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Inclusive Social Media Knight News Challenge submission -

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Inclusive Social Media Knight News Challenge submission


Knight News Challenge 2010 drafting

  • Project Title: Inclusive Social Media Mobilized for Immigrant and Low Income Neighborhoods
  • Requested amount from Knight News Challenge: 550,000
  • Expected amount of time required to complete project: 3 Years
  • Total cost of project including all sources of funding: 900,000
  • Describe your project:

The stark reality is that the "we media" sharing of community information, user-generated content/news, and powerful online neighbor connections in geographic communities is skipping lower income, high immigrant communities.

Today's solutions to local "information needs in a democracy" leverage existing social capital in wealthier neighborhoods while those in poorer areas experience a red-lined desert void of online community information and connections.

If not addressed innovatively, instead of being a force for democratic good, social media will be a tool for the loudest voices, funded political interests and the most partisan to further dominate agenda-setting right down to the most local level.

It is extremely difficult for highly diverse low income communities to be a squeaky wheel online, if they have no wheel.


Infuse emerging mobile technologies - Tablets, Smartphones, FlipCams, etc. - with proven online community information generation and news sharing techniques and models successfully deployed today in target low income, high immigrant communities.

For the last three years, has helped build an interactive "community information stream" and online space for dialogue with (not "for") two key lower income, high immigrant neighborhoods - the heavily East African (Somali, Oromo) Cedar Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis and the SE Asian (Hmong), African-American, etc. neighborhood of St. Paul.

Text, photos, and video community news and information are shared via an integrated open source-driven web and e-mail system further leveraging Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to provide an accessible and attractive "unified" community information stream.

Based on over 17 years of unique human-led, technology supported online facilitation method development (all 35+ of our Issues Forums in the U.S., UK, and New Zealand have a local volunteer "Forum Manager") and an astute multi-technology approach with an absolute insistence on lowest common denominator e-publishing options (the ability to press reply to an e-mail), we are in a unique position to innovate by "mobilizing" the most diverse sustained foundation of local participants available almost anywhere online.

Starting in Cedar Riverside, we propose a "mobile gear swarm" with training on how to produce or share community content (from sending a simple wireless e-mail about a community event at the local Mosque to live streaming a youth basketball game from a mobile device). Minneapolis has a city-wide wi-fi network providing monthly access as low as $14.95 a month and some free non-profit accounts as well. The Brian Coyle Community Center's computer lab, with whom we collaborate, sits next to some 4,000 mostly lower income, immigrant residents in Section 8 and public housing towers. In phase two we propose extend the lessons across our global "local" network and to projects around the world through outreach and training.

Experts say mobile will be the great equalizer online. Let us find out how to make that real with community information, news, and dialogue by leveraging what no one can replicate quickly - real grassroots relationship with diverse, low income communities who are already bucking the trend with community information online and add over 100 mobile device users spread throughout the community.

  • How will your project improve the delivery of news and information to geographic communities?:

By supporting mobile content creation and broad access to the "community information stream" in lower income, high immigrant or diverse communities, original community produced content will be delivered and fill the current void online.

Our neighbors Issues Forums in Cedar Riverside and Frogtown (built with foundation support) and over a dozen all-volunteer forums have emerged as the vital community information and news sharing spaces for these communities.

In Phase 2 (part of this budget) we propose an expansion of "what works" across more neighborhoods where we again have an unmatched foundation of connections and most importantly -TRUST- in the digital engagement realm. It takes years to develop relationships with immigrant community leaders. Other groups (potential partners) with "integrative" connections across a diverse geographic community have typically have no experience with digital media.

In the second round beyond neighborhoods with a growing Latino population, urban Native Americans, and rental properties, we host a rural community Issues Forum in a majority Native American area including the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. We will leverage those networks while adapting to the challenge of working with more geographically dispersed populations. (We will need multiple partners in the field where the mobile technology not "checked out" to individuals can be shared.)

We have the potential to deploy these ideas via our UK and New Zealand chapters as well as potentially Kenya if we can match with funding from those countries or other sources.

In Phase 3 we propose a broad lessons sharing and outreach campaign. While we have a long-standing commitment to open source technology, what really needs funding is open source style knowledge sharing so many projects can adapt "what works" to their own projects and technology base whether they are a public broadcaster or small community organization.

  • What unmet need does your proposal answer?:

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project's Neighbors Online study released in 2010:

With the cornerstone of local agenda setting-online, participation in neighborhood online groups (e-lists, forums), where many local elected officials are influenced, among *Internet users*:

**  15% of those in households with an income of $75,000 or more participate in an online neighborhood group.
**  Only 3% of those in Internet using households earning $50,000/yr and under are members, 2% under $30,000
**  Only 3% of Hispanics (likely immigrant communities as well) are members
**  Only 2% of rural residents belong
**  That means those making 75K are 6.5 times more likely to be connected than those under 30K

Among all adults, 39% of those making $75,000+ use a mix of "digital tools to to talk with their neighbors and keep informed about community issues" while those under $30,000 drop to 12%. Further, 74% of those who talk digitally with neighbors have talked face-to-face about community issues compared to only only 39% who haven’t connected digitally with their neighbors.

