Category Archives: Blog

A Conversation with Ike Holland, Willmar City Administrator

For this week’s blog, we talked with Ike Holland, the Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Willmar. During the second day of the Minnesota Community Assembly, Ike led a Q&A session about Willmar’s current structure of government, and met with citizens afterwards to answer follow-up questions and hear concerns.

Ike also participated in the second weekend of the community assembly in Willmar by leading a Q&A about voting and participation. Below you’ll find his perspective on the assembly, the importance of local government, and why he’s excited to see the assembly results.

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Exploring Engagement & Participation in Journalism

Journalism has had a rough couple of months (or years, if you’re watching closely). News agencies are discredited, criticized, and attacked daily. Partisan news outlets seem to spring up every week, making it difficult to find neutral information.These trends compound another major problem in the journalism world: with the growth of social media, ad-blockers, and the domination of Facebook and Google (and soon, Amazon) in the digital advertising market, traditional models of ad-supported journalism are collapsing. Many citizens also don’t see the news, on a local or national scale, as representing their needs and interests. This is not just a crisis for journalism, it’s a crisis for our democracy.

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Digitizing Deliberative Democracy

The smartphones in our pockets can seemingly accomplish anything—even things you didn’t know you needed (like downloading virtual bubble wrap). While various apps and our social media feeds may threaten our productivity and full night’s sleep, they also connect us to people, organizations, and information at our fingertips. However, there’s one key area that hasn’t quite reached its full digital potential: democracy.

While we live in an increasingly interconnected world, we also use the internet to join neighborhood associations, alumni pages, and other community groups. Digital spaces, which can be used on a city to national scale, may have the power to cultivate meaningful local impacts. It’s no secret that trust in the institutions and processes that govern our lives as citizens is in decline. Could digital democracy, that seeks to involve citizens anywhere, anytime, be the fix?
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The Minnesota Community Assemblies: Red Wing

This June and July the Jefferson Center hosted a Penn State student, Emma Rohan, made possible by Penn State’s Nevins Fellows program. Emma’s academic work focuses on education policy, and she came to us with experience in the field of deliberative democracy. While she was here, we were grateful for Emma’s support in the first of three Minnesota Community Assemblies — Red Wing. Below is Emma’s reflection on the experience.

It’s been an exciting and engaging start to the Minnesota Community Assembly Project (MNCAP)! This project, part of our Democratic Innovation Program, began in Red Wing over the course of three weekends. On Friday, June 9, participants gathered in the Red Wing Ignite event room, brimming with expectation and more than a little caffeine.

Eight full days of deliberation is a lot of work and commitment, but the thirty-six Red Wing citizens were in it for the long haul. Before they got down to business, participants had the chance to introduce themselves to their neighbors by sharing what they are sacrificing in order to be present at the Citizens Assembly. Taking care of children, enjoying free weekends with family, and going to work are just a few of the activities that participants agreed to forgo for this eight-day project, acknowledging that engaging in citizen-led democracy sometimes involves personal sacrifice.

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