Because it’s not how to build community, it’s how you build your community.

Every agency, office, and department is unique, each with a specific mission, culture, and constituency. If you want to make the most of what you have, you have to understand and leverage these fundamentals. Yep yep, we can help with that.

24 January 2010

Why is it so hard to find the Congressional Calendar?

I just spent the better part of half an hour trying to find an official version of the Congressional Calendar – you know, when does the session start, when do they adjourn, when are recesses, etc. Every time I have to do this, I forget where it hides so this time I thought I’d blog about it and share what I’ve learned for your benefit and for mine (in the future).

It’s on the Majority Whip’s website. There are other versions on the Majority Leader’s website, the Minority Whip’s website, and I presume on the Minority Leader’s website, but they were all more difficult to read than this one (and this one’s a doozy).

So here’s something that will help it to make more sense: recesses are not called recesses. They are District Work Periods! Isn’t that great?!? District Work Periods are in red. The House convened on January 11 and hopes to adjourn on October 8th.

20 January 2010

We’re official!!

That’s right. We received a letter in a fat little envelope from the Internal Revenue Service last Friday saying:

“We are pleased to inform you that upon review of your application for tax exempt status we have determined that you are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code… “

I think the fun part of it is that while we ARE exempt under section 501(c)(3), our Public Charity Status is:

  • 509(a)(1) & 170(b)(1)(A)(vi)

That pretty much rocks, huh? As in:

“Are you a 501c3?”

“We are exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, but we are actually a 509(a)(1) & 170(b)(1)(A)(vi).”

Do you think that’s said 170-B-1-A-V-I or 170-B-1-A-6? I don’t know, but I’m going to try to work it into conversation – we’ll see how that goes!

Here’s the actual letter if you want to read it and here’s a link to all of our legal documents with full details.

Now you know what that means! We can finally start a full-blown fund drive. They’ll be more about that in the next couple of days, but if you want to get a jump start on making us sustainable and donate today, please do.

23 December 2009

The Future of Government and YOU!

Friends and Supporters,

As 2009 draws to a close, we consider our past accomplishments and prepare for new ones. As an organization, we are now in an exciting position where our opportunities exceed our capacity: that is to say that if we had more resources, we would be accomplishing more than we are.

If you haven’t yet donated to the Open Forum Foundation, please consider doing so. In addition, please consider sharing this message with everyone that you know (direct link). Together, we will create responsive government!

We are a young nonprofit organization called the Open Forum Foundation. We believe that the future of government is in being responsive to the needs of its citizens and have already started to do something about it. We’re well-connected in Washington, DC; understand the internal workings of Congress; have several projects in operation (with a couple more in the wings); and have a solid vision for the future.

A Vision for the Future: Responsive Government

The quality of a government is determined by the quality of its citizens, and we are at a critical time in history for the development of government. Never before has it been possible for every citizen of a country to participate in the decision-making process, but new tools developed on the Internet are making that feasible.

This doesn’t mean the transition will be quick – or easy! Government is entrenched in centuries of internal culture, precedents, rules, and regulations. Some of these are very important; some of them need to go; but deciding which is which will be an effort that lasts for years and impacts the entire world.

Our mission is to ensure that the end result of this transition is responsive government. We do this through three main methods:

  1. Education. We educate, inform, and connect the elected leaders, government staff, technology developers, and organizations that are on the forefront of this transition.
  2. Technology. We promote the use and development of technologies that enable inclusive and meaningful political dialogue, while lowering the barriers to entry for both citizens and government representatives.
  3. Research. We engage in research that illuminates the current state of affairs and proposes paths for a smooth transition.

Our Projects

This is not all that we’re working on, but it is what we’re currently most proud of.

GovLuvLogoGovLuv connects you instantly with your government representatives through the magical power of Twitter. It shows messages sent both to AND from your reps, filters them in a number of different ways, and enables you to join the conversation. Visit to see for yourself.

CongressCamp began as a barcamp to discuss “transforming citizen engagement with Congress through social media and collaboration tools.” The event was a huge success, and the momentum is spawning more events and the development of educational resources. Visit for more information or to get involved.

Mapping Political Communication is a joint project with George Washington University’s Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet to understand how political communication flows today. This knowledge will help us to understand how the transition is occurring and how best to support it. While still in an early phase, the results of this research will be made available for public use and scrutiny once they are presentable.