What we've learned thus far is that ANY and EVERY community - regardless of income, ethnicity, where born, etc. - can build online community information streams to benefit their community. It just doesn't "happen on its own" where volunteer capacity, institutional strength, and access to technology is limited. It takes some instigation. However, if you provide too much professionalized support you undermine creating a sustain information exchange that continues when the funded outreach ends.

A key goal is to call the bluff on abstract claims that mobile is the technology for digital inclusion that will magically leap to community information and news production and sharing. We will get devices and training into the field to test the real potential with hundreds of -DAILY- participants we've signed up.

  • How is your idea new?:

Our combination of technology, participants, communities served, and practical experience, present a one of a kind, never tried before opportunity.

The mash-up of mobile tablets (Android for lower cost distributed user and iPads for use via community centers, apartment computer labs, etc.), mobile apps for content capture, editing, and sharing with training, Flip and automated Eye-Fi publishing with digital cameras, and refurbished Netbooks and Android phones using pay as you go cards and community wi-fi for data instead of expensive plans, present a dynamic platform for content sharing in the diverse neighborhoods we work with today.

While using mobile technology isn’t new (I use and have tested all of the mobile technology and approaches above), our connection to low income residents, community and cultural organizations serving immigrant communities, youth who frequent the Brian Coyle Center computer lab and youth programs, and thousands of Issues Forums participants across our network provide a testing ground opportunity for building bridges with mobilized community information and news.

In addition to mobile devices, we will further mobilize the access to our community information stream approach. Also, due to the "virtual cross burning" with anonymous online news commenting on local media sites our real name approach is essential. The immigrant communities talk glowingly of the relative safety they feel on Facebook, so a Facebook application designed bring our multi-tech information stream to Facebook (mobile and mobile Facebook Zero in Africa (text-only) should our extensive Kenyan connections lead to experiments further a field).

  • What will you have changed by the end of the project?:

When we demonstrate that mobilized digital inclusion for “diverse voices” can work now, we can move the current digital inclusion agenda from technology access, basic skills, and one-way service information for "clients" to one where ALL people can successfully produce community information and tap successful distribution models that reach enough people to motivate sharing.

When we demonstrate with mobile technology unleashes community information from even the smallest community and cultural groups who simply do not have the capacity to maintain a website or the skill to feed a Facebook Page community - we can show that mobile is a cost-effective way to provide individuals and communities with access that leads to sharing of essential news and information.

When we demonstrate how access to relatively inexpensive mobile technology can enable sharing of higher effort video, pictures, and well edited content from low income, immigrant communities in local neighborhoods (for broad local community exchange as well as diaspora news or inter-immigrant group communication) people of very diverse backgrounds can come to know one another and build community capacity to work together.

Ultimately, inspiring thousands of other people and initiatives to create community information streams (Issues Forums, place blogs, neighborhood social networks ... which are all combining technology wise anyway) for ALL communities leveraging mobile and other Internet technologies is our ultimate goal. If we can inspire community foundations, media organizations, and others to address the unmet needs documented in the numbers then come the next survey the terrible gap in community information exchange can be closed.

  • Why are you the right person or team to complete this project?: has 17+ years experience with the use of technology to provide democratic information and civic engagement. In 2009, we attracted modest Ford Foundation funding to start an initiative called Participation 3.0 - . Our Inclusive Social Media initiative building on our extensive Issues Forums experience with a focus on the two lower income, high immigrant neighborhoods mentioned above - - is delivering real results and presents an extremely unique one of a kind foundation for the innovative and new work proposed above.

This “mobilized” proposal will build on the skills of our journalist and community organizer experienced outreach team of Julia Opoti in Cedar Riverside and Boa Lee in Frogtown. In year one, we will work to engage such groups as the Brian Coyle Community Center, the Somali American Media Association, area tenant associations, and many others. is led by Ashoka Fellow Steven Clift - - who has extensive experience bridging between the civic engagement and media world as well as his role as the founder and coordinator of the State of Minnesota's first government portal. As an international speaker he has spoken across nearly 30 countries including a recent trip to Kenya as a guest of the U.S. Embassy to speak about online engagement across that dynamic “mobile” country.

In addition to our field work with 30+ Issues Forums (and the neighborhood and city-level), we host a number of global online communities of practice with over 1300 members through which we can gather input and share lessons. These include the CityCamp Exchange (Local Gov 2.0, open government, local citizen media, open data), the Digital Inclusion Network (the most active online community for those involved with digital divide issues), Locals Online (for hosts of neighborhood blogs, social networks, forums) and LocalLabs a start-up forum for open source developers who love all things local.

  • What terms best describe your project?: *

300 word(s) remaining

news information democracy community participation immigrants immigrant low income poor mobile technology diversity diverse android ipad wireless engagement youth innovation minneapolis st. paul minnesota e-democracy e-participation


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