"There is a lot of political energy on line but there is no place where people can efficiently engage with their local issues . . . there is no place where you can go where you can engage with real people using real names who live in your community . . . we're developing the platform where you can go. You can see for any given issue how may registered voters are for an issue . . . or against it . . . our goal is to make civic participation really, really easy." -- Conor White-Sullivan, in an MGP interview, Aug. 2009
Photo Linked From: http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2622/3939287381_6f0e19c549.jpg
Profile written in Aug., 2009, by Jeff Engmann
"There's no place where you can go and know your engaging with real people using real names that actually live within the community," Sullivan said in an interview conducted by Media Giraffe Directors Bill Densmore and Norman Sims.
Localocracy will organize as a "B-corporation," and hopes to make money by charging service fees, and through management of data collected via its services.
Locals will have the opportunity to engage with one another in civil thought- provoking discussions concerning issues that are specific to their community. Users are allowed to express their views and comment only on the side of their thoughts are aligned with. Nevertheless, for any registered issue, citizens are able to see how many registered voters are for or against it. Those who tend to align themselves repeatedly with a certain side can join voting blocks, which are segments of registered voters who share similar thoughts on issues. The discussion is moderated by users, as they are in control of voting talking points up or down based what they regard as informative. Sullivan explains that this type of discourse is both unique and valuable.
"We believe (that as citizens) you know something about your community that I don't," Sullivan explained. "The people who live in the community, who experience the problems the communities faces every day have ideas on how to solve it, and thats really valuable information and thats real civic engagement."
Another belief held by members of the site, is that citizens ideas and efforts are more likely to lead to results than nationwide measures as it is perceivably easier to reach your own city's governor than the nation's president. Therefore, despite President Obama's plea, there is more hope to bring about change on a local legislative level.
Sullivan, a senior anthropology major at the University of Massachusetts (in the fall of 2009), gained valuable experience as a political organizer during the 2008 election cycle. He spent last summer working as the assistant canvass director, in the Northern Virginia's Community Voters' Project, helping to register low income and minority voters.
In the fall, he spent time working as a Western Massachusetts Field Coordinator to help pass a statewide initiative. It is this background that helped him come up with such an innovative idea, one that earned him the UMass Entrepeneurial Spirit Award and funding from winning UMass initiatives.
In January of 2009 the site was launched and has continued to grow in both design and scope. Sullivan noted that he has received great guidance and advice from established members of the new media world.
As the site has developed, he has needed help trying to have the technology keep up with the ideas. One person who has helped him through this process is Baer Tierkel, one of the founders of PeopleSoft, and also a member of Amherst Town meeting. He also credits Steven Clift, of EDemocracy, on his ideas on bringing democracy to the Internet. Sullivan hopes that the website an attractive and a viable tool for various organizations attempting to reach citizens within who are interested in their causes. Localocracy.org could potentially serve as a bridge that will help link and locate and then meet and mobilize citizen who have a passion for what organizations are about.
Utilizing the growing influence of social networking websites on politics, localocracy.org is now accessible through Facebook and Twitter. The objective is to make it as easy as possible for citizens to actively participate in ongoing discussions about their community. As the website develops, it aims to display a widget-like live feed of discussions between registered voters. They are striving to have that aspect ready for the Amherst Town meeting that takes place December.