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Neil Skene: A Postcard from Africa

(Photograph: Lunch under the mango tree in Fissel. Village Vice President Alpha Faye talks with University of Florida Professor Leo Villalon. First District Court of Appeal Judge Nikki Clark is at left.)

(FISSEL, Senegal) – July 20, 2011 – The Village of Fissel is more than 3 hours southeast of Senegal’s sprawling, car-choked capital, Dakar. Sitting in plastic chairs in a bare meeting room with no electricity, about three dozen citizens of Fissel gathered Wednesday afternoon for a mid-year report on the community’s budget, covering 42,000 people spread over miles and miles of African bush who live mostly off farming with hand tools and mule-drawn plows. Read all »

UF’s Bob Graham Center receives major Knight Foundation grant

Be sure to check out what the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida is doing to engage students in civic issues with the help of a major $3 million John S. and James L. Knight Foundation grant. I recently enjoyed an evening at the Graham Center and believe they are doing important work on issues that matter to our state, our country (and that matter to The Village Square). You probably already know that we think the Knight Foundation has a unique understanding of the importance of local civic engagement in America’s future. We’ll keep you up to date as the project develops.

Happy Thanksgiving Day, with the predictable 2010 twist

President Obama issued the annual presidential Thanksgiving proclamation on Tuesday in which he described Thanksgiving as “a time each year, dating back to our founding, when we lay aside the troubles and disagreements of the day and bow our heads in humble recognition of the providence bestowed upon our Nation.”

Not so fast on the laying aside of our differences. Apparently even Thanksgiving is occasion to launch arguments in the perpetual partisan snipe-fest that passes for civic dialogue these days.

Rush Limbaugh criticized Obama for getting his facts wrong: “The myth of the first Thanksgiving, Obama is setting it in stone.” Read all »

Florida Recount Anniversary is one week from today

Be sure to check out our Florida Recount Reunion dinner a week from tomorrow night.

Constitutional Amendments: Help for Floridians at Collins Center & The Village Square

The bad news: We haven’t always informed ourselves adequately before voting for or against amendments. There have been consequences from our failure to do so.

The good news: There are more tools available to you, as a voter, than in the past if you want to inform yourself. For starters: Collins Center is doing great work that is a must-see. And The Village Square’s We the Wiki will be at your service if you want to roll up your sleeves and participate. Find the page we’ve started on Florida’s amendments HERE. All pages are fully editable by YOU once you sign up and log in.

Finally, whatever you do, don’t miss our October Constitutional Amendments 101 Take-out Tuesday series from 5:30 to 7 PM every Tuesday in October. Bring your favorite take-out dinner (or just yourself) for a squirm-free study session. Can’t be there? Watch the programs livestream at home in your slippers.

Who knew citizenship could be so interesting or easy?

Today’s FSView: ‘We the People’ project wins major grant

The Community Foundation of North Florida, partnering with the local Village Square, recently received a $72,000 challenge grant to go toward renewing the dialogue regarding community issues. “The whole idea is to bring people together that don’t agree politically and bridge the partisan divide,” said Liz Joyner, executive director of the Village Square. The Knight Community Information Challenge is a highly-competitive national competition that chooses only 24 winners every year. The premise of the competition Read all »

We the People: Name a Wiki?

An exciting part of our project We the People will be building a cutting edge community Wiki, a tool to take good citizenship online to solve problems rather than e-scream at each other. We’ll take this model to new communities, so you’ll be the start of breaking new ground on the internet nationally. Confused about a local issue or clueless about a state vote? Look it up on the Wiki for a basic primer built by fellow citizens in constructive partnership. Your part? As simple as adding what you know to the mix. You can sign up to test drive the contraption (currently busy building it) when you sign up for our newsletter HERE. Good behavior is mandatory, so if you want to hurl putrid names at the people you disagree with, you’ll have to go to the whole rest of the internet.

Post on this thread if you’ve got a better idea as to what to call our Wiki. Working name is “We the Wiki” in a hat tip to our founding fathers and the whole “We the People” notion. Then when everyone in America uses it, we’ll affectionately call it “The Weki.” If you think this is a train wreck and want to save us from ourselves, please help us innovate. We’ll probably come up with a prize for the winning name.

We the People: Tallahassee Brainstorm

Help us think through how we’ll implement We the People. (If you want your idea to see the light of day, make it civil.)