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Griff J. Wigley
Northfield Citizens Online
Northfield, MN

Wigley & Associates
1016 Linden St. So -- #200
Northfield, MN 55057
Work: 507-645-8319

"Why don't we start a local blogosphere here in Northfield and have it be a civic blogosphere...get a bunch of people who are running for local office, the local school board, the local city council, the local county commissioners, lets see if we can get some of them to keep a weblog."

citizen website since 1993 / Ex-Utne Online editor Griff Wigley helped start

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For Griff J. Wigley, the Internet is another form of social work. For more than 20 years, the co-founder of Northfield Citizens Online has pioneered new uses for the web. Whether its bringing together teachers, readers of a left-center magazine or residents of a suburban Minneapolis city, Wigley has managed to stay at the forefront of online experimentation. READ A FULL PROFILE AT:


"Northfield Citizens Online (formerly the Northfield Free-Net) was born out of a living room salon in December of 1993. The discussion questions for the evening: What's the likely impact of the Internet on local community? How can it be used to strengthen a geographic community rather than undermining it like other electronic media tend to do?

Our mission is to create an electronic commons that strengthens the fabric of community in the greater Northfield area. We facilitate online access to existing community resources, provide services for citizens and non-profit organizations to electronically publish and communicate with one another, and host online discussions, including timely conversations on civic issues with the community's leaders."


In 1996 the group incorporated as non-profit organization and is staffed by volunteers. Grants from the city of Northfield through 2002 and private donations have sustained it; there is no single overall financial sponsor. It carries some banner advertising from retail sponsors.

The website has three goals:

  • Engage citizens in participatory democracy
  • Encourage citizen-source journalism that complements and in some cases competes with local for-profit news organizations
  • Enable the government officials to communicate with constituents more easily and in a more meaningful way.

    Northfield Citizens Online delivers local news that established media outlets miss, it sends reporters to anything that might be of interest to citizens and post information about what is going on in the local government, with frequent updating throughout the day. Groups from the community can submit announcements and messages that the NCO will post.

    The website intensely encourages citizens and officials to create weblogs and to aid those who find the world of technology slightly intimidating, the NCO offers a volunteer coach to help the new blogger and also offers community education classes on blogging.

    The link that is created between citizen and official has shown to be extremely beneficial for the entire community. Citizens are more tuned in to what is going on in their local government and officials are aware of issues that citizens are unhappy with. The exchange of ideas increases greatly and those who get themselves involved are very influential. The level of access for citizens to their city officials has risen dramatically due to the existence of this website.

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