This profile was prepared when Steven Clift was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Steven Clift has succeeded at creating the equivalent of local town halls for the online world. Multiple contemporary barriers impede participation in politics and the citizen sector, resulting in feelings ranging from confusion to powerlessness to distrust. E-Democracy.Org achieves the impact of community meetings more conveniently, less expensively, and by reaching more people. An online “Issues Forum” gives members a place to meet and discuss their common interests; over time, community leaders emerge from such discussions. Next, the multiple possibilities offered by online and in-person communication facilitates neighbors and non-neighbors getting to know each other. This strengthens the sense of community and responsibility necessary to meet public challenges collaboratively. E-Democracy.Org also reestablishes two-way communication between local voices and political leadership. While online communities and online political action have both grown tremendously in the past 5 years, no other site aims to encourage local political participation and non-partisan discussion in the same way as E-Democracy.Org and its online home, www.e-democracy.org. The benefit of a virtual common space for community action is that it connects local people in rules-based civil dialogue on issues of importance to their community. In this “virtual common space” people do not always agree, but their opinions are aired and often lead to constructive actions and shared agendas among people who have never once met in person. E-Democracy.Org provides active citizens around the world with a trusted, user-friendly and democratic set of services to improve local democracy for the benefit of all. Building on the base established by local E-Democracy.Org volunteer committees “Issues Forums”, Steven has created a way for democracy to thrive, through accessibility and ease of participation.