Can it be a coincidence that some of the people that I respect the most in Public Radio have independently come to the same conclusion about the need to offer their communities a "Hosted Trusted Space" as do the new leaders of the Commons Movement? What does it mean when spontaneously and idependently people move to the same idea?
Here are two examples in Chicago and in Cleveland.
In early July, WBEZ in Chicago announced that they would make a decisive shift to local engagement. Earlier this year, Tory Malatia had foretold of this shift when I interviewed him in the New Realities process. One of the questions I asked Torey then was "What is your mission"
What it has always been - our job is to build a better community.
Chicago is an enormous city with many good things but with also many problems. Our hope is that if we can help more and more people get engaged with others here and how we all live, that we will make a difference. I hope that we can offer some simple kind of place in people's personal lives.
In this context then, the issue is not only to be an effective radio station but also to be a moderator of community.
Here now is Kit Jensen of Ideastream in Cleveland - notice anything familiar?
Was this movement based on where Cleveland was as a once great city now in decline?
"Yes. Our research (The Listening Project) picked up that our listeners and viewers loved our shows and the stations, but they expected and wanted more from us.
The need that was revealed is for us (ideastream) to help them mobilize to help themselves get through our challenges and to celebrate successes as a community/region. They wanted more than good reporting on what was going on and good features. They needed a neutral body to "Convene" the community so that it could itself explore what was going on more deeply and decide amongst itself what best to do.
For it is becoming clear to many that issues such as health, education and development cannot be dictated nor are improvements easily found in the normal political and business channels. Wide spread partnerships are required and the question was who will call the meeting and who will hold the space? We are finding that the answer is a partnership that includes public radio and TV, other content providers and other media.
How long have you been working on this and how is this going?
The key has been the partnerships. No one body has the resources or the required power. But together we do. Our iconic initial work was a project that was called the "Quiet Crisis". Our partners were the ideastream’s public TV and radio stations and the Plain Dealer.
The objective was to offer a wake up call. The conventional wisdom in the community was that we were doing OK. No one wanted to tell the truth that we all knew at a deeper level. On the other hand merely attacking people would have shut everyone down as well.
The Quiet Crisis was a periodic series run by the radio, TV and the Paper where stories that showed what was really going on were systematically handed over from one media to another and progressively built upon created a huge public awareness.. We may have lead with the radio, moved it to the paper, amplified on radio again, and handed off to TV with each medium providing enterprise stories as well as common shared content. The audience experienced Audio, Text and Video from different sources all telling the same story. We filled the mind and hearts of the community.
Of course at first many community leaders hated this. Who wants to hear the truth? That is the block. We were saying things that hurt but that everyone knew. We set the context for action and mobilization.
Change or die?
Exactly! But we don't need a crisis - we need an activating force.
But the voice for change has to be inclusive and reasonable. We have to speak to each other as peers.
If the word is heard as an attack by an expert
outsider the community will freeze. Public radio, public television,
and public media have the potential to enable a continuum of change
because it is a voice that can be heard and trusted. It is the voice of
the people with no axe to grind other than the betterment of the