Neighbors Online: Connecting Communities for All Workshop - Bay Area @ The HUB


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Neighbors Online: Connecting Communities for All Workshop - Bay Area @ The HUB

  1. 1. Connecting Neighbors, BuildingCommunities, and Raising Voices since 1994
  2. 2.  Welcome Why? Neighbors Online Surf Local Online Groups and Hurricane Sandy Introductions - Bay Area Share-a-thon Inclusion: Who’s Missing? Our Spin: Neighbors Forums In-Depth: Outreach, Inclusion, and Engagement in St. Paul and Minneapolis
  3. 3.  Someone needed help. The Wheel of Cheese  Frantic online forum request: “Is anyone flying to Seattle in next 12 hours? I am stuck out of town. Can you take a wheel of cheese to the national competition? Ours went missing. Homeland Security won’t let us overnight replacement.”  Neighbor replies, “I am a former airline employee and I’ve been looking for a reason to go to Seattle. “ Cheese makes it in time.  Read more – on Powderhorn Neighbors Forum – Photo CC jojomelons via Flickr
  4. 4.  E-Democracy.orgs mission:  Harness the power of online tools to support participation in public life, strengthen communities, and build democracy. Creating online spaces for civic engagement since 1994.
  5. 5.  1994 – World’s first election information web site AND Minnesota Politics two-way e-list 1998 – Minneapolis and St. Paul Issues Forums – “online town hall” model 2005 – UK grant to pilot, Bristol and Oxford asked for neighbourhoods in ’07 2008 – Minneapolis neighborhoods get started  Mixed classic “neighborhood e-list” with PUBLIC online town hall with neighborhood watch, Freecycle, Craigslist (non-selling), community news and bulletin board for areas with 5,000 to 15,000 residents
  6. 6.  Our goal to build civic engagement and raise diverse voices was NOT being met by all volunteer start-up activity … built on volunteer foundation with: 2010-11 – Ford Foundation - pilot Inclusive Social Media effort – deep engagement in Cedar Riverside, expanding to Frogtown (note 60 page evaluation) 2012-14 – Knight Foundation – scaling to 14+ Neighbors Forums reflecting diversity with outreach and active forum engagement to reach ~10,000 daily participants
  7. 7.  Social connections, family-friendly Safety and crime prevention Mutual benefit , sharing stuff Greater voices and civic engagement Social capital generator Openness and inclusion (if done right) = Stronger communities Resources: Block Activities, Block Connectors, Locals Online, Soul of the Community
  8. 8.  Crime Prevention  Local Food Disaster Preparedness and  Diverse Community Cohesion Community Recovery  Education and Community Emergency Preparedness and Service Response  Recent Immigrant and Refugee Neighborly Mutual Benefit and Integration and Support Support  Sustainable Broadband Health Care and Long-term Care Adoption Energy Efficiency  Rural Community Building Environmental Sustainability  Youth Employment and Senior Care and Inter- Experience generational Connections  Community Building, Civic Small Business Promotion Engagement, and Social Capital Transportation  Details on the E-Democracy Blog
  9. 9.  Two-way online “groups” at core Connecting at two primary levels:  Block-level, neighborhood crime watch ▪ Very Private, Covering ~100 households, typically resident-only, often “cc:” e-mail chains  Neighborhood/Community-wide ▪ Public , Semi-Public (request to join), or Private - Covering hundreds to thousands of households
  10. 10. 27% of adult Net users (22% overall) use “digital tools to talk to their neighbors and keep informed about community issues.” Source: Neighbors Online study from, 2010
  11. 11.  “Joiners” – 10.5% of adult Net users members of neighborhood e-mail lists, forums, or social network site groups Includes 7% on e-lists/forums or ~10 million folks across ~20,000 to 40,000 online spaces – DC, Seattle, Mpls, etc. have deep history Source: Neighbors Online study from, 2010
  12. 12.  Seattle must have the most placeblogs per capita! Editor in center with “news” models vs. groups
  13. 13.  West Seattle Blog’s Forums  Most successful media-sponsored local online forums in the world??  Local web-based “forums” in U.S. rare, popular in UK
  14. 14. Imagine a shared e-mail box for your
  15. 15. From our directory: YahooGroups mostly,  Admiral - 123 members “forum host” is crucial  Alki Beach- 185  Ballard - 110 Few are “public” - hard  Beacon Hill to “see” the  Hillman City - 192 awesomeness your  Georgetown - 557 area is missing  Greenwood - 420  Montlake - 946 Talk2 Seattle.Gov  North Ravenna  Dozens! Mostly nhood  Squire Park - 330 assoc work??? Can’t tell  South Park- 759 how active
  16. 16.  Moms/Parents E-Lists  Seattle has a massive network ~20  MUST live in a certain area  Biggest – Ballard 1705, N Beacon 1876, Madrona 2785, Magnolia 903 … Seattle “Dads” 1 
  17. 17.  Hillman Brighton moved from YahooGroups Host likes pictures in Member Directory Few FB Groups for Seattle Nhoods?
