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Minnesota E-Democracy. Steven Clift http://www.publicus.net Copyright 2002. Minnesota E-Democracy. World’s first election-oriented web site in 1994 … so what?. Minnesota E-Democracy. 1994 – Election information, online candidate debates, political discussion. Minnesota E-Democracy.

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minnesota e democracy

Minnesota E-Democracy

Steven Clift


Copyright 2002

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy2
Minnesota E-Democracy
  • World’s first election-oriented web site in 1994
  • … so what?

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy3
Minnesota E-Democracy
  • 1994 – Election information, online candidate debates, political discussion

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy4
Minnesota E-Democracy
  • Election Over.
  • People kept talking.

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

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Minnesota E-Democracy
  • 1994-2002 …
  • Hosting the “Online Commons”

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy today
Capitol Forum

MN-Politics-Discuss – 400 Members

MN-Politics-Announce – 500 Members

MN-Politics-National – 100 Members

4 Topical Spaces

E-Democracy Legislative Study Group

Election Content Promotion, Online Candidate Debates

Communities Forum

Minneapolis – 700 Members

St. Paul – 300 Members

Winona – 250 Members

Board role, governance

Other external forums, great diffusion after 1997 …

Minnesota E-Democracy Today

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

online civic communication model 1994 98
Online Civic Communication Model 1994-98

Commons serves as public group communication organizer, multiplier, and amplifier; “leaks” into private communication

Group communication

remains highly private

without commons



Steven Clift – www.publicus.net


Online Civic Communication Model 1998+

One-way content,

semi-public online

advocacy without


Diffusion of interaction,

viable two-way options

tied to online advocacy

and one-way content



Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

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Minnesota E-Democracy
  • Lessons
  • Eight years is a long time online.

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy lessons
Minnesota E-Democracy Lessons
  • 1. Declare victory. Set reasonable expectations. Building momentum is more important than immediate success. Answer why question every step of the way. Goal: To improve the outcome of the public policy process with effective and meaningful citizen participation.
  • 2. Many-to-many discussions represent the unique strength of this new medium. One-way content is a carry over from old media and political communication. Geography matters. The more local, the more relevant to a broader cross-section of the population.
  • 3. Facilitation is essential. Moderation is not. Focus conversations on issues to overcome personal and ideological conflict.

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy lessons11
Minnesota E-Democracy Lessons
  • 4. Building civic space is a public good. Non-partisan, advocacy neutral online public spaces for information exchange will not exist without public interest efforts.
  • 5. E-mail is king. Participants and readers are key to value. Value of e-mail and convenience is supreme, often underestimated. Web-only systems tend to work with larger audience sites, highly motivated users, or for special online events and consultations.
  • 6. Sustainability. Promoting self-governance and volunteer spirit key to sustainability.
  • 7. Scalability limited by current all-volunteer foundation. However, complete professionalization of facilitation would make expansion unaffordable while professional training and outreach required.

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net

minnesota e democracy lessons12
Minnesota E-Democracy Lessons
  • 8. Expansion requires resources for coordination, training, promotion, distributed management/facilitation and adjudication.
  • 9. Technical barriers exist. Use of proprietary software tools and lack of access to technical expertise to adapt open source options limits our advancement as well as the long-term potential of our model to expand in a cost-effective way within and beyond Minnesota.
  • 10. Conversation has value. Think agenda-setting among opinion leaders and media. Build respect among participants and foster public opinion formation. Worry about the direct influence on government decision-making process later.

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net


If I had a million dollars, I’d be … … building a grid for community conversation, online consultation, and public interest communities of practice/implementation.An illustration from another presentation …

Steven Clift – www.publicus.net


Citizens Commons









Civic Events

Communities of Practice / Interest


Steven Clift – www.publicus.net





Steven Clift – www.publicus.net