The following blog post is written by Daniel Green, head of strategic partnerships, communications at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Mayur Patel, VP/strategy and assessment at Knight Founation. Photo credit: Flickr user atmtx. We’re excited to tell you about the launch of an initiative we’ve been discussing for some time. It’s called the Media Impact Project and it will be housed at the Norman Lear Center, part of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. With $3.25 million in seed funding from Gates and Knight Foundation, the project is an effort to advance a better understanding of audience engagement and media impact. Measuring how media influences the ways people think and act, and contributes to broader societal changes is something with which we all struggle. Our hope is that journalists, media organizations and those involved in communication campaigns will be able to use this new resource to strengthen their work. We know this is an ambitious initiative. We’ve been told countless times by colleagues how hard – and impossible – this may be. It might help if we share how we got here and why we believe that strategic investments in media measurement have the potential to be transformative. Both Knight and Gates Foundation share a belief in the power of informed and engaged communities for many reasons – from strengthening democracy and civil society to helping address some of the world’s most challenging social problems. In this context, the possibilities of learning how storytelling connects people and inspires action are more exciting than ever. There is now a wealth of data generated by people’s consumption and production of digital media that can be used to improve how we understand engagement and when that leads to greater awareness, knowledge and even changes in behavior. This information gives content creators the opportunity to understand what works and to use that feedback to stay relevant in an environment of rapid change. Yet the tools and approaches we have to measure and analyze this data are underdeveloped. In the winter of 2011 and spring of 2012, Gates and Knight brought together media practitioners, academics, evaluators and other foundations that fund media to explore these issues further. The group discussed how we define and measure media “engagement” and its effects on individuals and society.