E-Democracy has been a consistent pioneer in online civic engagement work in local communities for two decades.

Key milestones that have shaped our history:

  • 1994 - We create the world's first election information website, powered by volunteers.  This included e-debates for Governor and U.S. Senate candidates and the MN-Politics email/web town hall forum which "kept talking" when the election was over.
  • 1995 - Our statewide “online town hall” takes hold and E-Democracy becomes a trusted, neutral, non-profit host of dialogue among people with differing views and backgrounds.
  • 1996-97 - E-Democracy invited to share lessons starting in Sweden, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, and more. 
  • 1998-99 - The Minneapolis Issues Forum and St. Paul Issues Forum took the online town hall model local. More women, elected officials, and active citizens participate.
  • 2000 - Winona Community Forum launched; global Democracies Online Newswire promoting civic participation online grows to 1,000 members
  • 2001-03 - E-Democracy receives Minneapolis Award from Mayor RT Rybak, the John F. Finnegan Freedom of Information Award, and we were listed among the 25 Who Are Changing the World of Internet and Politics 
  • 2005 - British government funds pilot forums and “how to” guidebook for the UK; E-Democracy received Honourable Mention in the Ars Prix Electronica Awards in Linz, Austria for online communities
  • 2006 - Received MSNet Fund planning grant for Minneapolis “inclusive” neighborhood forums targeted to lower income, highly diverse, high immigrant areas; lead founder Steven Clift received social entrepreneur Ashoka Fellow fellowship to focus on the non-profit full-time.
  • 2007 - Bristol and Oxford started neighborhood level forums; E-Democracy blog started; Neighborhood Forums Project started, funded by MSNet Fund through the Minneapolis Foundation; Minnesota Rural Voices project launched with Blandin Foundation support; Forums launched in Minneapolis in Cedar Riverside, Roseville, Seward, and Standish Ericsson neighborhoods, and in Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • 2008 - Forums Launched included Twin Cities: Minneapolis- Northeast, Powderhorn; St. Paul- Frogtown; Greater Minnesota- Bemidji, Cass Lake Leech Lake, Cook County, Grand Rapids, Minnesota Voices online community of practice; UK- Bristol: Brislington, Greater Bedminster; Oxford: Cowley, Headington and Marston, Central and Southwest
  • 2009 - E-Democracy featured in “Funding and Fostering Local Democracy: What Philanthropy Should Know About the Emerging Field of Deliberation and Democratic Governance”, a guide released by PACE in collaboration with the Deliberative Democracy Consortium; Forums launched included St. Paul- Highland Park, and national United States Issues Forum
  • 2010-2011- Ford Foundation grant received to deepen inclusive online forum engagement in Cedar Riverside and Frogtown neighborhoods and to prepare for expansion, Digital Inclusion Network, Locals Online, and other online communities of practice launched. 
  • 2012-2014- Knight Foundation funding received to expand inclusive online community engagement to reach 10,000 forum members across St. Paul and to share lessons nationally. Minneapolis forums in Standish Ericsson and Powderhorn cross 1,000 members each and connect an estimated 25% of area local households daily.

We currently have over 75 online forums with over 30,000 members across the globe focusing on online community/civic engagement. Of the 20,000+ forum memberships in the Twin Cities, over 85% of our participants engage at the neighborhood “community life exchange” level where our funded programming is currently focused. 

As of today, our story has been told by co-founder and Executive Director Steven Clift, around the United States and in over 30 countries.