I’m at Day 2 of a remarkable two-day conference that is bringing nonprofits, citizen journalism and social media together in ways I’ve never seen before.
I’m jazzed, hopeful and intrigued by the challenges ahead. The passion in the room is palpable. The 40 people who convened at the Visioning Summit yesterday in San Francisco, and the 30 participants who are steering the program today, consist of some of the most talented and forward-thinking innovators — nonprofit execs, strategists, journalists — that I’ve come across in recent years.
Above is the presentation I gave at this gathering, organized by a group of nonprofits in a project called the New Media Lab (there’s no public presence yet, just a private wiki). And while its focus is squarely on the role that journalist/media producers will play in our project, I’ve taken the liberty of extrapolating it to the new roles that journalists should be expected to take up in an age of social media if you work for a startup, whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit.
Called Doing Good 2.0: The next-generation’s impact on communication, media, mobile & civic engagement [fixed link], it looks at the forces driving Web 2.0 and the next-generation Internet, the role of mobile, the new cultural norms that social media is ushering in, and the role of the New Journalist: how we need to still tell compelling stories about people and causes but how we also need to expand our repertoire in this new arena by wearing multiple hats:
• conversation facilitator
• social marketer
• metrics & research nerd
Here are some of the questions we’ve just begun to tackle:
Should nonprofits create their own media?
What should be the business model for social cause organizations in the future?
How can the media producers funded by this project work with nonprofits to build a sustainable business venture that connects to their core constituencies?
How do you turn passive audiences into engaged communities?
What happens when you bust the silos that keep us from working together across sectors?
I’ve signed on as a paid advisor to the yearlong project, which will happen largely virtually. The idea is that the alternative, progressive nonprofits — the National Wildlife Federation, National Civic League, Free Speech TV, Mother Jones and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy — will assign point people to work with producers selected by San Francisco State’s Renaissance Journalism Center.
Leveraging free and open source tools
Some of the ingredients that will be sprinkled into the project’s secret sauce: use of mobile; an emphasis on social media; use of high-quality video across multiple platforms (Web, cable and broadcast TV); and business plans from Manas Consulting to make it all self-sustaining.
The goal, in a phrase, is to “help non-profit partners find innovative ways to get their members to engage in conversation, volunteer, subscribe, donate and advocate.”
The role of the “New Journalist” — which we’re calling media producers — in this project is paramount: The producers (who hail from SF Gate, the Miami Herald, an Emmy-winning documentarian and others) will be sitting down this afternoon to map out how to weave a tapestry out of all these moving parts.
“This is a project for those who like to play around, who are comfortable with things shifting fast and often,” Jon Funabiki, founder of Renaissance Journalism Center, told the producers.
During my talk I showed off this heart-tugging video from aglimmerofhope.org as a compelling example of storytelling for a cause and showed off a suite of free open source and social media tools and platforms. I also pointed to a few ahead-of-the-curve ideas for partnerships:
Among those in attendance: Funabiki; fellow IdeaLab contributor David Cohn, founder of Spot.us; Jed Alpert, co-founder of MobileCommons; Arthur Charity, author of “Doing Public Journalism”; management consultant Richard Landry; social entrepreneur Ron Williams, and many other smart folks. Jon Schwartz, who runs a string of progressive nonprofits, is funding the project, and Halcyon Liew organized the proceedings.
With a little bit of luck, we’ll figure this out. I’ll report back on our progress in the months to come.