Community listening session for El Tímpano in Oakland.

Using tools of organizing and media development to assess a community’s information needs — A #PPPC17 Preview

I’m in Chicago this week at the second annual People Powered Publishing Conference, a convening organized by the Illinois Humanities Council to bring together the growing number of reporters who practice journalism in collaboration with their communities.

I’m thrilled to facilitate a Thursday morning session with amazing colleagues whose work inspires and informs my own. The objective is to highlight models and methodologies of community engagement that are informed by disciplines outside of journalism.

As someone who has been fortunate to straddle the fields of journalism and human rights advocacy, I have noticed cohorts from various fields working on the same challenge — how can we use new forms of storytelling to involve the community in our work — but attending different conferences, reading different Medium channels and Twitter feeds, and very often missing out on sharing models, tools, and approaches because there are few opportunities to bridge fields. The People Powered Publishing Conference recognizes the importance of cross-disciplinary pollination, and actively encourages sessions that bring fresh perspectives to those of us working on community-engaged journalism. Hallelujah.

I’ll be joined by:

Carolyn Powers of Internews. The international media development organization is known for working in collaboration with local partners around the world to design media that addresses critical information needs, such as during humanitarian crises. In the last few years, it has brought its approach to the U.S. to design media initiatives that address gaps in local news ecosystems.

Carolyn will describe the work of this network, the Listening Post Collective, and share resources it has created to help news outlets and others design media in response to the needs of their communities. I’ll also discuss how I have been applying the methodology of the Listening Post to assess the information needs of Latino immigrants in Oakland.

Sol Aramendi is a photographer, educator, and community activist based in Queens.

Photo by Sol Aramendi from a Project Luz workshop.

Through both Project Luz — which uses photography as a tool to empower immigrants — and the Jornalero App — which she designed in collaboration with day laborers as a Blade of Grass fellow — she has collaborated with immigrant communities to design methods of seeing, storytelling, and reporting that empowers participants.

Jorge Caraballo, is a Medellín-based journalist and the community engagement editor for Radio Ambulante. While studying digital journalism at Northeastern University, he collaborated with organizers in East Boston to engage and inform immigrant residents on the topic of evictions, tenants rights, and displacement. Read his explanation of this “Postcard Journalism” initiative.


We’ll discuss more resources at the session, and hope to learn from others in the room, but to start, here are some resources created by the presenters or relevant to their work.

The Listening Post

The Listening Post Collective website has a trove of resources for those interested in implementing its very flexible methodology of listening to a community and designing journalism that addresses its needs. They include:

Postcard Journalism

Jorge Caraballo and his peers at East Boston, Nuestra Casa created downloadable resources, including editable files of the postcards they created and a guide on how to use them.

Socially Engaged Art

Sol Aramendi’s Apps for Power project was supported by A Blade of Grass. For more socially engaged art by ABOG fellows, check out the videos on its website.

If you can’t join us here in Chicago — or even if you can — I’d love to hear from you: What other models of community engagement provide inspiration and lessons for community-engaged journalism? What resources from other fields may be valuable for reporters and newsrooms planning to collaborate with their communities to tell stories?

Journalist & civic media innovator. Oakland native. Cumbiambera.

Journalist & civic media innovator. Oakland native. Cumbiambera.