizations and groups instrumental in the development of this proposal (include Name of group or organization and Names of those active in developing the proposal):

answer questions

Is this a collaboration, a partnership? If so, who are your partners?

This project is a collaboration between E-Democracy, CURA, neighborhood organizations, and organizations working immigrant communities. The project will partner with residents and leaders from targeted communities. Collaboration

If not, are there stakeholders, partners who need to be part of the solution you are proposing?

How did having a planning grant help you in developing this proposal?

The planning grant helped determine interest and leadership for the project, which in turn led to the selection of targeted communities.

Describe the Project for which you are seeking support:

Select from this list and include more detail:

Select from this list of descriptors which best identifies the project for which you seek MSNet Fund support: USE ONLY THOSE THAT APPLY TO YOUR PROJECT

New projects and on-going projects that address technology and telecommuncations barriers as they relate to social justice, civil rights and human rights.

Our project will develop online forums in communities to connect immigrant community members and long standing community resdients to build civic and social connections.

Answer these questions:

What needs to be changed* (Define the issue)

== Select from this list of approaches to describe how your proposal reflects one or more of the following in terms of activities, outcomes, goals in relation to the issue that you defined: == USE ONLY THOSE THAT APPLY

1. Use and access to tech tools for policy advocacy on behalf of or empowering communities of color and low-income communities

2. Focus on community empowerment rather than on individuals

3. Incorporating community development strategies that will lead to wealth creation and economic opportunity for underserved low-income communities

5. Content development with cultural relevance (that is, user-friendly tools, applications and innovations designed for and by low-income communities of color)

Answer these questions:

What communities are currently affected?

As people are come across the digital divide from a technology access perspective, it is essential to create interactive online places and content that is meaningful in their local community life. While international diaspora-related content or local multi-lingual content is very useful to an immigrant communities, online neighborhood forums represent bridging content and interactivity that promotes stronger communities.

What are the current negative impacts? How are these communities digitally disadvantaged?

Across the Internet, often below the radar, online neighborhood forums are being created by primarily by volunteers. This means most of these example online neighborhood forums exist in well to do neighborhoods. Allowing areas with higher than average immigrant populations/lower income/communities of color to stand on the digital "interactive" sidelines is a serious concern.

What impact do you hope to have on the issue if your project is funded?

By successfully establishing at least three online neighborhood forums in target areas of Minneapolis, we will demonstrate the broad value to diverse communities and the whole of the local community. We expect success to beget success. The incremental cost to add new neighborhoods will shrink once the online neighborhood "life" successful in other parts of the country comes into being. As a low cost, volunteer-based model (even with proposed launch resources for target interested neighborhoods with higher than Minneapolis average immigrant populations) nothing demonstrates the value more than seeing it in action in the neighborhood next store. "If they can do that, so can we" is a strong motivating force.

How will the impact be monitored, measured, reported on?

Online neighborhood forums cannot hide behind glossy literature, their size and success is plainly visable. Measure include number of start-up forums, number of members, rate of membership increase, number of posts, etc.. A member survey, working with our academic partners, will be important to gauge demographics. The first set of factors are clearly displayed via our GroupServer hosted forum and the results of any surveys will be posted to our website and with notice to the forums themselves.

Would there be a better way? If so, what are the barriers to that better way?

Minneapolis, the region really, needs a comprehensive public infrastructure for many-to-many, any time, anywhere public participation and problem-solving. This includes a grid of electronically-supported block clubs tied into neighborhood forums, city-wide priority issue "problem-solving" forums to complement the debate oriented Minneapolis Issues Forum, and a one-stop shop for e-alerts and newsletters from public and non-profit institutions. There is currently little policy development or funding capacity for such a million dollar plus "public works" initiative. Imagine what could be done if the funding from one-tenth a mile from the 20 miles of new lanes on I-494 were put into projects that helped people travel digitally in their local communities across Minnesota. That would be $3.5 million from a $695 million project.

By starting small with at least three target neighborhood "life" online forums connected in a network to the city-wide Minneapolis Issues Forum is a small but essential step in moving public and non-profit institutions from their one-way online broadcast content mentality toward the the many-to-many private lives we live online and on our freeways.

