Articles by

Elise Hu

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    Photo: The Aspen Instiute Roundtable on Net Neutrality this week. Credit: Aspen Institute. Despite the Internet being essential to life as we know it in 2014, only a small percentage of people understand how it really works. Without business and policy leaders who “get it,” misguided decisions about how the network is governed and regulated could mean fewer people have full, unfettered and reliable access to a tool that has opened up avenues for expression, education, economic opportunity and more.  About 30 top thinkers on Internet issues — technologists, policymakers, business and nonprofit leaders — gathered at the Aspen Institute in Colorado this week to consider the Internet’s future during the 2014 Forum on Communications and Society (FOCAS). What is the system we have now? How open is it, really? How can regulation of the Internet and its “pipes” help or hurt its potential?   
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    Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. This year’s Media Learning Seminar featured an interactive human-centered design workshop and a slate of fantastic speakers on issues ranging from solution-centered journalism to the biggest tech trends. A lot of conversation and inspiration packed the two-and-a-half-days, so we have rounded up our cheat sheets and takeaways so you can catch up on what you missed or share the information with colleagues: Resources for Community Information Projects: This new site has all of Knight’s case studies and toolkits for launching and sustaining a community news and information project. How to apply human-centered design at home The lessons from the Knight Information Culture Lab can be a useful guide for understanding the needs of your communities, wherever they are. 2014 tech trends that will impact foundations Futurist Amy Webb offered  four trends in particular that community foundations need to know about now. Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations Successful place-based foundation leaders shared their most important takeaways from their last seven years of experimentation. How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems Whether its partnering with a local government, or bringing them cookies to sweeten them up, three  advocates discussed ways community foundations can get in the data game.
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    Above from left to right: Alberto Ibargüen, Karen Freeman-Wilson, Dan X. O’Neil and Waldo Jaquith. Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. Not all governments are eager to share the raw datasets that can reveal areas of need or problems that foundations can help solve. This challenge — making available public data in a clear, understandable way — has been central to the work of Dan X. O’Neil, head of the Smart Chicago Collaborative, and Waldo Jaquith, who heads the new US Open Data Institute. They and Karen Freeman-Wilson, the mayor of Gary, Ind., closed out the 2014 Media Learning Seminar with some guidance for community foundations to help in the effort: RELATED LINKS  Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda Community Information Resources "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Journalism as knowledge: covering solutions to strengthen communities" by Michael D. Bolden on KnightBlog.org "Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Strengthening communities: The case for talent, opportunity and place" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days" by Bahia Ramos on KnightBlog.org "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "2014 tech trends that will impact foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Join us - virtually - for a conversatino on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org Take advantage of your unique position as a community foundation There’s been a lot of talk about partnerships during this year’s Media Learning Seminar, and governments shouldn’t be left out of the conversation, the panelists said. “You all are in a great position in your communities to act as connectors to government,” Jaquith said. “You can be a friendly partner with them to say, ‘Hey, we are wasting a lot of money on producing reports based on data you produce but are not releasing. Why are so many people being admitted into the ER, for example. Say to them, ‘Stop giving us reports, give us the raw data.’” Convene in the open For O’Neil, holding meetups was key to understanding the needs and interests of the open data community in Chicago. Closely listening to the people of the community can lead to not only answers for hard-to-get data, but how to harness the data in ways that become useful to people’s lives. Start small Even before you try to change policy, a great way to start on this path is to have one-on-one interactions with governments to show how data sets can be useful to communities. Whether it’s information on dog licenses or restaurant inspections, you can ask for something simple. From there, you’re in a position to show what you are able to do with it. That could motivate the governments to be more open to further engagement. “It seems to always work because it’s based on real world problems,” said O’Neil. It really can be effective: Jaquith said federal data sets were released in the same incremental way until the executive order mandating open data went into effect in May. Make a convincing case Public officials are inherently risk-averse, said Freeman-Wilson, since they don’t want to lose their jobs. So tell them why releasing the data matters. Show examples of how public data has transformed other places or solved unique problems in communities. A good case, starting with a simple ask, or even bringing cookies, as Jaquith does, can help start a great relationship for more data down the line.
