Building Communities Through Public Broadcasting
The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation (THI) sought support to implement its Community Engagement Initiative (CEI)-an effort with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to develop and implement new ways for public broadcasters to deepen their local significance and improve the civic health of communities.
Work on the CEI was centered on The Institute's belief that many Americans have retreated into their close-knit circles and are disconnected, but people are yearning to re-engage and become part of something larger. THI saw public broadcasters as among the last boundary-spanning organizations in communities with the standing to counteract these trends. The CEI sought to assist 12 public broadcasting stations in the journey from inward looking radio and television stations into public media organizations that are driven by community input and involvement.
Collaborative led the project management of the two-year long CEI and provided key substantive support. We:
- Coordinated the project team, managed an online project space, and facilitated weekly check in meetings and regular, longer team planning meetings
- Helped design and facilitate five convenings with public broadcasters, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and THI staff
- Identified key turning points in the work and adjusted work plans to account for those findings
- Helped create metrics for evaluating stations' impact
- Coached six of the twelve stations, providing one-on-one support for the duration of the project to help participants change organizational practices
- Documented the progress and needs of stations and the efficacy of the CEI model
As a result of the project team's efforts, The Harwood Institute completed the CEI with documentation and knowledge it could use to standardize its work in the future. Collaborative organized all documentation into a resource library and helped to create final reports and summaries of the CEI's impact on the 12 stations.
Ultimately, stations saw change as a result:
- Communities have improved. New networks have grown, people are talking who had been at odds and individuals are connecting with community resources.
- Programs are better. They are more relevant and more authentically reflect what is happening in the community.
- Stations individually have turned outward and become more significant in their communities. A major funder told one station manager, "You've come a long way, baby," while a prominent community member said to another, "Thank you for caring about our community."
- Stations as a group have changed how they work, aligned their efforts for impact and now have ways of measuring their results.
- Fundraising is up, even during difficult financial times.
Collaborative supported The Harwood Institute's commitment to using video as a way of sharing knowledge, and regularly included videos in CEI participants' learning. View how participating stations changed their view of community and their role as a public broadcaster serving the community:
- Seeing Others as a Resource. Kimberlie Kranich of WILL talks about the challenge of creating change, the need to ask for help and the power that comes from seeing other stations as a resource.
- Better Programming Through Engagement. Kevin Crane of WNPT talks about being surprised about conversations that don't turn out the way he would have expected.
- The Importance of Metrics. Mark Leonard from WILL talks about the importance of metrics in community engagement work.
- Staying Focused When Your Cup Runneth Over. Amy Shaw of KETC talks about trying to move forward effectively at a time when opportunities abound.
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