  18. 18.  We Grew Up in San Francisco Chinatown (1232, Open) San Francisco Chinatown Just for Fun 2 (1522, Private)
  19. 19.  One Week in Seattle  Free trees  Missing bike  School walk  Chickens  “foro de discusión” – Seeking Spanish-  Gunshots speaking folks  Free stuff  Voter registration  City council  Nickelsville  Folk club  Bikes for books  Food forest  Suicide prevention  Spanish lesson guy  Strawberry plants  Neighbor needed for  Nhood meeting school project
  20. 20.  Green Lake blog moved to EveryBlock Everyblock serves ~20 major cities, started as local data to map site, added community
  21. 21.  Private residents-only “social network for your neighborhood” Venture funded, partnering with some governments Mostly small groups, but can cover thousands of residents (no access for non-resident local businesses, community orgs, elected officials by design)
  22. 22.  #bainbridge Very social “Organic” Tags launched during crisises
  23. 23.  Official: Broadcast – FEMA.Gov, etc. Community: Many to many  “Like” a Facebook Page to express support  “Share” photos, news, Tweets  “Gather” data and put on a map, etc.  “Join” an Online Group to get involved  “Volunteer” via OccupySandy, etc.  “Needs and Offers” via, etc.
  24. 24.  Hurricane Sandy – Facebook Groups Galore  More local groups with leadership have sustained activity  Lesson: Have a local online group before you really need it ▪ - Guide linked here too ▪ Examples: ▪ Rockaways, Staten Island Strong, Union Beach NJ, Black Rock CT
  25. 25.  Everyone  Neighbors Online  Name Group Members  Neighborhood/Place  Which one  Top question?  Which tech platform  How long a member Diverse Voices  Most recent example Social Media  Important or useful  Which community(ies) example  Current online efforts
  26. 26.  Neighborhood E-Lists/Forums – 7% Overall  15% of online households over $75K – 5 times higher!  3% of online households under $50K  3% Latino  2% Rural …  8% Blacks and Whites  9% Women, 5% Men Of 22% of ALL adults who “talk digitally with neighbors”: Only 12% under 30K, Over 75K 39% Source: Neighbors Online study from, 2010
  27. 27.  Public (vs. private groups) Open access (vs. invite only) Publicly searchable archive (vs. member only access) Local scope Encourage strong civility Must use real names, accountability
  28. 28.  Digital inclusion for community engagement leverages other key efforts Engagement Digital Literacy Online and Computer Skills Technology and Broadband Access
  29. 29.  Series by Eric Fisher Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, Orange is Hispanic, Yellow is Other, and each dot is 25 residents.
