Monday, July 28, 2014

How Three Startups Are Using Data to Renew Public Trust In Government

How Three Startups Are Using Data to Renew Public Trust In Government | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

People feel like governments aren’t working for them.We have limited information, visibility and insight into what’s going on and why. Yes, the data is public information but it’s difficult to access and sift through.
Good news. Things are changing fast. 
Innovative startups are emerging and they are changing the way we access government information at all levels. 
1. OpenGov is a Mountain View-based software company that enables government officials and local residents to easily parse through the city’s financial data. 
2. FiscalNote is a one-year old startup that uses analytical signals and intelligent government data to map legislation and predict an outcome. 
3. Civic Industries is a San Francisco startup that allows citizens and local government officials to easily access data that previously required you to drive down to city hall. Building permits, code enforcements, upcoming government projects and construction data is now openly available within a few clicks.
Please see the original article for details.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Countable Wants To Make Politics A ‘Continual Conversation’

Countable Wants To Make Politics A ‘Continual Conversation’ | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

Countable, available for iOS and coming to Android soon, presents a succinct summary of each piece of legislation Congress is considering, along with a short one-sentence argument in favor of the bill or against it. You are then able to vote “yay” or “nay.” When you are logged in through Facebook, Countable can automatically generate a message and send it to your representatives based on your location.

Countable also keeps track of how the lawmakers vote and then informs you how your representatives’ votes stack up to your own, generating “compatibility rankings."

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Monday, July 14, 2014

Testing a Texting Platform That Connects Locals, Representatives and Community Leaders

In Brooklyn, Testing a Texting Platform That Connects Locals, Representatives & Community Leaders | TechPresident:

What if you wanted to start a dialogue about charter schools in your neighborhood? The information hotline wasn't built to handle conversations like that, but a new text message-based platform called HeartGov is.
If you looked at a graph that measured "scale of issue", on one end you would put "reporting", which would be things like pot hole reporting, which 311 handles. On the other end of the spectrum you could have "big ideas", such as "marriage equality" or things that something like handles. In between are medium scale civic ideas that are trackable and tangible.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Using The Web to Track the Natural World

Yale Environment 360: How Citizen Scientists Are Using The Web to Track the Natural World:

By making the recording and sharing of environmental data easier than ever, web-based technology has fostered the rapid growth of so-called citizen scientists — volunteers who collaborate with scientists to collect and interpret data.

Several projects are discussed.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How to talk to Your Reps in the District

POPVOX - The Hill 101: Talking to Your Reps in the District -

It's almost July 4th and Members of Congress are in their states and districts. Over the next few days, they will attend events, give a few speeches, and talk with constituents before heading back to Washington on July 9 for what may be a flurry of activity leading into the August recess.

While town hall meetings are scheduled in August, much of the important summer legislative action takes place in July. Especially in years with midterm elections, July is an important month for finishing up legislative business. Here's a few tips on getting your message to your reps when they are home in the district this July:

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Videos from the Conference on Volunteering and Service

Hear From the People Who Inspired Thousands at the Conference on Volunteering and Service | Points of Light:

Missed the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service last week? Thousands of leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and civic sectors came together in Atlanta to celebrate and shape the future of volunteerism.
Now you can feel like you were there. Or if you were fortunate enough to join us, you can relive some special moments. Check out our videos.

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10 Host Sites Chosen to Execute Nationwide ServiceWorks Program

Points of Light Announces 10 Host Sites Chosen to Execute Nationwide ServiceWorks Program | Corporation for National and Community Service:

Points of Light, one of the world’s leading organizations dedicated to volunteer service, today announced the 10 organizations chosen to execute its ServiceWorks program. ServiceWorks is a three-year nationwide initiative that will use community engagement and volunteer service to help underserved young adults develop the skills they need to prepare for college and careers.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Now, all congress people can be reached by email at

We finally gave Congress email addresses - Sunlight Foundation Blog:

If you visit a legislator's page on OpenCongress, you'll see an email address in the right-hand sidebar that looks like or You can also email to email both of your senators and your House representatives at once.
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Monday, June 16, 2014

