Steven Clift http://stevenclift.com Global convenor, speaker and expert on open government, civic technology, and e-democracy Sun, 19 Oct 2014 15:07:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 White House Champion of Change – Open Communities and New Voices: Let’s Be Neighbors – Includes Top Ten Lessons List http://stevenclift.com/white-house-champion-of-change-open-communities-and-new-voices-lets-be-neighbors-includes-top-ten-lessons-list/ http://stevenclift.com/white-house-champion-of-change-open-communities-and-new-voices-lets-be-neighbors-includes-top-ten-lessons-list/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:02:21 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=403 Open Communities and New Voices: Let’s Be Neighbors

Steven Clift is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in making government more transparent and accountable through technology.

Steven Clift

Imagine. I am standing on my front porch in Minneapolis, trying to speak out to my neighbors:

“Yes, I love the idea of starting a community garden. Let’s meet.”

“Councilmember, what more can we do to get the FAA to respond to our complaints about dramatic airport noise increases in our neighborhood?”

“My neighbor, an Iraq vet, heard five shots and ran to the victim in the street as he lay dying. I never want to see a sobbing, collapsing mother need to come to a crime scene again.”

“Let’s have a “Community Eat-up” and support that new Salvadoran restaurant in our neighborhood. Who will join us?”

“Great. So glad you found seven neighbors to quickly bake those lasagnas for your friend’s memorial service today.”

“I found a lost puppy …”

If it was before 2008, these real examples would have remained unheard across my neighborhood.

Imagine being connected to over 1,000 of your neighbors via an online public space for community exchange (that’s 25% of households in my neighborhood).  You are able to connect with local elected officials who represent you, small business owners and workers, and local civil servants and community groups. Everyone who cares about your local community is welcome.

This is my own Standish-Ericsson neighborhood today – connected, vibrant, inclusive, and building community every day.

Today, E-Democracy’s BeNeighbors.org effort connects well over 15,000 people mostly in the Twin Cities across a network of dozens of online Neighbors Forums. Our lessons and assistance are available for networks everywhere.

Led by volunteers in each neighborhood and powered by open source technology, we are working to build bridges across race, income, generations, immigrant and native-born, and more. Thanks to the Knight and Bush foundations and other donors, our dedicated outreach team, including recent refugees and immigrants, even go door to door in St. Paul.

Our view – Every neighborhood should be connected using whatever technology works for them.

The opportunity of a generation is to reach and connect all kinds of people, far more than those who traditionally show up.

Join the evolution.

Helping puppies one day and debating the intricacies of FAA flight rules the next in the same online space is built on two decade of direct experience.

We have lessons to share along with a passion to learn about your ideas and innovations. I helped launch the world’s first election information website in 1994 with Minnesota E-Democracy. I led early e-government efforts in Minnesota. I’ve presented in 30 countries concerning open government and civic technology.

Some top lessons include:

1.       Activate Groups – “The most democratizing aspect of the Internet is the ability for people to organize and communicate in groups.” From my 1998 “Democracy is Online” article.

2.       Give Notice – Timely notification of new government information and meetings is empowering.

3.       Go Local – Local is the public life building block where people naturally connect across many differences in the common interest.

4.       Build Power – Real people with real names generate agenda-setting power and influence elected officials – particularly if it is clear that you are among their voters.

5.       Be Public – Public civic engagement is key, not just personal Facebook relationships where local politicians and community insiders connect privately based on existing trust and hierarchy.

6.       Defend the Commons – Loudest harsh voices and partisan vitriol threaten our efforts to build viable civic online public spaces built on civility and tolerance.

7.       New Challenges – Local online groups remove the communications barrier and empower problem-solving “ad-hocracy” inspired by new ideas and newly active citizens.

8.       Inclusion Matters – The PewInternet.org “Civic Engagement in the Digital Age” reported that the same kinds of people dominating off-line politics are dominating online. To make a difference, we must successfully reach new voices and make participation far more representative and inclusive.

9.       All Blocks – Gather the digital contact information – email, mobile, etc. – of your 20 nearest neighbors and share it back. You can do it. It starts with you. Private spaces make sense among nearest neighbors, but for larger areas avoid gated communities.

10.   Got Neighbors? – A national directory and educational campaign could bring millions more into community life and local democracy online. If you happen to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, going door to door to your 20 nearest neighbors might be a bit of a challenge. So, I have a slightly different idea for you. Give me a jingle.

Steven Clift is the Co-Founder of E-Democracy

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White House Champion of Change – Open Communities, New Voices: Let’s Be Neighbors http://stevenclift.com/white-house-champion-of-change-open-communities-new-voices-lets-be-neighbors/ http://stevenclift.com/white-house-champion-of-change-open-communities-new-voices-lets-be-neighbors/#comments Wed, 24 Jul 2013 15:41:24 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=394 This is a copy of the blog post I made to the White House Champions of Change site.

