I stumbled across the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s listing of grant-recipients of its “Community Information Challenge.” The Foundation’s five-year program was established last year as a matching fund for community foundations interested in projects that would use media and technology in new, creative ways to keep their communities informed. A few of the funded programs aim to bring together a large number of organizations to collaborate on a particular issue. One example is “The Green Table Virtual Meeting Place” in Buffalo, NY. Here’s the project description:
The more than 170 groups concerned with western New York’s environment are splintered and isolated, with no effective way of knowing what each is doing. In order to improve community dialogue and – ultimately – help revive the region centered around post-industrial Buffalo, the community foundation will create a new website for information exchange. Known as The Green Table, the site will feature discussion groups, resource directories, event calendars and job or volunteer opportunities. In addition, The Green Table will invite citizen participation through a pledge wall for a greener community and tools such as carbon footprint calculators.
Historically, it’s been tough sledding to convince organizations that “all boats rise” if they are able to create awareness of a problem or tackle a problem by working together.
Though it’s no panacea, the Internet and social media open up new opportunities for collaborative campaigns to tackle issues. In a time of draconian budget cuts, the challenges we face require more than producing a report card as a means of tackling problems.
What are you seeing in terms of collaborative, Internet-based campaigns? I’m interested in learning:
· How they got started
· Who underwrote the development cost (if only the time to create the campaign)
· Whether organizations or individuals – rather than foundations or grant-making organizations – are finding it worthwhile to act as conveners and campaign leaders
· What elements they’re incorporating: just a website, or traditional public relations and other tactics?
· Whether they’re working – or working better than an organization working alone – in terms of raising awareness of an issue or solving a community problem