AllForGood is a public database of volunteer opportunities

About Us | AllForGood:

All for Good is a hub for volunteerism and community service on the Internet, and a service of Points of Light. We envision the site as a meeting place for organizations and individuals, providing a communal platform that allows people to see where change is needed, and makes it easy for them to engage. Powered by the largest online database of volunteer opportunities, All for Good is connecting Americans with nonprofits both large and small.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy

Why Helping Others Makes Us Happy | Case Foundation:

Helping our fellow man has long been seen as an altruistic behavioral model. But it turns out that more selfish motives—pleasing friends, doing what you want—are more successful causes of effective volunteering. Whatever the motive, volunteering improves the health, happiness, and in some cases, the longevity of volunteers

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Making cities smarter through citizen engagement

Making cities smarter through citizen engagement | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

Vaidehi Shah at Eco-Business: “Rapidly progressing information communications technology (ICT) is giving rise to an almost infinite range of innovations that can be implemented in cities to make them more efficient and better connected. However, in order for technology to yield sustainable solutions, planners must prioritise citizen engagement and strong leadership.
This was the consensus on Tuesday at the World Cities Summit 2014, where representatives from city and national governments, technology firms and private sector organisations gathered in Singapore to discuss strategies and challenges to achieving sustainable cities in the future.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Web-based tools to facilitate participation in the local civic process

The Civinomics Roadmap: From here to November | Tipping Point:

Stated simply, the goal of the Civinomics site is to provide members with an online “civic tool box”, a selection of web-based tools to facilitate participation in the civic process.
Current features include online workshops and initiatives and the just released new public meetings and agendas listings. There are several other features in the works, to be launched between now and over the summer and early fall to coincide with the November elections.

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Friday, June 6, 2014

A shortage of sock donations at homeless shelters

When Socks Are `More Important Than Food’ | Points of Light:

Socks are among the most needed items at homeless shelters, yet among the least-often donated.
Because of the shortage, the nation’s homeless population is constantly at risk of serious foot disease and, during winter months, in severe danger posed by the cold.

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Serving for effective and efficient adjudication of immigration proceedings

National Service:

CNCS (Corporation for National and Community Service) and the Department of Justice (DOJ), through its Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), are entering into a strategic partnership to increase national service while facilitating the effective and efficient adjudication of immigration proceedings involving certain children who have crossed the border without a parent or legal guardian.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Connecting with Politicians During Election Season

New Approaches, from Advocacy Associates: Episode 19 - Connecting with Outgoing Politicians:

Host Craig Price calls the Advocacy Hotline to talk to the guru, Stephanie Vance, about how to get keep in the legislators view even in an election year.

This week's question: Should I not bother communicating with legislators until the election is over?

This is an audio podcast.

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The True Value of Employee Volunteerism

The True Value of Employee Volunteerism | Points of Light:

As the economy recovers, we might expect companies to revert back to conventional giving strategies that are easier to coordinate and execute. But in fact the opposite is happening: employee volunteerism is becoming more prevalent. Why? Because it's a mutually beneficial and sustainable option for companies, nonprofit organizations, individual employees and most importantly, those in need.

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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Volunteer your technical skills by helping government

Make the World a Better Place: Apply Now. | Code for America:

Are you a developer, designer, researcher or product manager? Do you want to use your skills for good? We are seeking a new cohort of Fellows for our 2015 Fellowship class, committed to discovering new ways that technology can fix some of the problems that our governments face.

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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Idealists in Action

Idealists in Action » Blog Archive » Time to say goodbye… and hello!:

Way back in 2006, we started the Idealists in Action blog to share tales and tips about turning good intentions into action with the Idealist community.

In March 2014, we launched the Idealist Network—a platform to help people everywhere connect and take action on any issue that concerns them, locally or globally, online and in person.

Now, we’re devoting our blog entirely to the stories and strategies of the Network—particularly as they relate to Connectors, the volunteers at its heart. And to keep everything in one place, we’re going to start blogging exclusively on the Connector Hub—please come visit us there!
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"My Brother's Keeper" mentoring campaign

National Service:

As President Obama has said, “There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?” The “My Brother’s Keeper” Mentoring Campaign will connect youth and young adults to caring mentors who will not only “give them the sense that their country cares” but will also help them to believe in themselves, aspire to new dreams, and climb the ladders of opportunity that President Obama is committed to creating in every American community.

