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A #Townhall for a New Age

When used correctly, online communications can be remarkably effective in fostering increased citizen engagement with politics and policy. Through our own research, we have found that online town hall meetings have the potential to be a powerful tool for strengthening the relationship between Members and their constituents.

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Inside the Hill: Who Handles Online Communications

In the seventh installment of 'Inside the Hill', congressional staff and Congressman Honda discuss how they use and manage online communications.

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How to Win a Congressional Website Award: Solid Issue Information

The Congressional Management Foundation will commence our seventh round of analyzing and grading more than 600 congressional personal, committee, and leadership office websites on June 1. The results will be released in October, with the Gold Mouse Awards Ceremony in November. We recognize that Members of Congress, by their nature, are competitive, which is why we established the Gold Mouse Awards system in 2001. One of the most common questions CMF gets is: 'What is the most important factor for winning a Gold Mouse Award?'

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Inside the Hill: Congressional Staff Read Everything

In the sixth installment of 'Inside the Hill', congressional staff discuss how the Internet has affected the ways congressional offices get their news.

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Inside the Hill: How The Public Is Heard

In the fourth installment of "Inside the Hill", Members of Congress and congressional staff discuss how citizens' voices are heard on Capitol Hill.

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Back to Basics: The Foundations of a Good Website

Members of Congress are always coming up with new and innovative ways to engage citizens online, but no congressional office should neglect their website. After all, in our survey of over 10,000 citizens, we found that the website of the Senator or Representative is the one of the first places they turn for information. So it's essential that congressional websites provide at least a basic level of information and services. With limited time and resources, where should offices focus their efforts? Here are the 4 most critical areas to focus on, the questions to ask yourself as you improve your website, and examples from award winning websites from the 111th Congress:

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Constituents Tell Rep. Forbes What They Think Through His “instaPoll”

Members have long included short polling questions in their regular newsletters or on their websites, and some even pose questions on Facebook or Twitter. Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), however, is taking a slightly different approach. Rather than tacking on a polling question to a much larger email newsletter—almost as an afterthought—he created a cleverly branded regular poll of his constituents called the “instaPoll.”

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Using Facebook for more than just press releases

For some congressional offices, the default use for new communication avenues is as just another place to post the office's press releases. We saw it when blogs became popular, and the same has been true with Twitter and social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. But it's not the most effective use of those resources.

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Member’s Constituents Help Question Oil Giants

When I talk to citizens and grassroots advocates, one of the biggest complaints they have is that they feel like they have few avenues to participate in committee processes on the Hill. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), however, recently gave his constituents a unique opportunity to participate in a House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing.

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Inside the Hill: What Makes an Award Winning Website

In the second installment of "Inside the Hill", congressional staff discuss what it takes to create and maintain an effective and useful website.

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