FAQ

Questions you may be asking

What can I do here?
This place is all about dialogue for civic good. If you’ve got an issue you want to discuss with other people so you can find solutions or at least become better educated, you’re in the right place. This is also the place where you can participate in conversations others have started. Individual people, organizations, government entities and others are all launching conversations to connect with people just like you. So, you can search for the topics that interest you and join any conversation you find. And by join, we mean rate the contributions, make a contribution, respond to someone else's contribution, add some relevant information from another site, upload a video response to something you've read, and most importantly take action. After you’ve done all that, you can create a reflection about what you and the community have learned through the conversation and action.

What can’t I do here?
Be nasty, dismissive or brutish.

What kind of action can I take?
Conversations themselves are great, but the unique promise of the Commons is to help move conversations toward actions that can make a difference in the world. Actions can range from bringing people together for a face-to-face meeting, to using our online voting or petition tools, to organizing a community garden or leading a drive to pass legislation. Action means whatever you think should happen next to make your community a little better.

Can I volunteer at the Civic Commons?
Absolutely. We have a lot of volunteers donating their personal and professional talents in a variety of ways, from our Board of Directors to our occasional legal and intellectual property advisor (you know who you are) and our generous partner organizations.  Send an email to volunteer@theciviccommons.com and tell us a little bit about you, and we'll follow up as quickly as we can. Also, you might want to check out where we wrote about this on the Common Blog.

How does The Civic Commons work with clients?
We work with a wide range of clients, including community organizations, philanthropic enterprises, municipalities, government entities, academic institutions and businesses. Our work involves online engagement, content creation and online curation designed to open two-way dialogue between organizations and the communities they serve. We offer three levels of subscription pricing to meet the needs and budgets of clients, from small non-profits to international corporations. You can learn more from our Engagement Services page..

Isn't this just more talk?
That's a good question. What if it is? Is more talk necessarily a bad thing? Right now, one of the common complaints about how decisions are made is that the important talk happens behind closed doors. With your help, The Civic Commons can be the place for transparent and informed “talk” about how to handle the issues that confront us both locally and nationally. Pick any example of closed-door decisions that bug you, whether it’s congressional redistricting, city planning or health care reform. With the Civic Commons, there is always a place for citizens to inform and engage one another on the issue and invite the decision-makers to be a part of the conversation.

You mention social media. Are you just another Facebook?
No, but Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and all the other social media tools you know have demonstrated something very important within just a few years of their release. These technologies have the power to connect people in disparate and far-flung places, transcending geography to bring together people who share a common interest. We believe that same power can be directed toward civic good. Just think, what if everybody who ever blew ten minutes browsing their Facebook news feed instead spent that ten minutes engaged in conversation about the community issue most important to them? And what if they then told their friends what they were learning? Call us crazy, but that sounds to us like it's got some real potential.

Where did this project come from?
Way back when news organizations were still debating whether to allow their reporters to join Facebook, the folks at The Fund for Our Economic Future got to wondering if there was some way to use social media and journalism to bring more people together to focus on the issues affecting Northeast Ohio. They came up with a pretty cool idea and shared it with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Knight liked it, and eventually, they decided to team up and to fund this thing called The Civic Commons.

So which political party are you working for? Fess up.
A couple of important things about us: we're issue agnostic and outcome agnostic. That means we don't take stances as an organization and we're not here to push anyone's agenda. We're here to provide a place for informed conversation to happen and to lead to action. What those conversations are focused on and what action they lead to is up to the participants. That said, we're all citizens, too. So we'll have opinions on topics and we'll share them transparently.

What is the Your Commons Widget? (and what can it do for me?)
Your Commons™ is nifty widget that you can use to embed a window with a Civic Commons conversation on any website, page, or media site. That means you can take a conversation and syndicate it across various platforms to get a larger and more diverse audience to engage around an issue that matters to you. Simply tap the “embed” button on any conversation and cut and paste the code to the host site. Done!

How is the Civic Commons going to reinvigorate democracy?
Funny you should ask. With your help, we hope to make getting involved easier and more convenient for busy people like you, so we all get in the habit of taking a more active role in shaping our rules and institutions. In other words, we’re using technology to return us to something like the early days of our nation, when town hall meetings gave people a more direct voice in government. As online engagement gathers steam, we can tap the brainpower and expertise of our many smart, creative citizens and craft innovative solutions and policies that better reflect what “we, the people” want.