What is the scope of impact? (pilot, limited geographic area, city, county, statewide)

Phase one represents our start-up pilot phase limited initially to Minneapolis. As detailed in our budget, we envision further fundraising to build a regional forum launch fund.

Is this a cross sector issue?

Yes, online neighborhood forums empower individuals to participate based on where they live regardless of which instititions serve them. Discussions about public safety, libraries, community arts events will all be inter-mingled and allow local institutions to better understand their place in the complex cross-sector world in which we live.

How will you encourage others to participate?

Based on our decade plus of online forum recruitment experience, on the ground in-person recruitment at community events in the most effective for large membership jumps. Outreach resources will be used to secure tables and booths at key community events, particularly those reaching diverse communities.

Another strategy is to offer training and outreach events to improve the online forum skills of neighborhood organizations and those non-profits and community groups serving diverse communities. The more these groups use these tools for their internal or public needs, the more natural it will be for them to participate or help promote neighborhood forums.

Finally, we will engage in online outreach and use "invite a friend" feature to recruit new participants on a continuous basis. We will seek to present the project via cable access and KFAI shows geared toward immigrant/language communities as well.

How will this project engage and empower communities or color and /or low-income communities?

This is a cornerstone of the project throughout this proposal. Working with the Minneapolis Public Library to reach users of their Internet access facilities will be essential. Potential lower income participants with no at-home Internet access can be reach here and through other community technology centers. Our pragmatic use of e-mail with the web also makes the forums immediate and accessible via quick e-mail checks. This means people with limited terminal time do not have to spend time visiting another website to gain value from the forum or post themselves.

Are those communities represented in the planning, design, implementation, evaluation?

notes to fill out ... online survey, contact list, interviews, community input meeting, planning committee - resources key to involvement process in implementation ... clear to launch meaningfully we will have to be on the ground

What issues, challenges, barriers may arise as you move forward?

  • Potential institutional/egghead resistence to "life" aspects required to attract large and diverse participation ...
  • Volunteer capacity, can't expect "usual suspects" in neighborhood involvement to serve as forum managers, contract assistance must be assertive as organizers to find forum managers from target diverse communities within neighborhoods as first priority
  • Hopefully one of the three (plus) will be in a neighborhood with a large Spanish speaking community and partners. Having a multi-lingual forum from the start will present important challenges.

Provide a budget that clearly delineates Income and Expenses for the Project

The budget can be fairly general. More detail should be provided in the Budget Narrative. Use this format as a guide only. Develop categories and specifics that are relevant for the project.


As a new project this proposal is the first request for funding.

Source - Amount - Secured - Requested

  • Foundations - 0 - 0 - 0
  • MSNet Fund of TMF - 33,000 - 0 - 33,000
  • Corporations - 0 - 0 - 0
  • In-kind - E-Democracy, CURA, Library, Police, Other? Time-value contributions
  • Other - Forum volunteer time
  • Total


SEPT 7 NOTE - Perhaps the request should be $42,000 with an additional $5000 in partnership building an $4,000 more for the outreach fund.


  • $2000 - Neighborhood Forums Guide
    • Write a basic guide to starting, recruiting for, and running a neigborhood online forum. This roughly 20 page guide with templates (such as sign-up sheets, flyers, outreach e-mail text) will leverage the 60 page Issues Forum Guidebook (PDF). Included in this budget is the preparation of a training "web movie" and Power Point presentation for use in training.
  • $1000 - Training Sessions - Site Costs
    • Host a number of training sessions on how to launch neighborhood forums. At least one trainings will include how those working with digital justice issues can more effectively use online community tools to involve others. Training presentor costs are covered in the outreach and coordination budget.
  • $1500 - Forum Hosting
    • Actual hosting and technical support costs on the installation of GroupServer for up to five initial neighborhood forums.
  • $2500 - Neighborhood Forum GroupServer Enhancements
    • GroupServer is an open source tool that combines e-mail lists with web forums. It also supports file sharing. Based on input from the online survey, these are a possible set of small features that will be added under contract with the developers. Any features would then become available to any interested user of GroupServer which may be downloaded and used for free by more technically inclined non-profits and others.
    • Draft priority features
      • Selective Disclosure - Each forum will be given the option of providing open access to the subject lines of posts while limiting full access to those registered in the forum. This will help the forum attract new members based on the content, but not expose these very local discussions to search engines.
      • Announcement Submission Forms - While members can easily submit any kind of appropriate announcement via e-mail, forum rules might call for certain kinds of announcements, like garage sale notices or offers of free items (like a used couch) to be submitted via a form. This would allow the creation of intelligent digests as well as allow someone to indicate that free item from a neighbor is no longer available.
      • Recruitment Tools - A remote sign-up box option would allow neighborhood and other locally-focused digital justice groups to integrate a sign-up form on their website.
      • Headline Sharing - The creation of some simple javascript that will leverage GroupServer's existing RSS (headline) feeds to make it easy for other websites to automatically present recent headlines in their sites (like an existing neighborhood website)