  • Live White House Webcast – 9 a.m. Central, July 23
  • Press Release – E-Democracy leader Steven Clift honored as White House Champion of Change
  • Press Release – Official White House Champion of Change Announcement – Open Government and Civic Technology

Also, here is where you can go in-depth and learn more our our activities and build our lessons into your own work. Of note is a webinar on Neighbors Online and another on Digital Civic Engagement and New Voices generally tentatively scheduled for September 18.

To stay in-touch, join our email newsletter and follow E-Democracy.org on Facebook and Twitter.

 

 Open Communities, New Voices: Let’s Be Neighbors

Imagine. I am standing on my front porch in Minneapolis, trying to speak out to my neighbors:

“Yes, I love the idea of starting a community garden. Let’s meet.”

“Councilmember, what more can we do to get the FAA to respond to our complaints about dramatic airport noise increases in our neighborhood?”

“My neighbor, an Iraq vet, heard five shots and ran to the victim in the street as he lay dying. I never want to see a sobbing, collapsing mother need to come to a crime scene again.”

“Let’s have a “Community Eat-up” and support that new Salvadoran restaurant in our neighborhood. Who will join us?”

“Great. So glad you found seven neighbors to quickly bake those lasagnas for your friend’s memorial service today.”

“I found a lost puppy …”

If it was before 2008, these real examples would have remained unheard across my neighborhood.

Imagine being connected to over 1,000 of your neighbors via an online public space for community exchange (that’s 25% of households in my neighborhood).  You are able to connect with local elected officials who represent you, small business owners and workers, and local civil servants and community groups. Everyone who cares about your local community is welcome.

This is my own Standish-Ericsson neighborhood today – connected, vibrant, inclusive, and building community every day.

Today, E-Democracy’s BeNeighbors.org effort connects well over 15,000 people mostly in the Twin Cities across a network of dozens of online Neighbors Forums. Our lessons and assistance are available for networks everywhere.

Led by volunteers in each neighborhood and powered by open source technology, we are working to build bridges across race, income, generations, immigrant and native-born, and more. Thanks to the Knight and Bush foundations and other donors, our dedicated outreach team, including recent refugees and immigrants, even go door to door in St. Paul.

Our view – Every neighborhood should be connected using whatever technology works for them.

The opportunity of a generation is to reach and connect all kinds of people, far more than those who traditionally show up.

Join the evolution.

Helping puppies one day and debating the intricacies of FAA flight rules the next in the same online space is built on two decade of direct experience.

We have lessons to share along with a passion to learn about your ideas and innovations. I helped launch the world’s first election information website in 1994 with Minnesota E-Democracy. I led early e-government efforts in Minnesota. I’ve presented in 30 countries concerning open government and civic technology.

Some top lessons include:

1.  Activate Groups – “The most democratizing aspect of the Internet is the ability for people to organize and communicate in groups.” From my 1998 “Democracy is Online” article.

2. Give Notice – Timely notification of new government information and meetings is empowering.

3. Go Local – Local is the public life building block where people naturally connect across many differences in the common interest.

4. Build Power – Real people with real names generate agenda-setting power and influence elected officials – particularly if it is clear that you are among their voters.

5. Be Public – Public civic engagement is key, not just personal Facebook relationships where local politicians and community insiders connect privately based on existing trust and hierarchy.

6. Defend the Commons – Loudest harsh voices and partisan vitriol threaten our efforts to build viable civic online public spaces built on civility and tolerance.

7. New Challenges – Local online groups remove the communications barrier and empower problem-solving “ad-hocracy” inspired by new ideas and newly active citizens.

8. Inclusion Matters – The PewInternet.org “Civic Engagement in the Digital Age” reported that the same kinds of people dominating off-line politics are dominating online. To make a difference, we must successfully reach new voices and make participation far more representative and inclusive.

9. All Blocks – Gather the digital contact information – email, mobile, etc. – of your 20 nearest neighbors and share it back. You can do it. It starts with you. Private spaces make sense among nearest neighbors, but for larger areas avoid gated communities.

10. Got Neighbors? – A national directory and educational campaign could bring millions more into community life and local democracy online. If you happen to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, going door to door to your 20 nearest neighbors might be a bit of a challenge. So, I have a slightly different idea for you. Give me a jingle.

Share

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Inclusive Community Engagement Online, Neighbors Online http://stevenclift.com/inclusive-community-engagement-online-neighbors-online/ http://stevenclift.com/inclusive-community-engagement-online-neighbors-online/#comments Fri, 06 Apr 2012 14:57:05 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=370 Click here to view the embedded video.

