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[liberationtech] Building tech to connect local people in local democracy/community

Steven Clift clift at
Thu Apr 5 15:50:04 PDT 2012

With our operations focused relatively free societies, we take a
different tack on liberation and empowerment online. In short, we
believe strongly in the power of connecting local people to local
people within the context of representative democracy.

We've found that local online spaces that often include elected
officials have a far more powerful influence on elected officials for
one simple reason - those engaging ARE their voters. While many of the
folks on this forum are focused on the national politics of repressive
regimes, how might lots and lots of local online civic and community
engagement in all sort of countries be fostered broadly.

I don't believe in one uber system or that it is just about creating a
Facebook Page for each political district, to me it is about both
helping people find the existing opportunities for
community/civic/political geographic-based online two-way engagement
AND helping new people create new spaces effectively to serve millions
more people. To that end, I am sharing our tech outline for a
directory (and Got Milk? style promotional campaign) called (or While we testing the idea in
the Twin Cities, I don't see why IF it is works it wouldn't be
scalable to other communities and countries (either by sharing open
source tech or by extending its direct coverage to more areas.)

I am definitely looking for developers who are interested in helping
build this and there will be some paid opportunities. I am also
looking for existing tech to leverage. It could be that an existing
globally conceived tool you've built can be adapted for very local use
and the other way around.

See below.

Steven Clift

P.S. The deep geek LocalLabs group has generated the most feedback
privately and publicly so far:

From: Steven Clift <clift at>
Date: Mon, Apr 2, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Subject: Ready to "build" local change? Technical outline to help
people find local online groups -
To: neighborly at, locallabs at

Please help pass this along ...

I've outlined my current thinking about a new outreach campaign
website dedicated to helping people find and then join local
neighborhood, block-level, etc. online groups *across* many hosts.

In short:

1. See local map
2. Click on icon for a local online group in your neighborhood, get info
3. To join follow link off to the group itself where it is hosted

I am interested in hearing from developers about the tools they'd use
to build such a thing. I am interested in how to leverage and
contribute back to an open source content management system with this
work. I'd rather leverage something with legs and compromise on
features than start from scratch.

Drop me a line with feedback here on this group or directly:

* Why does this matter?

Millions of people are being left out of the neighbor connecting
revolution online. Most people find out about such opportunities via
word of mouth (yes, powerfully important). An open and comprehensive
directory that is also reliably found via Google searches can help
connect millions more.

* Why now?

With's Inclusive Community Engagement Online funding
from the Knight Foundation we have a window of opportunity to test the
concept in the Twin Cities (especially in St. Paul down to the block
level) to see if it works and to refine it before spreading the
outreach campaign to other communities. If it works really well, then
of course there will be an opportunity for "local everywhere"
expansion IF directory data can be cost-effectively sourced and

* If you are interested in this concept, where to land based on your

1. Neighborly Open Source - - For open source
coders interested in neighbor connecting - MAIN group for exchange on
the technical input for this effort

2. Locals Online - - If you host local
online groups/sites and want to connect with hundreds of your peers

3. LocalLabs - - Hundreds of locally
interest geeks for technical exchange on anything local communities
and tech

4. E-Democracy Project Volunteer Group - - Landing place for anyone interested
in volunteering with any E-Democracy project with various skills (not
just technical)

5. More Online Communities of Practice -  (like CityCamp Exchange, Digital
Inclusion Network, and more)

Steven Clift -
  Executive Director -
  Tel/Text: +1.612.234.7072

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