eCitizenship Conference: Liveblogging David Smith


You can find a video of the presentation itself online here.

David Smith

National Conference on Citizenship

Engaging  Citizen 2.0

Initial experience came with creation of

As part of it was creation of tools, the Youth Policy Action Center, started as a way to use the same technology as AARP, NRA and others, to help youth do the same kind of advocacy, from legislatures to city councils.  See:

One of the initial mobilization efforts was SOS: save our social networks, to stop the “Delete Online Predators Act” which would have limited social networks in schools and libraries.  They managed to freeze it by getting young people to contact members of congress.

Causes application on Facebook is another effort, used by 1 of ever 4 people who uses Facebook.

National Conference on Citizenship an old organization founded in 1946, chartered in 1953 in order to capture citizenship energy from WWII. Chartered “to build an active citizenry” especially through annual conference of organizations, look at best practices, develop tools.  Main tool is American civic health index.  Looks at 40 indicators of civic engagement.  Past 30 years suggests that we’re down: connectedness, trust in institutions, trust in one another, knowledge all down.  Recently starting to see upticks.  Biggest change in past had difference from college-educated and non-college educated.  Always looked like stepladder: more education=more engaged.  Netizen (people who engage in connection/citizenship activity online) population different.  Education not as significant a barrier.  Those who can get past initial barrier of digital access have more tools.

Millenials who use social networks online are also likely to engage online.  We don’t know about the causation but correlation is strong.

This year was tough year for civic health—people have pulled back. Economic recession is causing civic depression.  Almost ¾ have pulled back in civic engagement.  Three components serve as civic safetynet: God, friends and Facebook.  Religious institutions have re-emerged as pillars.  Over 40% of religious have increased civic engagement.  People who eat with friends, are connected with other have increased as well.  People who use online social networks are also increasing engagement.  Facebook, like friends and religion is about investing in relationships, spending time over time (sometimes too much time).  Of the 300 million members, 50% login weekly.  Those who use it regularly check it 8x per day.  Facebook and twitter are starting to become integrated into automatic life.

New tag for NCOC has been to “Defining Modern Citizenship”
Learning thorugh experimentation.
63rd Annual conference using social media.  This year 449 attendees
Many online viewers, tweet reach.
300 hours viewed by others. For example:

Micah Sifry on Engaging Citzen 2.0,

Joe Trippi (“you don’t want to be Goliath anymore.  You want to be giving out slingshots to the armies of Davids”)

Social media landscape:

Looks pretty daunting.  Where am I supposed to engage.  Which of these is the place to be effective.  MySpace pioneered this.  Facebook has surpassed it.  YouTube has exploded in terms of video, either found or created.

Uses Facebook, Twitter, Youtube.  Each provides something different but can be used in tandem.

Technology is not a tactic. It’s a set of values:

  • Democracy – opportunity for equal voice, opportunity to engage, from a few experts to many people with a bit of the truth
  • Collaboration
  • Interactive
  • Transparency.  Tech organizations leaning on government to get them to be more open.  You can release it yourself or it will appear on Google.
  • Engagement
  • Listening
  • Authenticity

Important for people to feel “ownership”?

Are we seeing the end of traditional organizations?

  • Hierarchical structure
  • “We are the experts” “We are the information gatekeepers”  When we tell you to call your representatives, you need to do it.  Obama, others are different.
  • Redefining membership.  This used to be a core mechanism.  When Common Cause started it quickly got hundreds of thousands of members.  That’s not the way people join things now.  Now it is “I’ll give you my email address if you give me useful information and something that allows me to engage.”
  • Shift from consumer to producer.  Our communities/economy has done this in reverse.  We’ve moved from producers toward consumers.  Internet, web2.0 has done this in reverse.  You must become a producer to be effective there.  If people say “nothing happens there” it’s because they’re not doing anything.  People will only follow you if you have something worth following.

NCOC—new, increased focus on civic data thanks to Kennedy Serve Act, some of that incorporated into Census and CNCS data gathering.  NCOC helps analyze and report it.

New indicator: how are people using electronic means? How are they being ecitizens.  Data will be so large that they can do state reports, city and local, regional reports.  Seeking local partners to look at this in communities.

Facebook Causes Research
Have great relationship with cause.  80 million users with 35 active users. People using it to start causes, donate causes, to invite friends, share media, create giving circles, service, contact elected officials.
Phase I is looking at dataset, how people do civic acts online
Phase II is longitudinal study, how does this change people over time

Civic Currency
With SplashLife.  Aggregate all validated civic actions.  Go to event, get validation code and gives points that can be redeemed.  Turns it into a gaming platform, creating alternate currency.  Can see realtime where people are engaging and what they are doing.


Q: What is the balance between consumer to marketer.  We become marketer of our own version.  Video that is unmarketed is less read.  Need sizzle with steak.

A: Tools now let people produce professional videos very quickly and effectively, lowering the gap.

Q: How do you quantify this?  How do you figure out whether it works?

A: Lots of talk out there about Slack-tivism.  These give us the tools to make the change.  We look at 40 different metrics of which only one is giving.  The others are engagement as well.  We’re sharpening our civic tool set.  Causes has that data but they haven’t mined it.  Things like how many people have you brought in? how many have you educated? How much media have you included?  Other metrics on trust and connectedness?  Are we building these?  This is an open question.  These have diminished over the last 30 years.  One way is to look at ourselves compared to the 1960’s.  Another way is to look what we want 2030 to look like.  We’re just starting to get into these indicators.

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