E-Democracy.org secured a major three year grant from the Knight Foundation. The Inclusive Community Engagement Online project will run at least through the end of 2014.

I am remain available for paid public speaking directly.

Further E-Democracy.org also provides consulting services and is developing its network of online communities of practices likely of interest to visitors on this site.

If you to view more recent presentations, see my slides from speaking trips to Libya and Kenya as well as these Neighbors Online slides. Go in-depth with the Neighbors Online screencast.

Also note my Episodes of Experience slides for my “lessons” by year from the graduate course I taught at the Humphrey School.

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Teaching http://stevenclift.com/teaching/ http://stevenclift.com/teaching/#comments Thu, 23 Jun 2011 15:28:09 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=356 Social Media: Engaging Democracy and Communities Online

Fall 2011, Graduate Course at Humphrey School of Public Affairs, U of Minnesota

NEW: DRAFT syllabus – A work in progress - Feedback welcome!

This fall, I will be taking what I know about “e-democracy,” mix in great guest speakers, and wrap it all up with awesome articles, guides, and videos curated from across the web into a new course titled “Social Media: Engaging Democracy and Communities Online.”

I’ve always fell rushed with a 35 minute presentation – so how about ~35 hours worth of discussion, hands-on experience, guest speakers and lectures spread out over a semester. Exciting.

Here is the official course listing.

This graduate-level course will be taught at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, at the University of Minnesota.

The 3 credit Wednesday night course was added after students registered in the spring – so as of today, there is plenty of space. For those from out in the community not if graduate school, you may take the course for undergraduate credit at a much lower per credit price. Since this is my first course at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, please contact them for registration questions.

As an interesting twist, students in course will organize a tech-inspired “open space” CityCamp unconference on November 12 following cities like Chicago, London, and San Francisco. Think all things Local 2.0 – with a focus on government, community, and non-profits. It will be held on Saturday, November 12 and be open to government staff, technology developers, open government advocates, citizen media entrepreneurs, other students, and the interested public.

The full semester evening class starts on Wednesday, September 7th and runs through December 14th. The week by week course outline and reading list is in the works.

Here is the official course description from the catalog:

Social Media: Engaging Democracy & Communities Online, Explore the Internet and engagement with government, advocacy, local community building and citizen participation, elections and campaigns, international politics and trends (e.g. Arab spring), and social media use in the non-profit and public sector. In-person class time will be technology infused and include practical and collaborative use of tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and video streaming (remote guest speakers) and many less known online tools. A community “Un-Conference” will be produced by the class on Nov 12th. The instructor is the Executive Director of E-Democracy.org and international speaker across 30 countries.

For those not in the Twin Cities, if you are interested in an all online version of this course down the road, be sure to let me know and join my Democracies Online Newswire if you don’t want to miss any future announcements.

If you have any questions about the substance of the course or simply want to suggest things you’d like to see covered, feel free to leave a comment below.

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Using Technology for Community Building – Presentation by Steven Clift – 2010 http://stevenclift.com/using-technology-for-community-building-presentation-by-steven-clift-2010/ http://stevenclift.com/using-technology-for-community-building-presentation-by-steven-clift-2010/#comments Tue, 25 May 2010 01:45:55 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=327 Cross-posted at E-Democracy.org.

I had the honor of being a “virtual” guest of Grassroots Grantmakers recently.

Listen and watch the presentation. Or click through the slides-only further below. The audio alone is available in MP3 format (~90 minutes).

If you are involved in local community building online or want to use these approaches and tools in your neighborhood, be sure to join your peers on our new Locals Online community of practice.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click the word “Vimeo” to watch a larger version or the four arrows icon to go full screen.

And the slides without audio:

High Tech Meets High Touch: Using New Technology for Community Building (Webinar)
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Grassroots grantmaking is high-touch work in an increasing high-tech world. We have seen what happens when citizen leaders get together in the same room for peer learning or dialogue on issues. What new possibilities are opening up to further connect residents within and across neighborhoods using new technology? What is happening under the radar today and how can we make it more inclusive and benefit all communities?

Join us to talk with Steven Clift, Executive Director of E-Democracy.org, the cutting-edge national organization working on this question. For some background now, see: http://e-democracy.org/inclusion and http://stevenclift.com.

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My e-transparency promise – If I were running for local office – By Steven Clift – 2009 http://stevenclift.com/my-e-transparency-promise-if-i-were-running-for-local-office/ http://stevenclift.com/my-e-transparency-promise-if-i-were-running-for-local-office/#comments Sun, 04 Oct 2009 05:33:53 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=297 I recently posted this short list to the Running on Open Government discussion on the Open-Gov online group. Compare with ideas I shared online in 1999.