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    Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. An approach to problem solving called “human-centered design” starts with a simple premise: How can we help people live better? Whether it’s creating a new gadget or device, or coming up with solutions for social issues in a city, a design-thinking framework blends actual human behavior with what’s technologically feasible to yield creative, and hopefully effective, results. RELATED LINKS  Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda Community Information Resources "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Journalism as knowledge: covering solutions to strengthen communities" by Michael D. Bolden on KnightBlog.org "Strengthening communities: The case for talent, opportunity and place" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days" by Bahia Ramos on KnightBlog.org "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "2014 tech trends that will impact foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Join us - virtually - for a conversatino on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org It’s this human-centered framework that’s embedded deeply into this year’s Media Learning Seminar. The designers at DS4I ran a two-day “Knight Information Culture Lab” for participants, a hands-on, interactive experience that taught the human-centered design process through actual case studies and physical prototyping. The lab began by helping participants understand that civic culture can’t be nurtured without understanding a place’s information culture first. What are the information needs, biases, sources, styles and issues? One community may not have any “mass” media like newspapers, but it could have a really robust community center at the local Walmart, where residents learn and share information. Another community may not use the English language for information transfer at all. Understanding each place’s unique information ecosystem is a critical starting point for engaging citizens. Using specific case studies and the stuff of elementary school — popsicle sticks, colored paper and pipe cleaners - the lab encouraged teams of participants to actually model the design process they can put to place in their own communities: Discovery (information gathering about the context of a place), Ideation (brainstorming based on insights), Specification (making the ideas tangible with prototypes) and Iteration (changing things up based on feedback). Lessons Learned By the end of the workshop, the takeaways were clear and there were lots of them. Participants learned how to “design to relate rather than design to inform.” This approach shows a willingness to change an approach based on how a community actually transfers knowledge. Inviting the community into a conversation will show you the problem differently than you see it. “The solution belongs to the community, and when they get to talking, they’ll get to solutions for the problems on the table,” one participant said, of how the “Knight Information Culture Lab” reframed her thinking. In the excitement of trying to advance our fields, it’s sometimes easy to forget that our solutions and programs have to connect with people who understand the world in a different way. When faced with a case study about a Spanish-speaking community, it made clear to non-Spanish speaking participants how important it is to have the people affected most by a problem at the table.
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    Above: Amy Webb. Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. WebbMedia Group Founder and digital media futurist Amy Webb looks at prototypes, patents and societal trends to forecast the near future in technology. But how will the emerging tech trends affect the work of community and place-based foundations? At today’s Media Learning Seminar, Webb outlined four big ideas: Data and the New Digital Divide RELATED LINKS  Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda Community Information Resources "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Journalism as knowledge: covering solutions to strengthen communities" by Michael D. Bolden on KnightBlog.org "Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Strengthening communities: The case for talent, opportunity and place" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days" by Bahia Ramos on KnightBlog.org "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Join us - virtually - for a conversatino on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org You hear a lot about it, but Webb says 2014 is the year data goes mainstream. From our mobile apps to our music services, we’re always sending data that can be used to track and better cater information to our preferences. It can be harnessed for powerful data-driven journalism projects, like WYNC’s work to connect users to public transit choices or how to get help in storm. Or, companies can use it to better target ads to us. Webb says understanding how user data is tracked and harnessed is a reality that illuminates a new digital divide — a technology “knowledge” divide between those who have a sophisticated knowledge of how technology is used, and the much larger group of those who don’t.     Community foundations should seek to have that more sophisticated understanding. “It’s important to know what data can and can't do, how it can and can’t be used, and what the implications are,” says Webb. “Have meaningful conversations about this and make wise choices.” Anticipatory Computing The capabilities of Google are going far beyond direct searches. Instead, search interfaces are more and more able to predict the next few seconds of your thought process to get you contextual information before you ask for it. Using tools like Google Glass or the new MindMeld service, “We’re having a conversation [with devices or programs] and it’s giving us information to be the invisible information layer. It’s evolving to include sensors, data, context,” said Webb. For community foundations and news organizations, a way for users to have more information at the moments they need it — or even before — is a powerful change for how we understand our worlds. “This is just the beginning of all these amazing opportunities on the horizon,” says Webb.
