Friday, September 25, 2009

Is engaging online a gateway drug for civic engagement?

Encouraging respectful and engaging online conversations

Yesterday I attended Lunch for Good an event that explored the idea of responsible online engagement and participation. The group was inspired to discuss how we can dramatically improve the online conversation and drive more people to contribute their well-thought out opinions.

I personally believe that online conversations dramatically improve when people are encouraged to use their real names and be authentic online. This helps the reader understand the context of the opinion and brings deeper understanding for both people. There are obvious personal safety exceptions, but a general move toward accountability and away from anonymity causes online communities to flourish.

David Cohn, director for, led his small group's discussion and reported on their opinions in the video. is a community funded reporting project where the public can commission journalists to do investigations on important and perhaps overlooked stories.

Highlights from the video:
1. People feel empowered when they contribute
2. Easy to find like-minded people online, but also need to find opposing points of view
3. Online engagement is the gateway drug to civic engagement

How do you think we can drive more thoughtful and respectful conversations both online and offline?


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