Community Information Toolkit, version 1.1

Knight Foundation’s Community Information Toolkit creates a framework for assessing a community’s information ecosystem. Mayur Patel, Knight’s Vice President for Strategic Assessment, is leading the conversation on information ecosystem mapping.

Mapping a community’s information ecosystem is not as daunting as the words might suggest. The components of a community’s information system include the community’s technology infrastructure, supply of public information, and skills of community members to access that information.

After piloting the toolkit in three communities – Macon, GA, San Jose, CA, and Philadelphia, PA – the foundation created two affordable and simple ways for a community to take stock: a checklist that assesses access and a scavenger hun that provides a window into the way community members navigate their community’s information. Version 1.1 of the Community Information Toolkit was released at the 2012 Media Learning Seminar in Miami.

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Three examples of the use of the toolkit for different purposes:

Public access television is a perfect partner for the information toolkit, says Kathy Bisbee at the Community Media Access Partnership in the Bay Area of California. At CMAPTV, Bisbee and her team organized a community conversation in Gilroy, California, surrounding the toolkit’s core issue of access to information.

The toolkit can be used as a neighborhood resource for engaging people at the hyperlocal level to increase community-based conversation in Greater Atlanta, says Alicia Philipp, President of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “In our case, it’s not about media, the toolkit is about community engagement.” Patel notes that this type of work need not create new access points, but rather should use the access points already created within communities.

Kelly Lucas, CEO of Incourage Community Foundation in Central Wisconsin, asked a journalist to condense the Knight Commission Report and make it relevant to the people of central Wisconsin. For that community, the answer was jobs. Information mapping in the community brought the community together and taught it how to innovate. The foundation, as a hub for the conversation, has launched a program in workforce solutions with CEOs and funders to empower agents of community change in the region.

“Access to information is really a social justice issue for all of us,” says Lucas. She continues: Agents of change in a community have a unique value in the quest for access: “the knowledge of and sense of place.”

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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