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Open Government Needs Public Trust

NCDD Community News » Open Government Needs Public Trust:

CA Fwd is attempting to “catalyze a conversation on rebuilding public confidence in government,” and released a roadmap called The Path Toward Trust in April.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Citizen participation and technology

Citizen participation and technology | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

The recent, rapid rise in the use of digital technology is changing relationships between citizens, organizations and public institutions, and expanding political participation. But while technology has the potential to amplify citizens’ voices, it must be accompanied by clear political goals and other factors to increase their clout.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A civic-social platform for a new kind of citizen duty in The Netherlands

A civic-social platform for a new kind of citizen duty | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

"...a small team of four started Pleio for Dutch civil servants and citizens to meet each other, have discussions, and work together on things that matter to them."

(Pleio translates loosely in English to “government square.”)

Citizen Science offers new opportunities to support science work

The Weird, Wild World of Citizen Science Is Already Here | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

"If you ask a university researcher, they’re likely to explain citizen science as a way for the public to contribute data points to larger, professionally run studies, like participating in the galaxy-spotting website Zooniverse or taking part in the annual Christmas Bird Count with the Audubon Society. It’s a model on the scientific fringes; using broad participation to fill the gaps in necessary data."
There’s power in this diffuse definition, though, as long as new interpretations are welcomed and encouraged. By inviting and inspiring people to ask their own questions, citizen science can become much more than a way of measuring bird populations. From the drone-wielding conservationists in South Africa to the makeshift biolabs in Brooklyn, a widening circle of participants are wearing the amateur badge with honor. And all of these groups–the makers, the scientists, the hobbyists–are converging to create a new model for discovery. In other words, the maker movement and the traditional science world are on a collision course.
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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Net Democracy foundation: improving civic engagement through technology

Out in the Open: An Open Source Website That Gives Voters a Platform to Influence Politicians | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

“If you want to participate in the political system as it is, it’s really costly,” she says. “You need to study politics in university, and become a party member and work your way up. But not every citizen can devote their lives to politics.”
Democracy OS is designed to address that problem by getting citizens directly involved in debating specific proposals when their representatives are actually voting on them.
That’s why Mancini started the Net Democracy foundation, a not-for-profit that explores ways of improving civic engagement through technology. The foundation’s first project is something calledDemocracy OS, an online platform for debating and voting on political issues...

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Ideas to improve civic engagement

Studio produces trove of ideas to improve civic engagement - Knight Foundation:

"Overview: Knight Foundation hosted 100 civic innovators at a Civic Innovation in Action Studio in Miami May 12 -14 to explore ways to harness talent, advance opportunity and promote robust engagement. "

Participants in the “Robust Engagement” discussion at the Civic Innovation in Action Studio produced five remarkably concrete ideas to drive civic participation.

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Crowd sourcing civic engagement- citizens as Investors and co-producers

Citizens as Investors and Co-producers | The Governance Lab @ NYUThe Governance Lab @ NYU:

Crowd sourcing continues to transform daily interactions. The wisdom of crowds continues to find new and exciting permutations. This ranges from crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter to mapping election violence with Ushahidi. The latest frontier is civic and community engagement crowd and Citizenvestor are both popular civic crowd funding platforms. They enable citizens to donate their ideas and money to issues they care about.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Host a Successful Discussion Forum

How to Host a Successful Discussion Forum:

"Discussion forums are one of the foundations of online engagement, and a key part of the PlaceSpeak platform.  Successful forums can encourage community debate and dialogue about complex issues. A compelling discussion forum can inspire people to become more personally invested in the topic at hand, and there communities in general.  Moreover topic participants are more likely to return to a topic page—and share it with their friends and neighbours— when they know that meaningful discussion is occurring."

