WOW and Doable! A look at five successful community information projects

“These are ideas you can steal,” says Knight Foundation Vice President for Communities, Trabian Shorters, of the five community information projects discussed at this session of the 2012 Media Learning Seminar.

You Choose – Bay Area
“Your home, your future, your choice.” Margot Rawlins and the Silicon Valley Foundation developed an three-prong approach to engaging a community around the issue of community growth: a community leadership information toolkit, a media campaign including a local website, and a public forum series. 20% of the participants online and at public forums were fresh voices – those who had never participated in a regional planning discussion.

Ready, Set, Learn
Chris Barge of The Community Foundation Serving Boulder County (Colorado). The foundation addressed the achievement gap in local school infrastructure. Focus groups in the county identified that awareness of the vast achievement gap was limited. The campaign’s marketing plan drew the attention of the county school board. The board issued a referendum to fund a $5 million early childhood education program which was overwhelmingly passed by county voters.

GROW – Green Renaissance of Western New York
Clotilde Dedecker of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo found success by co-creating programs of scope and scale with organizations. In the case of GROW, the issue of environmental threats, justice, and health is supported by the foundation to engage citizens on the issues facing their communities.

West Anniston Today
Tycoma Miller of the West Anniston Foundation faced a community issue of PCB contamination. One of the issues for this community of 25,000 was the inclusion of youth in the conversation. For 40 years, this area was exposed to PCB contamination without their knowledge. Using the medium of radio, the foundation worked to connect citizens to this issue and give them a voice.

The Minnesota Idea Open
Jennifer Ford Reedy of the Minnesota Community Foundation took bold action by using technology to become open, accessible, collaborative, and creative and inspire philanthropy. By developing Idea Open, the foundation attempted to give Minnesotans a voice in developing their future. This annual challenge first focused on obesity and received over 400 ideas about how to combat obesity. The second year, the challenge focused on the issue of water. In each case, citizens voted on the best use of the foundation grants.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s 2012 Media Learning Seminar in Miami Florida brought together leaders of community foundations, media professionals, technology entrepreneurs, researchers, educators, and foundation staff in the foundation’s quest for informed and engaged communities. I attended as a representative of the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, a grantee of Knight Foundation. Read my articles on the conference here.

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