Whilst I am frequently dismissive of those who claim a major role for social media in participatory politics, I am not unaware that it has uses and that these uses may increase particularly with younger generations. So I must give thanks to Steven Clift for bringing to my attention their 60 page evaluation report on inclusive online community engagement in lower income, highly diverse, high immigrant neighborhoods. The Inclusive Social Media pilot project was funded by the Ford Foundation. The report is available on the e-democracy.org website.
A great deal of effort has clearly been employed in these areas of St Paul, MN, USA and the preparatory analysis of the make-up of those communities is really interesting, along with the groundwork to involve people in the electronic forums but as it states on page 54 - ”the sparse participation of local elected officials on forums can feel like stonewalling to forum participants, one of whom said, “It takes a lot of discussions going for government officials to respond.” A Frogtown community member felt strongly about accountability, saying, “I think the elected officials – the decision-makers – need to be online to answer questions to make the forum a more effective online engagement [tool]. Ideally, you’d want to have full participation [across all groups].”
An interesting read and a telling story of trying to develop local e-democracy in the USA.