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Defining civic engagement, democracy, civic renewal, and related terms

defining civic engagement, democracy, civic renewal, and related terms « Peter Levine:

"My post entitled “What is the definition of civic engagement?” gets lots of traffic. It does not actually present my definition but a compendium of alternative versions. I have volunteered to draft some new definitions for a particular purpose. This is what I am thinking:"
Several civics definitions are presented.

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Issue Guide: America's Future: What Should Our Budget Priorities Be?

National Issues Forums: Issue Books:

"As we gradually shed the effects of the recession, we need to make decisions about our nation's spending. What should our priorities be as we face those decisions?"

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Sunday, May 11, 2014

How to be a Public Innovator

What is a Public Innovator? | The Harwood Institute:

"Public innovators are people who are engaged in their communities and are committed to solving the challenges around them, says Harwood, founder and president of the Washington, D.C.-area Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, a national nonprofit based in Bethesda, Md. The Institute teaches and coaches people and organizations to solve pressing problems and change how communities work together."

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May 31- June 1, 2014 National Day of Civic Hacking

National Day of Civic Hacking:

"National Day of Civic Hacking is an international event that will take place May 31 – June 1, 2014, in cities around the world. The event will bring together citizens, software developers, and entrepreneurs to collaboratively create, build, and invent new solutions using publicly-released data, code and technology to improve our communities and the governments that serve them.  Anyone can participate; you don’t have to be an expert in technology, you just have to care about your neighborhood and community."

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Defining civic engagement

What Is Civic Engagement?:

"According to Michael X. Delli Carpini, Dean of the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, civic engagement can be defined as: Individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern."

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Book: Arguing for our lives: a user's guide to constructive dialog

Why Politics at the Dinner Table Is Good for Democracy by Andy Lee Roth — YES! Magazine:

"Defying the conventional wisdom that we get along best by avoiding public talk about religion or politics, Robert Jensen asks, “What else is there of interest to discuss?” In Arguing For Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog he proposes that restoring our lost faith in “the possibility of honest argumentation in public” requires honing our critical thinking skills and putting them to more frequent use. Democracy, he reminds us, begins in conversation."

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Saturday, May 10, 2014

Working Paper: Core Coimpetencies in Civic Engagement

School of Education | Merrimack College:

Core Competencies in Civic Engagement: A Working Paper in the Center for Engaged Democracy’s Policy Paper Series

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Frontiers of Democracy Research: The Gettysburg Project

Frontiers of Democracy Research: The Gettysburg Project | Challenges to DemocracyChallenges to Democracy:

"This post captures that introductory discussion for an occasional series on the blog exploring the frontiers of research on democratic governance. 

"The series highlights the work of the Ash Center’s faculty and Democracy Fellows whose research illuminates aspects of democratic governance, with a focus on innovations in public participation and on urgent substantive policy or social problems related to democratic governance."

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National Service Agency Announces $205 Million in AmeriCorps Funding

National Service Agency Announces $205 Million in AmeriCorps Funding | Corporation for National and Community Service:

The Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) today announced $205 million in grants to put AmeriCorps members on the ground to tackle critical challenges in communities across the U.S.

The grants will allow more than 43,000 Americans the opportunity to serve their country through AmeriCorps. These AmeriCorps members will serve from coast to coast, strengthening education, providing disaster services, fostering economic opportunity, assisting veterans and military families, preserving the environment, and expanding health services.

In addition to the grant funding, CNCS is making available $163 million in education scholarships for AmeriCorps members serving under these grants. After completing a full term of service, members receive a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,645 to pay for college or to pay back student loans.

In addition to the $205 million in competitive AmeriCorps funding, CNCS is also awarding $115 million in formula funding to governor-appointed state service commissions. These funds will be awarded this summer to organizations in their states to support additional AmeriCorps members.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Quiz: How Politically Engaged Are You?

Quiz: How Politically Engaged Are You? -

"So, while polling shows support for the president and Congress hovering around all-time lows, there's still room for positive action in local communities."

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Book: The Ecology of Democracy: Finding Ways to Have a Stronger Hand in Shaping Our Future

The Ecology of Democracy: Finding Ways to Have a Stronger Hand in Shaping Our Future | Kettering Foundation:

"The work of democracy is work. Here are some ideas about how it can be done in ways that put more control in the hands of citizens and help restore the legitimacy of our institutions."