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    Above, from left to right: Alberto Ibargüen, president of Knight Foundation; Kelly Ryan, CEO of Incourage Community Foundation;  Chris J. Daggett, president and CEO of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; and Emmett Carson, CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. As technology continues shaking up the traditional media landscape, it’s leaving gaps and opportunities for community organizations to step in to fill information needs. But legacy news organizations haven’t been alone in facing major shifts. The disruption has affected foundations, too, forcing change and adaptation over the last decade. RELATED LINKS  Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda Community Information Resources "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Journalism as knowledge: covering solutions to strengthen communities" by Michael D. Bolden on KnightBlog.org "Strengthening communities: The case for talent, opportunity and place" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "2014 tech trends that will impact foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days" by Bahia Ramos on KnightBlog.org "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Join us - virtually - for a conversatino on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org Knight Foundation announced it will increase its investments in four fast-adapting foundations — Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, Incourage Community Foundation of Wisconsin and Silicon Valley Community Foundation  — and their targeted efforts to better engage their communities. At the Media Learning Seminar in Miami, leaders from several foundations laid out a few key lessons learned in recent years: Know your values and be true to them Organizational and giving decisions can all flow from clarity of values and vision. Incourage has found its focus by building its experimentation around its values. “A long-term vision and core values linked to a permanent commitment to place is the true value proposition for place-based philanthropy,” said Incourage Foundation’s Kelly Ryan. Co-create with your community Just as legacy news organizations have learned to better have two-way conversations instead of “one-to-many” broadcasts, successful community foundations are seeking out collaboration more aggressively with community members and grantees. “The rules of engagement changed,” said Ryan. One of Incourage Foundation’s bigger changes over the last seven years is how it approaches its conversations with community. No longer content with convening meetings in an office, Incourage staffers now try to engage in one-on-one conversations with residents out in the community. “Participant learning, truly understanding co-creation culture and learning is far more important than convening,” Ryan said. The foundation saw the results of this kind of resident-centered decision-making when thousands participated in an effort to repurpose an old newspaper building in Wisconsin Rapids to serve the interests of the community.
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    Photo credit: Knight Foundation on Flickr. The way we live today, surrounded by so much information and misinformation, presents a critical challenge: How do you make good decisions about how to best serve a community? Finding the answers can be difficult for many community and place-based foundations. RELATED LINKS  Media Learning Seminar 2014 Agenda Community Information Resources "4 new community information investments focus on high-impact projects" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "2014 tech trends that will impact foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to open up the data in your community to help solve problems" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Going for Goal: Shared knowledge inspires successful Giving Days" by Bahia Ramos on KnightBlog.org "Embracing change: Five key lessons from innovative community foundations" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "How to apply human-centered design at home: Lessons from the Media Learning Seminar" by Elise Hu on KnightBlog.org "Using design thinking for community information needs" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org "Join us - virtually - for a conversatino on community news and information" by Marika Lynch on KnightBlog.org For funders, the choice is “always a good cause versus a good cause,” said Carol Coletta, Knight Foundation’s vice president for Community and National Initiatives, as she opened the foundation’s Media Learning Seminar. “You choose on the basis of what the research tells you...Getting the information right, and getting the right information to the right people are the first steps in making any community successful.” That’s what makes the seminar, a gathering of philanthropy, media and tech leaders centered on community information needs, so important, she said. Coletta opened the seminar with a look at Knight’s framework for investment decisions in its communities, a strategy that focuses on talent, opportunity and place. 1) Talent Talent in a community is a predictor of economic success, but talented people are mobile, and younger talent is even more mobile. “If a city doesn’t have a talent strategy, it doesn’t have an economic development strategy,” Coletta said. “Harness it.” Knight Foundation is choosing investments based on finding, attracting and retaining talented people, and helping them get connected or reconnected to their communities. 2) Opportunity As policymakers grapple with rising economic inequality in the country, so are grantmakers. “If where you are born is where you will end up … we will lose our mojo if you can’t transcend your ZIP code,” Coletta said. Research backs up this notion: Harvard’s Raj Chetty found that places where low-income people lived separately from middle-income people showed low rates of upward mobility. “Can we find a way into that issue where we feel like we can help make a difference?” 3) Place Place focuses the work of most community foundations, and it’s the third leg of the Knight Foundation’s platform for community investing. “So many young people choose the place they want to live in first, then they look for a job there,” Coletta said.  Place accelerates both talent and opportunity.
