Hola! Nyob zoo! Maalin wanaagsan! Won't you be my online neighbor?
Town hall gatherings have gone virtual, and Steven Clift wants to make sure Southeast Asians, Latinos, East Africans and African-Americans are part of the growing conversation taking place online among St. Paul residents.
Clift, 42, of Minneapolis, is founder of E-Democracy.org, an email and Web-based forum where residents share everyday news about their neighborhoods, dissect crime updates, recruit baby sitters, trade restaurant referrals or take jabs at their elected officials. The 17-year-old experiment in civic technology has grown to be 3,000 members strong in St. Paul alone.
The site, which is free for users, offers discussion boards that cover the city as a whole, as well as seven neighborhood forums targeted to such areas as Highland Park or Dayton's Bluff. A Como neighborhood forum opened in December.
Clift wants to expand the conversation to include at least 10,000 St. Paul residents in the next three years - about one person in every 10 households. That's the tipping point, Clift believes, where membership becomes self-generating.
He's received hefty financial support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation not only to reach that goal, but to reach it equitably.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.