If I were running for local office, I’d promise an new city ordinance  that required:

1. All public meeting notices, agendas, and meeting documents must be  placed online at the same time they are distributed to elected officials.

2. All public meetings must be digitally recorded (audio is fine) and placed online within 24 hours of the meeting. Council meetings must also be webcast live.

3. An official e-petitioning system that can force the council to discuss certain issues at a certain threshold and take public comment.

4. All ethnics and campaign finaces disclosures must be posted online.

5. Any e-mail/public document sent to a quorum of elected officials by city staff must automatically must be posted online automatically.

6. Every council member will be supported with a combined e-mail news/blog tool for use in governance (that may not be used for election purposes and is transfer to the next council member (assuming districts).

7. Detailed government spending information posted online on a monthly basis (not just proposed budget or government staff salaries (which
the media tends to gather a post)).

8. Require every e-mail received by the city to be confirmed with a copy of what was received, given a tracking number, and be responded
to within two weeks.

9. Create a system for the public to comment on public meeting agenda items (stay tuned!).

10. Add a city presence on popular social networking sites.

11. Set up e-mail alerts about new content online and personalized keyword and geographic relevancy trackers so people can get timely notification of information that matters to them.

12. Real-time police blotter and e-alerts.

What would you add?

The best way to see your local government to do any of these things is get candidates to promise them before the votes are cast!

Steven Clift
http://stevenclift.com

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Government 2.0 Meets Everyday Citizens and Democracy – Speech to Council of Europe – By Steven Clift – 2008 http://stevenclift.com/government-20-meets-everyday-citizens-and-democracy-speech-to-council-of-europe-by-steven-clift-2008/ http://stevenclift.com/government-20-meets-everyday-citizens-and-democracy-speech-to-council-of-europe-by-steven-clift-2008/#comments Tue, 12 May 2009 17:29:30 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=273 This article is based on a speech given by Steven Clift with E-Democracy.Org to the Council of Europe’s Forum for the Future of Democracy

Listen to the speech in MP3 


 

FFD 2008 , Speech by Steven Clift, Concluding plenary session

Government 2.0 Meets Everyday Citizens and Democracy

I started “e-democracy.org”, a citizen project whilst working in government, so my perspective was government ‘by day’ and citizen ‘by night’. This dual approach is also taken by this conference with the participation of grass-root citizen activities through the NGOs and with the participation of government representatives promoting democracy in public life.

I have had a lot of dreams about how e-tools can be used not only to give people a voice, but also to really solve problems in communities and to make democracies vastly more engaging. But then my wife and I had a second child and I now experience what most people experience: a humongous time crunch.

E-tools offer the possibility for people to participate from anywhere, at anytime, in a personalised manner. Most traditional political participation at local level is based in buildings and in meetings which take place at specific times. Our modern lives mean that people do not have the time, or maybe the transport, or even the interest, to be as engaged as was required in years past. E-democracy does not aim to replace the town hall meeting or opportunities to be involved in person; nothing beats the power of looking someone in the eye or shaking hands. But ultimately, if democracy is not available to people on their own terms, it will not exist in the long term.

After almost 15 years involvement in e-democracy I would conclude that representative democracy is not adapting. We have early adapters here and experimenters there, but this is a 5% crowd. The focus of our reflections should be on how to involve and include the other 95%.

One of the problems is that Facebook, MySpace and other social networks primarly serve to publicise private life. There is a big difference between publicising private life and having representative democracy online or creating public life amongst people who live near one another.

There are online newspapers and blogs and other information sites which are a form of political engagement. However, these sometimes bring out the worst in us and e-democracy is needed to counter the negative things that are happening on the Internet in the political sphere. E-campaigning, for example, is often about organising people to gain power, money and influence and it can be in conflict with other elements in society.

In the United States there are a few things that we are good at on the Internet and in politics; we are good at making noise through online advocacy, raising money and e-campaigning. However, we have a lot to learn from Europe in terms of e-consultation and e-participation because we tend not to focus on this in between elections.

Ultimately, it is a negative approach to politics if citizens remain limited to the use of electronic tools to politically arm themselves and to fight for influence and power, or if they simply remain hidden behind a disempowering anonymous cloak with online news and blog comments.

Those of us who want to build democratic engagement need to create alternatives to this “default mode.” It is not good enough to say that the Internet is going to be a democratizing medium. We have to make things happen online in order to create a better democratic space. The challenge, as I suggested in my article “Sidewalks for Democracy Online”, is to build real public life online.

