Breakout #1: How can you get started; what can you learn?


Facilitator: Michele McLellan, Circuit Rider, Knight Foundation Scribe: LuAnn Lovlin, Director of Communications, The Winnipeg Foundation

Themes and things to think about as you get started:

·       Mission

·       Landscape

·       Audience + Engagement

·       Capacity – Digital

·       Partnerships

·       Sustainability

A community inventory of what is already going on – things you don’t need to re-invent – what we can learn from others can be very helpful as you build the framework for your project. Doing an assessment of your community information needs can provide insight and direction. Knight Foundation’s Community Information Toolkit can help groups get started, and be strategic in assessment of your local needs. 

Audience – we’ve evolved – rather than a broad shallow approach (trying to reach as many audiences as possible) it is critical to identify and target your audience(s) who you are trying to reach specifically with your efforts?

Ask yourselves several key questions, as part of the planning process;

·       What is your organizational digital capacity? –This is your technology capabilities plus your ‘digital culture’ – you have to be good with a lot less control over what might happen.

·       Partnerships – who might be a good partner for your efforts?

·       Sustainability – how do we view sustainability of this project ? Whether a grantee or a funder, we need to be thinking early on about different ways to view partnerships as potential ways to sustain project(s).

There will be challenging issues that surface during initial considerations and discussions, especially as they relate to community foundations and their roles. Traditional foundation models may be challenging to a community information project – (ie.types of partnerships, board/donor issues, clarity around mission.)

Community Information projects can be a leadership role for Foundations , much the way foundations already convene  around issues, topics, with other community partners. It can be a civic leadership role for community foundations asking themselves – “what have/can we become in our community? How can we reach out and engage our citizens?”

Potential partners have to create clarity around expectations with each other; difference of cultures between traditional media and foundations – could be a big mash-up if assumptions are made about roles and responsibilities.

Long term sustainability requires adequate resources. This can be a BIG challenge for some projects and is not necessarily the goal of every project. Partners need to know where they are heading before they start. Perhaps getting a project off the ground is the goal, and then handing it off to another organization to take on is the long term ideal.

The ever-changing technology can move ahead of your best project efforts, so awareness of and use of the latest technology needs to build in to your planning and thinking.  We’re all at various point on the continuum of the digital journey, there are emerging news landscapes, research and resources available that will help us along.

Participants agreed that there is no magic bullet to figuring out the perfect project, when you go do it you will experience some bumps along the road.

You have to be careful about what you don’t know, and be open to learning. Just begin…start using digital tools…get your feet wet and see how others are also implementing. Learning from each other is key and responding to your community is important, and to know who you are trying to connect with and why.

The session had a lengthy discussion on social media and identified several resources that could be helpful to those wanting to learn more about how to use these tools.

·       Pew Research has a helpful document available on its website – the Internet in American Life – studies on all things related to digital/mobile tools.

·       KCIC Digital Media Centre offers online learning module on ‘being effective on Twitter’

·       Tweet deck, Hoot Suite, helpful tools to see what’s going on

·       If you want to connect with the communities of the future, you have to incorporate these tools

·       Two big sources of traffic to your website are social media, (the ways you engage with your publics) and via searches; Search Engine Optimization

·       Get indexed on Google News

·       Know your audience(s) and use the communication tools that are appropriate

·       Start small, get your feet wet, try different things, see what is a good fit for your organization

·       Effective partnerships can help facilitate the discussion around various projects

·       Talk to people – find out what they want and need from you and how they want to receive it;

·       Knight’s Community Information Toolkit:

·       Knight report on partnerships – elements for success, a few key partners is most effective, recruit ones that meet the needs for your project (have expertise)