Minnesota E-Democracy
How We Use the Internet to Build Democracy in Minnesota.

Minnesote E-Democracy has a WWW site.  From our statistical files we had around 10,000 total web pages viewed from our site from June through August.  This is O.K., but nothing special.  Here is how our WWW site works:

WWW Diagram

With our MN-POLITICS e-mail discussion list we have around 300 regular subscribers and 100 digest subscribers.  With each post to the e-mail list we enable Minnesotans and others to generate 400 "page views" delivered directly to e-mail boxes of those interested in Minnesota politics (not that all of the message are read, but the human communciation network is sustained beyond a solitary web click).  With an average 10 posts a day, we generate some 4000 page views in one day.  For a volunteer-based civic effort, e-mail is key to our ability to contribute to Minnesota's democracy.

As well as enabling "citizens" to publish their views or announcements on Minnesota politics we have gathered an audience that includes people who do both "real" and virtual politics.  This includes members of the media, state and local elected officials, legislative staff, governor's staff, campaign workers, party volunteers, members of civic and political interest organizations, and lots of "average" online folks.

Here is how MN-POLITICS works:


Through Minnesota E-Democracy, we provide a "neutral" forum whose hidden value is based in who's e-mail box we help get you in.  We also offer "politicos" and the media unique insight into the public's reaction on the news as well as allow people to float ideas or spread their political spin directly to other citizens.

The quality of the discussion is important and we have important rules and guidelines, but if no one is listening what motivation is there to hold even a poor conversation?  Since people are listening, MN-POLITICS continues to be the self-generating source of original content that makes our project feel alive.  Over time we hope to build other online civic spaces that leverage the "heart-beat" of MN-POLITICS :

Information Plan Diagram

With MN-POLITICS at the center, we will be launching an announcement only version called MN-POLITICS-ANNOUNCE for those who would prefer not to follow discussions.  This will help us greatly expand the audience we can offer to Minnesota groups who would like to promote their civic events.  We believe in helping get people off-line and out to public events.  We use the MN-DEMOCRACY list with 1300 members for major project announcements.  How many small volunteer-based non-profits have integrated the ability to communicate within hours at no marginal cost to the 1300 people directly interested in their project?  What would that be in printing and mailing costs?

With funding for our MN-FORUM proposal, we would also use MN-DEMOCRACY to announce special online events.  Through partnerships with various media and civic organizations MN-FORUM could become Minnesota's largest audience online "public affairs channel" with one or two multiple day events each month.  With the e-mail "push" combined with a specialized WWW-based interface for readers and administration tools for event hosts, this concept will help us meet the most important challenge - building audience and participation in an online environment with millions of options and severe competition for people's time.

What do you think of this article?  Does it make you more or less interested in joining MN-POLITICS?  Does it make you want to get involved with Minnesota E-Democracy in order to help us make MN-FORUM a reality?

Please let us know:  e-democracy@freenet.msp.mn.us