I would like to start from the premise that e-government to date is impoverishing democracy. When citizens go to a town hall, there is often a space at the entrance where people can gather or can talk to neighbours while waiting in line. There is perhaps a rack of newspapers, maybe a bulletin board and public meeting rooms. In contrast, when you are on an e-government website it is a singular experience: you cannot talk to the people next to you and say “this line is taking too long”, “we need a new mayor” or “I agree, let’s work together to improve our community”.

In many cases, the number one interface for citizens with the government is now the Internet and I estimate that each day there are more citizens on the city’s website than actually physically go to the town hall. So where are the public spaces? Where are the online consultations? Where are the e-petitions? Where are these aspects of the interactive web in the public authority context?

When I was responsible for the State government portal in Minnesota I realised that e-government is being framed in terms of efficiency, security and transactions. All this is the opposite of democracy which requires openness, transparency and risk-taking.

We need to communicate better with the people who build e-government. Our governments need to ensure that those people who are responsible for the democracy-building side of governance have access to the necessary online tools. E-democracy as a subset of e-government is having a very difficult time and we cannot wait for the e-government team to add those tools because their training and mindset is based on a very different framework.

In most cases, the blogosphere is merely democratising punditry. Previously there were 300 regular guests on 24-hour television news talk shows; today there are a further 3000 bloggers who are essentially trying to get onto television news talk shows. When you bring that model to the local level, it is actually more divisive than the town hall meeting room and the face-to-face type of activity that it may be replacing. I think it is important to understand that what may be good at national level may not be the model we would like to promote in our local communities.

We need to make the Internet a democracy network “by nature.” This is difficult to address because democracy is fundamentally based on geography unlike the Internet. We content on the Internet to be more geographically-based or “tagged.” Technically speaking there are a lot of so-called content management systems, i.e. people producing web pages, but there is no standard way to describe the place that such content is associated with.

In reality, governments, as well as many media sites and place-specific blogs, are generating geographically specific information. However, it is not easy to aggregate that “what’s new” information and this is a crucial. If you are a local official and you have heard about these blogs, are you going to pay any attention to the public-sphere online if you have no idea whether they are your constituents or not? No. However, if content on the Internet becomes more geographically navigable, public officials will pay more attention to their citizens out there across the Web 2.0 environment.

It is important to think more about how governments and others invest in the online world and find ways to make geography a stronger factor. This will make our democracy-building that much easier further down the line. We need to make democratic building blocks an integral part of the Internet rather than something we add on later at a much greater cost. Ultimately, place matters.

Most people when they go online think about going out to the world. But those of us who are building e-democracy need to think in terms of coming home online. The time people spend going out to public meetings is decreasing and if most people’s experience online only relates to going into the world or to private life activities, and not to public life activities, there will inevitably be a decline in democratic public life.

We also need to think about infrastructure, for example why are there are no white pages on the Internet. If my bicycle was stolen I would have previously had to go door to door to my neighbors to collect email addresses to be able to send out a simple note saying “did anyone see anything?” Obviously, you do not want your email address out there for everyone to access, but a site where the twenty-five closest neighbors could see each other’s email addresses would be good. There is the issue of identity and security, but perhaps there is a way to enable people who live with one another to opt into such communication. The fact that there are no white pages means that people have not been thinking about local community when it comes to Internet infrastructure.

It is important to make democracy more efficient for both decision-makers and citizens. But we must not forget that e-democracy is not really about numbers or speed, but about making better decisions and building trust in different types of outcomes. Numbers and speed do not justify investing resources in e-democracy, there must also be more effective outcomes.

We need to look closer at the inconsistencies between public authorities who are trying to attract people to their web sites for interaction, consultations and so on and what citizens are doing in the public sphere. It is important to take this a step further and think about how governments, particularly civil servants, could see reaching out to citizens as an integral part of their job. For example, on a health issue being discussed in a community, the health workers should be able to engage with people where they are online and correct erroneous online information about a flu bug spreading through the town, or provide a web-link to a health clinic. Waiting for people to come to a government website is outdated Government 1.0.

Moving on to regulatory issues and the rule of law, if we look back five years from now and ask for outcomes from this conference, I am going to be looking for Digital Democracy Acts. A number of national parliamentarians and local authorities suggest that if they had the resources they would be able to act on this issue. Indeed, it might be that national authorities are keen to mandate local governments to do things they do not wish to do themselves. But as our representatives, members of parliament have a duty to think about the most important aspects of e-democracy and their universality.

As an example, many public authorities have open meeting regulations which require meetings to be announced in the press, or perhaps on a physical bulletin board outside the building. Regulations should be modified to require such meetings to also be posted on the Internet. This could increase the number of local authorities and national ministries announcing meetings on their websites from half of them to all of them.