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    Above: Participants gather for a Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation roundtable on the stability of nonprofit news. A full video of the discussion will be available soon. RELATED LINK "Rieder: Support crucial for non-profit journalism" in the USA Today Dozens of nonprofit newsrooms sprang up in the latter part of the last decade, fueled by public service ambitions as legacy newspapers were taking major blows or blinking out of existence. Many of those newsrooms have grown, innovated and found pathways to sustainability in recent years, while others didn’t make it long enough to see 2013.  To discuss the lessons learned, the Pew Research Center and Knight Foundation hosted a roundtable in Washington, D.C., on Friday for the current stable of news nonprofits and many of their foundation funders to talk sustainability, impact and scaling questions that lie ahead. “We charged into this space with our hearts” and not our heads for all of the right reasons, said Michael Maness, Knight’s vice president for journalism and media innovation.  But that approach has created “a cascade of issues,” he said, which has highlighted the need to think more like developers and less like publishers. This year, separate reports by Pew and Knight have detailed that operational, social, financial and technical challenges have kept some of these newsrooms from reaching sustainability. The organizations surveyed vary from one-person staffs to Pulitzer Prize-winning newsrooms of more than 40, so the goals of the organizations can widely differ. That also makes it unclear how to measure their progress as one group.
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      To the legions whose trust he betrayed, science writer and author Jonah Lehrer says he is profoundly sorry. “It is my hope that someday my transgressions might be forgiven,” he said. “I am convinced that unless I talk openly about my failures so far  … the lessons will not last.” Lehrer broke the basic code of journalism. The 31-year old, who had made a name for himself as a leading explainer of how the brain works, was caught cut-and-pasting his own stories, inventing quotes and reproducing errors even after sources pointed them out. Before a crowd of 300, and even more watching on livestream at Knight Foundation’s Media Learning Seminar, Lehrer sought to explain his ethical lapses while knowing he was bereft of the credibility he once enjoyed. “I found the broken part of me and that part has a name. My arrogance, need for attention, carelessness, the ability to make excuses to explain my carelessness and my tendency to believe my own excuses,” said Lehrer. He couldn’t protect himself from himself. Knight Foundation invited Lehrer to explore the neurocience of decision-making, both good and bad, including in his own life. By the time he took the stage for his first public remarks since getting caught reusing his own material and making up quotes, online debate about whether he should even be addressing audiences was cycling well into its second day. As he spoke, Twitter comments flowed down a giant screen next to the stage, a barometer of the response to his remarks. “There are important lessons here for all of us as decision makers and supporters of information projects,” Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen said.
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        Sustainability is formally defined as the “capacity to endure,” but non-profits know that simply enduring isn’t enough. Instead, the real goal for media ventures or collaborations should be something like “thrivability,” says Knight Foundation’s John Bracken. At this year’s Media Learning Seminar, leaders from KCRW, the NPR member station in Los Angeles; the Sundance Institute, which puts on the fabled festival; and The Texas Tribune, a digital news startup in Austin, shared what they learned on the path to “thrivability.” Big brands make you bigger. Sundance partners with the online crowd-funding platform, Kickstarter, to help filmmakers get their work seen and distributed. “Big brands amplify and magnify what artists are doing already,” said Joseph Beyer, director of digital initiatives at Sundance. The Kickstarter partnership showed Sundance the power of working with an established brand and taught it a lesson about engagement. “The dollar amounts are less important than the emotional connection with the supporters,” he said. Consider a live events strategy.