  30. 30.  “Local” online public places to:  share information, events, ideas  discuss neighborhood issues  gather diverse people in an open place  take action and promote solutions ’s neighborhood-level Issues Forums are powered by two-way group communication  We host over 50 neighbors/community forums in 17 communities across 3 countries today
  31. 31. You Everyone welcome  Residents, local workers, business owners People who “serve” the community  Local governments, non-profits, etc. Outreach essential:  Diverse communities:  100 members for strong opening  1070 members on largest forum today, ~25% households
  32. 32.  E-mail Web Facebook Twitter
  33. 33. City Hall Local Media Neighbor #1 Coverage N E Neighbors Your I Local BizNetworks G Forum H Join the Online B Forum O R S In-person Conversations Shared on Facebook
  34. 34.  Public (vs. private groups) Open access (vs. invite only) Publicly searchable archive (vs. member only access) Local scope Encourage strong civility Must use real names, accountability
  35. 35.  Volunteer-driven, Non-profit  (Pictures of some of our awesome volunteer Forum Managers and contractors ) Local scope key “Public life” openness not “virtual gated communities” Government can access us  Unlike Facebook which is blocked by many organizations Open source technology, sharing  We use GPL tech out of New Zealand
  36. 36.  Online advantages  24 x 7 – Anytime, anywhere convenience  Engage people unable to attend meetings, with limited mobility, two jobs, children  Less intimidating for some – open and accessible “ice breaker” into public life  Local approach coupled with in-person activities increases value and trust – Online only would be a major disadvantage
  37. 37.  Civility matters  Real names build trust  No name calling  Post just 2 times a day (on most forums) spreads participation, retains audience  Facilitated by local volunteer “Forum Manager,” rules are enforced  Major contrast with often anonymous, nasty online news comments
  38. 38.  Action Discussion Announcements
  39. 39.  Being local means we can easily meet and act together  Community garden effort launched  “It’s cold” discussion results in winter wear drive to help recent immigrants  Sexual assault response by “Mom” and 400+ rally on a cold winter night, community brainstorming
  40. 40. Photos from Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune.
  41. 41.  Topics like: • Helping neighbors  Community news • Local history  Crime and safety • New small businesses  Crisis response • Landlord issues  Schools and parks • Local  Service provider environment/recycling recommendations – • Questions of every kind home repairs, child – “What was that care, etc. noise?”
  42. 42.  Community/cultural events Neighborhood meetings Local news, photos, video Free stuff (selling is rare/not promoted) Elected official updates Lost or found pets In any language Bi-lingual announcements encouraged
  43. 43.  Via the web:   Or ▪ Directory starting in Twin Cities ▪ Join via Facebook Option Available
  44. 44.  Via simple paper sign-up sheets Sign up at local events, by neighbors, or when doorknocked.
  45. 45.  46% People of Color 17% Foreign Born Lower income areas, renters, etc.
  46. 46.  1. Online spaces for neighbors to connect with each other in the ways that they want 2. Spaces as representative as possible of the neighborhoods, 10%+ of households 3. More people having a voice, who often do not have a voice in their neighborhood 4. Engagement that builds trust, bridges, and social capital
  47. 47.  60 Page Report and Webinar evaluation Funding from Ford Foundation 2010-11, Minneapolis Base 65
  48. 48.  Pilot expansion methods across three neighborhood/forums Special outreach to diverse communities in Minneapolis and St. Paul: ▪ Latino, Native American, East African, African American, Hmong/SE Asian
  49. 49.  Face-to-face outreach, paper signup sheets, and a personal approach most successful Building trust is essential. Knowing that “someone like me” is on the forum helps Personal invitations and direct support help people get started with posting. 67
  50. 50.  Work with community event organizers to bring forum members out “IRL” to their community events, sign up new people too Understand people’s interests and needs, then find ways to address them through the forum to encourage sustained participation Ford Foundation funded, 2010-2011
  51. 51.  Members: Forum provides new information and alternative viewpoints Elected officials pay attention to forum posts Community organizations who actively participated found it relevant and rewarding Range and depth of conversations dependent on forum members’ willingness to share opinions, ask questions, and seek input
  52. 52.  Goal: Recruit and engage 10,000+ Saint Paulites by end of 2014 Focus outreach on highly diverse, immigrant and low-income communities Knight Foundation funded, 625K 3 year grant (through end of 2014) Applied Ford lessons