Electronic access to information is sometimes seen as an old issue, but the reality today is that citizens want rapid access to information through news alerts and web feeds (e.g. RSS). It is empowering if citizens can find out about a meeting or a news report or a new plan while there is still time to do something about it and react. Rapid information feeds are still very rare in government. If I would look for a quick fix or a quick investment that is technologically driven and does not require legislative change, I would suggest the creation of personalized e-mail notification tools combined with web feeds. (Feed only options will only be useful to less than 10% of Internet users, so don’t limit yourself to feeds.)

MySociety.Org, the UK-based e-democracy effort, does what I call “scrape and innovate”. What I mean by scrape is that they go to the Parliament’s website and take the data off, put it into a useful database format (e.g. XML) and then do really interesting things with it: they create a highly interactive interface to the Parliament. The Parliament itself does not do this, and maybe never will or even never should. But, because the data is available, third parties can innovate with it.

Indeed, one can go beyond “scrape”. In the USA there is a project led by the Sunlight Foundation called the “Open House Project”. It encourages governments to put more decision-making information online in raw format so that other web sites can take that information, organise it and add further interactive services. Such projects can make it easier for national and local media sites to be an access point into public meetings, public documents and decision-making processes. E-democracy should be everywhere, not just on government sites.

To judge the success of this conference, in five years let’s measure how many public authorities have at least one staff person, or even a staff team, whose job it is be to help led e-democracy in government and help the public interact with governance. Such online democracy representatives already exist in, for example, Estonia and Queensland, Australia. Lead civil servants and program funding to help ministries and others move into the e-democracy process and involve civil society is required. How do you foster groups like “MySociety.Org”? How do you find the resources? How do you involve groups like “Catch 21”, a non-partisan, impartial youth video project here at the conference?

As with television and radio 50 years ago, governments need to ask what Internet can offer that the market itself will not provide. We need to know what to invest in. This will not always be on governments’ terms because civil society activities, which may be more impartial than advocacy efforts, already have an incentive to use electronic tools but may also need support.

Regarding accountability and environmental monitoring, there is a growing trend by governments to put real-time data online, for example about pollution. The District of Columbia has real-time feeds of data which they are making available online. The information might include the number of parking tickets issued that day, police issues and service-related information. It can offer a pulse on how well the locality is delivering services to its citizens and that means accountability: accountability for companies and accountability for public authorities.

It is very important for public authorities to address e-inclusion and reach out to the socially excluded. My non-profit “E-Democracy.Org” undertakes a lot of volunteer activities – but there is a limit to that capacity. We have found that real resources are necessary to launch an online community neighborhood forum in a relatively deprived area. The challenge goes well beyond the capacities of volunteers. Hope doesn’t pay the bills.

Finally, I would like to ask how we can restore community bonds. This is a much broader concept than making government more democratic; it is about creating a democratic and inclusive society. It is about making sure that people have real access to each other in public life online. It also relates to the implementation of government programs not just input into policy making. Convening stakeholders online to help government implement their policy and mission – output – is a significant area of opportunity. Such interactivity could be used to help lower costs and engage stakeholders who are often already delivering public services in a different way.

I have addressed the role of civil society mentioning the example of “E-Democracy.Org” and what can happen if we really embrace the Web 2.0 environment. The focus needs to be on enabling public authorities and their decision-making information to enter the data stream and enter this network of networks. When this happens we have to let go a little and understand that people will misrepresent the information from time to time. But 95 % of the time they will not and the fact that the information is reaching so many more people makes e-governance worthwhile.

Citizens do not have a choice for every decision. I can’t pay taxes to another state for services because they have a better website. However, citizens are choosing everyday about how they use their online time. We are losing an access to people if they only go to the media and opinion sites because they think that there is nothing for them on a government or civil society website.

E-democracy in governance is not a choice, it is about the survival of the very democratic society we hold dear.

I would like to conclude with an invitation to continue this dialogue via a blog/e-newsletter I have been running since 1998 called “Democracies Online Newswire – DoWire.Org”. It connects 2,500 members around the world interested in e-democracy, including an special online community of practice for Europe and other regions. For those in civil society who are interested in “local up” approach I also invite you to connect with lessons from E-Democracy.Org’s growing neighbourhood Issues Forum network.

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How the Internet Can Support Government Transparency and Citizen Engagment Presentation – By Steven Clift at NewsOut.Org Conference – 2009 http://stevenclift.com/how-the-internet-can-support-government-transparency-and-citizen-engagment-presentation-by-steven-clift-at-newsoutorg-conference-2009/ http://stevenclift.com/how-the-internet-can-support-government-transparency-and-citizen-engagment-presentation-by-steven-clift-at-newsoutorg-conference-2009/#comments Tue, 05 May 2009 15:26:41 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=232 E-Democracy Meets E-Journalism (Transparency, Engagement)

View more presentations from netclift.