Outreach and Forum Development - Primary Personnel Costs

  • $4000 ($9000?) - Partnership Building and Execution - With initial relationships created in the planning process, two or three months of meetings and contact with immigrant associations, ethnic media, neighborhood associations, etc. will be required to cement plans for the first five neighborhood forums. At least three of these forums will be in neighborhoods with higher than average immigrant populations in Minneapolis.
  • $6500 - Outreach and Recruitment - A part-time contract position will provide city-wide outreach organizing. From organizing tables as diverse community events to planning scores of public presentations, this person will be the primary assistant to help the formation and launch of neighborhood forums.
  • $3500 - Management Coordination - This will cover the time required of E-Democracy.Org to manage this project and provide overall support.
  • $3000 - Project Evaluation - A stipend to assist a graduate-school based evaluation project or something similar. includes $1000 for travel to allow presentation of evaluation at proper conferences. Additional efforts will seek to interest outside researchers with external resources to document and share lessons from this initiative.

Forum Launch Fund

  • $10,000 ($14000?) - Phase One Launch Fund
    • An RFP process will challenge immigrant/communities of color/low income groups and neighborhood associations to collaborate on proposals to effectively launch a neighborhood forum. Up to $3000 will be available for three neighborhoods in Minneapolis with higher than average immigrant populations (over 12.5% - need to check stats). Up to $500 in material costs (print outreach materials, door to door flyers, etc.) will be available to two additional neighborhoods demonstrating strong volunteer initiative.
  • $30,000+ - Phase Two Launch Fund - NOT PART OF THE MSNET FUND PROPOSAL
    • With additional support, perhaps from other foundations, the RFP process would be extend to cover the creation of neighborhood forums within St. Paul, Winona, Roseville, and other communities with established local city-wide Issues Forums. Inclusion of communities without a city-wide Issues Forums should only be undertaken if progression toward a network of neighborhood forums with a city-wide Issues Forum is planned.
    • The geographic scope of future funds may be limited based on requirements from the source of funding. Our effort to launch a neighborhood forum in the Bristol, England does point to possible synergies and the ability to leverage core investment. (The GroupServer platform is available to Minneapolis neighborhoods based on a UK government investment in pilot Issues Forums in 2005.)

$33,000 - Total Phase One DRAFT Budget

Develop a budget narrative that answers these questions:

How will MSNet Fund support leverage other support (describe any of the following: local, other foundations, corporations, individuals, tribal investments, state or federal investments)

E-Democracy.Org - Forum infrastructure, experience CURA - Library - Police/CCP - Daily Planet - KFAI - City Hall - CTCs -

Have you identified other revenue sources?

Not yet.

Are there any in-kind contributions? If so, please describe the source.

We need orgs on the planning committee to ID something specific they can do in-kind that involves staff time or material resources.

How will this project leverage support from local, state and/or national resources?

GroupServer ...

E-Democracy.Org is also active in the United Kingdom. We are exploring assistance to the low income Knowle West neighborhood inconjunstion with the Bristol Council. Bristol Council is a finalist in the Digital Challenge Awards which may bring some funding to this exercise. We hope to leverage our Minneapolis experience in this effort and seek to gain access to neighborhood technology resources that can be put into GroupServer/our platforum and therefore shared with local forums.

Based on this experience, offering neighborhood forums could become an option for any of our current and future Issues Forums.

Is this project replicable? If so, how?

yes. Set up, training, and tutorials will be documented so the development of community online forums can be easily replicatied in other communities in the Twin Cities or elsewhere.


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