Late last year, George linked to a neat post about the ladder of participation. He noted the parallel to learning:"Many courses are structured to give the instructor control (treating the learners as 'objects' to be manipulated into a place of 'right thinking and knowing'). Moving up the ladder, however, learners gain control over their learning."
I like the connection to learning, and I'm also connecting with it the way it was originally intended -- as a model for civic engagement. I've started an experiment in online activism in the last few weeks that is primarily educational, but not in the formal sense. Summerland (the town I live in) is in the process of revising their official community plan (OCP), and there has been a fair bit of conflict surrounding the desired rate of growth and types of developments the residents want to encourage.
The more I found out about it, the more I realized how little I knew about the background to the main issues: preservation of agricultural land, water supply, NIMBYism, infrastructure spending, sprawl, and commercial development. So a few of us started up a simple blog to collect and share ideas as we're learning about the issues -- it's called Summerland Citizens. It's intensely local, but is already providing connections I hadn't thought possible.
One thing that's interesting about the process is that although you have to be pretty motivated to start something like this, once it's rolling, it motivates you to learn more, connects you to more interested people, and gives you a sense of belonging that is harder to initiate without the web. I'll let you know how it goes.