Start a Local Online Public Issues Forum

Here at OnlineGroups.Net, we don’t just provide sites
where people can collaborate in online groups. We also
build and release GroupServer,
the software that underpins OnlineGroups.Net,
and we help organisations to implement
GroupServer to create successful online groups and communities.
Sometimes, that involves technical work such as hosting,
configuring, customising and maintaining software. At other
times, it involves social and organisational consulting,
to get people engaged and participating in online groups. I
affectionately refer to the latter as “wrangling”.

One of the wrangling projects
I’ve worked on recently is establishing
the Canterbury
Online Public Issues Forum
. Now that the forum
is up and running, and looks like it’s going to be
a sustainable part of the local democratic landscape,
I’ve written the Aotearoa Local Online Public Issues Forum Guide
(PDF, 445kb), which aims to help others to get
similar forums started. The guide is based on our
experience with the Canterbury Forum, and includes
the text of various documents that we used to get
the forum started.

One of the main contributors to
the Canterbury forum project was funding
provided by the
Partnership Fund
. The 2008/2009 funding round of
the Community Partnership Fund will open on 6 October
2008. If you are interested in starting an online
public issues forum in Aotearoa New Zealand,
you may be also able to get some support from the CPF.
You can use the Canterbury forum as evidence of
what can be achieved, and use
the guide
to increase your chances of creating another sucessful
forum. I would also be happy to help you in any
way that I can, so feel free to
get in touch.

If you plan to start a local online public issues
forum outside Aotearoa New Zealand, the guide
will probably be of some use to you, too. Of
course, I also recommend you get in touch with our
friends, customer and colleagues at
E-Democracy.Org, because they
are the world experts in local online participative
democracy. It was only with their help that
I was able to achieve what I have in Canterbury.
Thank you Steven Clift and Tim Erickson for
your inspiration, assistance and leadership.
My thanks also to Ron Kjestrup, Nicki Reece,
Plains 96.9FM,
Andrew Groom and the
Canterbury forum
steering team,
in the forum, Environment Canterbury,
and Christchurch City Council,
who have all been instrumental in the success of this project.

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