How to get involved

If you’re still reading, something must have piqued your interest. Don’t let that die:

We have committed our lives to this. If you believe in it also, share what you have to offer. Everyone on the planet stands to benefit.

Onwards and Upwards!

30 October 2009

The quest for funding.

This post is my public thought process on nonprofit funding in the current environment. I’ve written the majority of it in the abstract, so it may be applicable to other nonprofits, but it’s hard to tell.

I’ve been working really hard on figuring out how to get the Open Forum Foundation funded, and frankly – it’s a struggle. It’s not so much from failure of my attempts, as it is with discomfort with the options I see available, and a lack of clarity around what to do about it.

So check this out:

9 July 2009

Holy crap!! This is going to happen!!!

I imagine that for everyone who sees  a big dream come to fruition, there must be a moment like this.

You’re head down, slogging away, dealing with the myriad concerns and minutiae of bringing this thing together. You may have lost track of your progress or you may have just made a number of exciting accomplishments all at once, but at some point – when you head home at the end of the day or stop for a drink and there’s nothing else going on in your mind, it hits you:

“Holy crap!! This is going to happen!!!”

It’s scary and exciting and wonderful all at once.


9 July 2009

Friend Raising

I have been doing a lot of research on fundraising, at the same time as I’ve been studying the changing expectations of individuals who are adjusting to living in the information age. In addition, I’ve become increasingly intolerant of people and organizations that use tactics for fundraising and promotion of their issues that treat me like an emotional being that is to be manipulated into supporting their cause.

You know what I’m talking about – it’s the high energy college students working for Greenpeace (or any number of Adopt-a-child charities) in their matching shirts, clipboards, and excessive geniality. It’s the form letters you receive in the mail from faceless alumni organizations touting the value of your dollar for the next generation. It’s the ads on your favorite websites with pictures of unhappy black children in front of a grass hut. And it’s the appeals from acquaintances asking for help in spreading the word on this ‘really important issue – it’ll only take five minutes to make a difference!’


8 July 2009

Personal Democracy Forum 2009


I know. I just said that for Participation Camp, but really! I spent a week in New York and the first four days were a whirlwind of amazing people, amazing sessions, and speeches that forced me to question my understanding of technology and its place in our culture.

It’s interesting, but confronted with so much amazingness, I find it hard to grapple with all of it, even a week out. If you have an interest in these areas, check out and especially these speakers:

The links will take you to the bios of the individual speakers, each of which contains links to learn about their perspectives. These people are considering the ramifications of social media and technology on our culture in ways that far outstrip what I have seen before (and I’ve been studying it).

To the founders of the Personal Democracy Forum, Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry, I say thank you.

7 July 2009

Participation Camp 2009

Wow! What a full and exciting weekend Matt Cooperrider and crew provided at NYU’s ITP last weekend. You can get all the details here:, but the reality is that they really pushed the limit on integrating an offline conference with online participation.

They started with skype chats prior to the event, had a room that was dedicated to virtual presentations and interaction during the event, and are still following it up with even more skype interaction!


22 June 2009

Kudos to PrivacyCamp!!

I just wanted to announce to the world the great success that I am witnessing from PrivacyCamp last weekend. This event took place at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington, DC and brought together a committed group of around 60-70 individuals to discuss the balance between privacy, security, and transparency in this burgeoning age of free and easy access to information.

Two of the four sessions that I attended have resulted in action that is carrying on past the Camp and both seem to be accelerating in their growth and reach. They are the development of a Communicating with Congress Camp that we are beginning to organize, as discussed here and the early stages of an organization called Privacy Commons, that will create a set of templatable contracts for Privacy Policies, akin to the great work done by Creative Commons.

While I can’t claim to be any serious veteran of barcamps, this is the fourth one that I’ve attended and I’ve helped to organize two of those four. All of them have been focused on government and technology in some way and there is always a discussion around how best to carry the conversation forward once the camp is over. PrivacyCamp accomplished this better than I have seen before, and that deserves recognition. Now, if we can only discern what it is that made that happen, we’ll be able to have more productive barcamps here in DC in the future.

22 March 2009

Designing Your Organization

This is no joke. If you’re going to assemble an organization that is
specifically oriented towards accomplishing a specific goal, you need
to give some consideration to what sort of structure will best get you
there. You don’t drive your Jeep in a drag race, and you don’t take
your Masserati off-roading!

Amy Kates and Jay R. Galbraith present a surprisingly lucid view into exactly how complex this process can become in Designing Your Organization.