Building from its commitment, “inspiring inclusive community engagement online,” E-Democracy launched this project with support from the Ford Foundation and expanded it with Knight Foundation funding. This comprehensive multiyear effort to aggressively expand inclusive Neighbors Forums to reach 10,000 participants had the following objectives:
- Demonstrate that neighborhood-based online forums can and should work in high-immigrant, low-income, racially/ethnically diverse neighborhoods
- Identify how such success is accomplished
- Serve as a platform to help improve the success of others pursuing similar goals
- Increase interest by other funders to expand such efforts
Central to the evaluation was determining the suitability and value of the approach and methods relative to outcomes. We wanted to know what could be learned from the results to inform E-Democracy’s future work and that of others committed to inclusive online engagement.
We chose a participatory evaluation approach that relied on the insights and wisdom of participants in the Frogtown and Cedar-Riverside Neighborhood Forums, outreach staff, and volunteer forum managers, and supplemented with simple data analyses of forum posts and posters.
The evaluation examined the following program outcomes:
- Develop outreach and information leadership-development structures and techniques
- Increase forum size, diversity, energy, and community-building potential
- Engage community organizers, community organizations and institutions, and elected officials
The results of the evaluation were used to shape the next several years of intense outreach and engagement of people of color, in poverty, and new immigrants supported by a Knight Foundation grant.