The other week, I spoke at the NewsOut conference in Boston on the intersection of e-democracy and e-journalism with a focus on how the Internet can be used to promote government transparency and public engagement in governance. I sent out a query asking people for examples on the Democracies Online Newswire, News-Online, the U.S. Democracy Online exchange, and to the Transparency Camp e-mail lists. Many of the examples I share demonstrate once again that the intelligence is in the network.

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Community Infrastructure Builders – The Online Bridge to Somewhere – By Steven Clift – 2009 http://stevenclift.com/community-infrastructure-builders-the-online-bridge-to-somewhere-by-steven-clift-2009/ http://stevenclift.com/community-infrastructure-builders-the-online-bridge-to-somewhere-by-steven-clift-2009/#comments Tue, 13 Jan 2009 12:08:51 +0000 http://stevenclift.com/?p=270

I come from the “citizen” side of citizen media and work a lot with community building online. Everyday, I an privileged to live in a neighborhood with a vibrant online community far from the wretched shores media hosted mostly anonymous and frequently disturbing online reader comments.

So, from my non-profit perspective, when I look at all the money the U.S. government might be throwing into cement, I figure we digital folks need to come up with similar job-creating ideas that provide real value to community infrastructure.

So below is my proposal. (Also in PDF format.)

Community Infrastructure Builders – The Online Bridge to Somewhere

An innovative “shovel ready” option for the U.S. economic stimulus – Discussion draft by Steven Clift

A bridge is infrastructure designed to connect people to each other for social and economic growth. Digital bridges can do the same for a fraction of the cost.

Across the United States, a quiet revolution is connecting some local people to one another online. Let’s make it most people. Americans are using technology to:

• Create electronic block clubs to deter crime and keep their children safer.

• Establish online neighborhood and community forums, blogs, and social networks that promote community problem-solving, support for local small business and are beginning to be used for mutual benefit and support during these difficult economic times.

• Promote reuse of goods and materials through open exchange primarily at a regional level.

• Promote awareness of volunteer opportunities in local community and non-profit groups.

• Connect the public to local government services through e-mail newsletters, customized alert services, and other online systems.

This highly distributed local activity, particularly at the highly empowering block and neighborhood level, is only reaching a fraction of the population that would benefit from and be interested in such opportunities. It is not just a matter of awareness, it is the lack of thorough on-the-ground outreach required to connect millions of Americans “locally” on the global Internet. It is about the civic use of information technology to complement the many efforts focused on access.

The Community Infrastructure Builders effort is a “digital shovel ready” proposal that can be rolled out rapidly to:

1. 30,000 Jobs – Promote the necessarily distributed array of existing online opportunities in local communities directly to local residents by creating approximately 30,000 outreach “for results” jobs – approximately one for each standard Zip Code based on place in the United States.

2. Effective In-Person Outreach – “Bridge” people locally online built on essential in-person outreach. Based on E-Democracy.Org’s direct experience with online recruitment in low income areas, rural communities, etc., the primary and missing activity is in-person outreach. Online advertising, etc. only allows you to effectively reach those who are essentially looking for what you are providing. That is not how you build new community bonds. This effort will include outreach at community events, door-to-door, building to building, and more using a mix of paper and technology-based forms for opt-in engagement.

Online white pages do not exist that allow you to look-up and easily invite your neighbors to join an e-block club electronically nor for local government to build opt-in participation in cost-effective online public services. With training and the support of local host organizations (libraries, community technology centers, local governments, non-profits, colleges, etc.) where available, the results will be measured by the percentage of residents/households that opt-in to various local online options and crucially, the creation of new online groups/e-news services fostered or organized by our Community Infrastructure Builders.

3. Collaborative Approach, Multiple Providers – Work with community organizations and local governments to build digitally connective opportunities through collaborative online technology development, effective training, and model transfer as well as exposure to competing providers and services. Hundreds if not thousands of existing, often local, online services will be promoted instead of one single monolithic online service.

4. Promote Lasting Connections – Promote lasting economic stimulus by promoting greater efficiency in local government and community group communication with the public. Make every block potentially safer through neighbor to neighbor connections despite the crisis in resources for policing. Encourage every neighborhood and community to have an online public space that promotes effective “anytime, anywhere” participation in public life to combat the scarcity of time available.

5. Jobs in the Community – Depending upon the stimulus budget, a significant number of these positions would be designed for as summer work for students as well as part-time contract work for retirees needing to re-enter the workforce for economic reasons. The best candidates will be those with both a deep interest in their local community and an ability to work where a significant portion of their compensation is based on their recruitment results.