  53. 53.  Utilize grassroots community organizing techniques to bring a diversity of neighbors onto the forums. Bring in around 3000 new members over the summer and begin building relationships in Saint Paul communities. Hire ~10 multi-lingual outreach team members working 15 hours a week
  54. 54. 1. Research and set goals2. Intensive recruitment and training3. Utilized open access tools to manage logistics increasing mobility and capacity of team (GDocs, Dropbox, etc.)4. Major on the ground outreach!5. Remembering to think long term about empowerment and voice 74
  55. 55. Courtesy of University of Minnesota:Center for Urban and Regional Affairs 75
  56. 56. 76
  57. 57. 77
  58. 58. 79
  59. 59. 80
  60. 60. 85
  61. 61.  More pictures in our slide show. 86
  62. 62.  ~3,000 memberships in-person in 2012, 800 online 129 Tracked Summer Outreach Events:  917 via door-knocking in 20 targeted areas  692 via 39 different community events  340 via 28 community locations (libraries, etc.)  182 via 10 National Night Out sites  89 via 4 ethnic soccer matches  76 via 12 community members After ~12% error rate in e-mail addresses, opt-outs
  63. 63.  Over 50% of paper form survey responses were from people of color Surname analysis shows 30%+ of targeted forums appear to be from racial/ethnic communities (Asian, Latino, East African) Demographic profile being built into tech, quarterly participant survey planned
  64. 64.  All 17 St. Paul neighborhoods (District Councils) covered with online neighborhood spaces, 3 outside our network 6,000 Forum Memberships, up from 3200 = +266% in St. Paul, 1,000+ more on original city-wide St. Paul Issues Forum Minneapolis 0ver 9200 memberships Detailed Blog Post, Insider Google Doc
  65. 65.  266% increase in St. Paul (blue) memberships in 2012 Mpls (red) all volunteer “organic” word of mouth growth
  66. 66.  Utilization of volunteers Partnerships need to grow beyond links Forum engagement staffing delayed to ‘13 Light guidance for contractors, more hands on needed Logistics of hand processing 3,000 paper sign-ups
  67. 67.  Build volunteer capacity in forum engagement to developing deeper relationships in community - goal: Forums that better reflect the diversity of neighbors in the “virtual room.” Ensure partnerships are mutually beneficial Execute an intense forum engagement plan 95
  68. 68.  Unleashing the power neighbors helping neighbors for ALL communities. Neighbor uses forum organize an awesome birthday party and holiday gifts for their immigrant neighbors daughter after the family’s money was stolen.
  69. 69. Public outreachWebinars, training:
  70. 70.  We’d love to connect with you more! Steven Clift - 612-229-4471 On Twitter @edemo More: 98
  71. 71.  Do you work with minority/low income/ immigrant populations? Are you interested in building up a network that allows more neighbors to connect with each other? 102
  72. 72. 1. Doorknocking, Clipboards, and Sneakers2. Careful Recruitment, Hiring, and Training of “outreach team”3. Team vs. Individual4. Mobile & Open Access to Logistics5. Thinking Long Term about Empowerment
  73. 73. 1. Utilization of volunteers
  74. 74. 1. Utilization of volunteers2. Partnerships (Not yet anyway!)
  75. 75. 1. Utilization of volunteers2. Partnerships3. Forum Engagement (Short Term)
  76. 76. 1. Utilization of volunteers2. Partnerships3. Forum Engagement (Short Term)4. Light Guidance
  77. 77. 1. Surname analysis shows 30%+ of targeted forums appear to be from racial/ethnic diverse communities.2. We launched neighbors forums in 16 of 17 Saint Paul neighborhoods3. The Saint Paul Neighbors Forums virtually doubled from 2,863 on June 4 to 5,609 on September 11.
  78. 78.  200% increase in St. Paul (blue) memberships since Jan 1. Mpls (red) all volunteer “organic” word of mouth growth
  79. 79.  Develop and launch Volunteer Engagement Plan Utilize a set of local engaged volunteers on EACH Saint Paul forum for deep forum engagement Build up and maintain partnerships More outreach; lesson sharing Convene in-person meetings of forum members
  80. 80.  Want to hear from you First write down your initial thoughts Small groups, discuss, and share “Harvest” pieces of your conversation that caught your attention.
  81. 81. is in the process of building the largest online civicnetwork in the nation serving a single community.We hope to engage 10,000 people in St. Paul in online neighbors forums.Critical to the success of our project, is reaching out and engagingdiverse, immigrant and low income communities using low-techstrategies such as door-knocking and paper sign-up sheets.The process has been thoroughly documented with both photos andvideo. We are eager to share what worked for us as well as what didn’twork, highlight stories from the field, and hear about similar projects inother communities.