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Join the new ServiceWorks, an AmeriCorps VISTA program

Get a Jump on Your Career by Helping Others Get a Jump on Theirs | Points of Light:

"Points of Light is searching for 50 people, who believe in the power of volunteer service to change lives, to serve with us as AmeriCorps VISTA members for one year in one of 10 cities – Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Newark, San Francisco, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

"You’ll be helping us launch ServiceWorks, a new AmeriCorps VISTA program that will engage low-income 16- to 24-year-olds in training and service to increase their employability and prepare them for college and careers. ServiceWorks – powered by the Citi Foundation, AmeriCorps and Points of Light – will deploy 225 national service members over three years. You’ll be getting in on the ground floor!"

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Follow Congress on your Kindle Fire with Sunlight Foundation's Congress app

Follow Congress on your Kindle Fire - Sunlight Foundation Blog:

"Good news if you have a Kindle Fire! You can now use Sunlight's Congress app for Android."

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Active public engagement and PlaceSpeak

The Importance of Active Engagement:

"For public engagement to produce useful outcomes, residents need to be actively invited to join the conversation about topics that affect them, and provided with convenient opportunities to take part. This is where PlaceSpeak comes in."

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

Dealing with Legislators during Elections

New Approaches, from Advocacy Associates: Episode 18 - Dealing with Legislators during Elections:

Host Craig Price calls the Advocacy Hotline to talk to the guru, Stephanie Vance, about getting the attention of legislators during mid-term elections.

How do elections change the way we need to interact with our legislators?

Listen to this podcast on their website.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

New technology fellowship seeks to serve low-income people

New Technology Fellowship Seeks to Serve Low-Income People | EngagingCities:

"For years, leaders in the technology world have acknowledged that the field can better serve low-income people, but have struggled with how best to do that (a challenge we have documented at some length, including here). A new fellowship hosted by Significance Labs, a program of the Blue Ridge Foundation in New York, is taking that challenge head-on."

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The first annual Brown Democracy Medal goes to the Participatory Budgeting Project

NCDD Community News » PBP Recognized with Brown Democracy Medal:

A national organization that empowers citizens to exert greater control over public spending was selected as the first recipient of the Brown Democracy Medal, an award that will be presented annually by the McCourtney Institute for Democracy in Penn State’s College of the Liberal Arts.

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Registration open for Thursday, June 12th 2-3pm ET Confab with Peter Levine

NCDD Community News » Registration open for our June 12th Confab with Peter Levine:

"We’re excited to have Peter Levine as our featured speaker on our next NCDD Confab call. Sign up today to reserve your spot on June’s Confab, which is set for 2-3pm Eastern (11-noon Pacific) on Thursday, June 12th."

We’ll be talking to Peter about his new book, We Are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: The Promise of Civic Renewal in America. This is an important book for us to discuss, and you have time to get your hands on a copy before the confab if you’d like (here’s the Amazon link). I especially encourage you to check out Chapter 7, titled Strategies: How to Accomplish Civic Renewal, which is what we’ll dig into deepest on the call.

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Saturday, May 3, 2014

Designing public engagement

Policy makers are from Mars, citizens from Venus: designing effective public engagement | EngagingCities:

"Summary: Designing public engagement processes and institutions from the perspective of citizens alone makes them easy for policy makers to ignore. We need to pay more attention to the needs of those making policy in order to design public engagement processes which make a difference. "

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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Campaign financing behind state and federal candidates gets transparent

Demystifying the money behind campaign advertising - Knight Foundation:

"the Wesleyan Media Project helps more Americans engage in elections by tracking and analyzing all broadcast advertisements aired by or on behalf of federal and state election candidates in every media market in the country."
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Thursday, April 24, 2014

How can we get others to self-identify as Connectors?

Idealists in Action » Blog Archive » Open question: How can we get others to self-identify as Connectors?:

“How can we find the individuals out there who already have connecting roles in the community? They may not be affiliated with Idealist. They may not even recognize themselves as facilitators. So how do we reach them and get them to self identify?”
Comment your ideas at Idealists in Action.

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