Real People, Real Results

The following goals would result in at least 100 million Americans signed up in at least one of these areas within two years with an average of 100 group messages/e-alerts received per year per person or 10 billion “bridging” public communication opportunities each year into the future.

• 1.5 million electronic block clubs – ~50 in each standard Zip Code reaching at an average 25 residents each or 37.5 million Americans (these will be secure resident-only online spaces)

• 150,000 new or assisted online neighborhood/community forums – ~5 in each Zipcode (rural areas would likely have just one) reaching an average 300 registered participants reaching 45 million Americans (mostly public, open spaces)

• A least 75 million Americans “opted-in” to online services and alerts provided by local government including crime alerts, city e-mail newsletters, schools e-alerts and more. This will build the existing base already established by adding a “tell me more” check box option about additional e-services from local government and community groups to our outreach paper forms and websites

Stimulus Budget

The local in-person approach is the most effective way to reach harder to reach populations. It can be complemented by Internet-wide outreach efforts through national partners where upon entering geographic information, the public would be offered an array of civic and government online groups, e-mail newsletters, and local links. The key outcome is a “Yes, tell me what’s new” or “I want to engage my neighbors, sign me up” and not a simple transitory web visit where no sustained relationship was established.

To create 30,000 jobs, with most deployed starting in the summer of 2009, this will take real resources. These positions are “bridging” in nature through the deepest part of our recession and will lead in many cases to future work opportunities after the bulk of outreach work is completed. As a crucial one-time investment, community organization and local governments will save millions in communication and service costs over the long-run.

Estimated cost – based on an estimated $30,000 per position including the supporting management, training, and technology costs to create 30,000 field positions the total budget required is: $900 million

Similar results are obtainable under various models and timelines, but the social equity aspect does require in-person outreach to be most effective. With the right national online partners and pro-bono contribution by major web sites, millions of American could be driven to a national online starting point offering local options for a lower cost and allow a greater in-person outreach focus in the most economically depressed areas. As a draft for discussion, if anyone with any insider power or influence in the new administration wants to adopt this idea at 10%, even 1% of the proposed budget, let’s get connected.

Discuss

To discuss this proposal or share your own for the Obama transition team and Congress, join the non-partisan U.S. Democracy Online Exchange.

About the Author

Steven Clift is the founder of E-Democracy.Org which created the world’s first election information website in 1994. Today E-Democracy.Org hosts 25 community and neighborhood “Issues Forums” across 15 communities. He has spoken on democracy, community, and government on the Internet across 27 countries and is recognized as an Ashoka Fellow for his socially entrepreneurial efforts. He experiences what every neighborhood should have on the online neighborhood forum that he hosts and is involved in efforts to open similar forums in higher immigrant areas of Minneapolis and St. Paul. More from: stevenclift.com or e-mail clift@e-democracy.org

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Steven Clift’s articles, presentations, and speeches from 1993 through today http://stevenclift.com/hello-world/ http://stevenclift.com/hello-world/#comments Thu, 01 Jan 2009 11:29:19 +0000 http://cliftnotes.org/stevenclift/?p=1 I’ve decided to upgrade my collection of articles, presentations, and speech from 1993 up through today. In 2009 the interest in the use of the Internet in governance and citizen engagement looks to be rising to an all time high. It is about time. Hundreds of people new to the field in the right place and right time (like those in the new Obama Administration) will have an opportunity to change the way democracy is done. You have an opportunity to open up our political process and engage the public is ways never imaginable. On the flip side, if you try something in government or any larger organization for that matter and it goes wrong, we won’t have another chance in twenty years until the scars of a failed e-democracy project finally leave the collective memory of a bureaucracy.

Over the years, from the age 24 to now almost 40 I’ve been gathering and synthesising ideas and trends related to “e-democracy” in an open source sort of way. I’ve been honored to speak in almost 30 countries and as you read might writings you’ll see the collection of international best practices emerge. While many come before me in the intersection of politics and technology/the Internet … I coined the shorten term “e-democracy.” I did this in 1994 with Minnesota E-Democracy before e-commerce, before e-government, before most “e” things except e-mail. While a number of my articles might seem dated, the field of democracy online – in governance and citizen engagement – has barely moved compared to online campaigning and advocacy. The later two areas have the engine of political competition for power and survival. The space I care about, requires democratic intent and both people and organizations who act in their enlightened self-interest. A few might make a buck or two and clearly the media – mass and citizen media – will play a larger role that I and many not coming at this from a journalism background expected.

Anyway, I’ll be adding my articles into WordPress starting with my oldest material and come forward as time allows. I look forward to your comments and questions.

Steven Clift

P.S. I will likely be retiring my Publicus.Net domain from active updates. After using a mispelled or at least a spelling variation of publius that no one is familiar with, it is time to move on.

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