  82. 82.  All kinds of neighbors can be connected online 60 Pages:   Free in-depth webinar
  83. 83.  “Community life” exchange builds audience for inclusive civic discussions  “Little Mekong” branding for Asian business promotion on University Ave  Triple homicide - Who can we trust to keep us safe after a tragedy in East African grocery? Police? More guns? Led to off-line discussions with local teens. Vigil proposed, hundreds gather.  Also: Cats indoors or outdoors?, Airplane noise, etc.
  84. 84.  Post announcements and events – reach hundreds for free Monitor the community agenda, advocate and organize locally Answer questions, share info Connect people to your programs Encourage your members/clients/etc. to join us
  85. 85.  Neighbors Forums promote:  Community building  Neighbors helping neighbors  Sharing/reusing things very locally  Engagement with government and accountability  And much more
  86. 86.  Join your local Neighbors Forum today! Every community needs a vibrant local online place that makes your part of the world a better .  The lowest cost model for effectively building real community and civic participation available today(?)  Start a forum. You can make this happen in your neighborhood. If you don’t who will? Contact us:   @edemo - Twitter  Tel/Text: +1-651-400-0880
  87. 87.  Yes, we reach people “where they are” via many channels and technologies Our “unified” integrated public forums  Facebook Page – Forum excerpts  Twitter – Topic headlines  “Blog” style Web Feed – Full-text  E-mail and web options – Most accessible, required to post E-mail key to active “bridge building” and mobile use – old-fashioned but EFFECTIVE
  88. 88.  Stat tuned for more knowledge sharing  Inclusive Social Media Lessons, Evaluation  How to Start a Forum - Detailed  Forum Manager How-to Webinar Follow our blog for updates:  Key existing resources  - Guidebook and more 
  89. 89.  Our neighborhood-level “Issues Forum”:  24 forums across St. Paul and Minneapolis ▪ Many new forums - join our funded start-up campaign now  25 start-up forums in Christchurch, New Zealand ▪ Created for post-quake recovery by two volunteers  5 in the United Kingdom ▪ Where our “neighbourhood” level work started  11 “city-wide” online town hall “Issues Forums” ▪ Extensive details: ▪ City-level forums provide place for city-wide issues and politics ▪ Includes five Greater Minnesota towns
  90. 90.  Request one:  Recipe   100 start-up members   1 local volunteer “Forum  We technically set it up Manager” –You?  Paper sign-ups at Outreach essential community events  E-mail outreach, e-letter 10+ forums in start-up signed by initial members mode  Friendly round of virtual introductions with real people using real names Lessons/training from: to build trust 
  91. 91.  Strong “critical mass” launch is key to success Need mix of local institutions – parks, officials, places of worship, community groups AND everyday residents Forum Manager plays crucial role – needed to “seed” forum with announcements until community groups begin to do it themselves ~10% of households across forum area is a magic threshold for “self-generative” community life Forum facilitation prevents difficult topics from turning into “flame wars” – one blow out can kill a forum
  92. 92.  Post via web  Login at  Click on desired forum  New Topic : ▪ “post a new topic” - “Topics” tab ▪ Fill in text box, press “Start” ▪ Add files (PDF, Word, etc.)  Existing Topic: ▪ Login, read topics ▪ Text box at bottom
  93. 93.  Connect your neighbors and neighborhood? Make your community better? Improve civic engagement? Raise diverse voices? Share local information? Do all this cost-effectively leveraging volunteers? If yes, here is an introduction on Neighbors Issues Forums from
  94. 94.  Read via e-mail or web  Daily e-digest option - topics with direct links  Text, files, photos, YouTube videos
  95. 95.  Post via e-mail  “place”  e.g. Post via web  Login at  Visit desired forum and post  Post/attach files easily (Photos, PDF, Word, etc.)
  96. 96.  Dozens of companies are getting into the neighbor connecting business Visit the local social media directory Join the Locals Online community of practice to join people from .org, .coms, and many independent free spirits