Good News / Good Deeds

Community Problem-Solving in the Age of Electronic Democracy

Goal: To improve and strengthen community communications so that the Puget Sound area citizens can act more effectively to make their community a better place to live.

Objective 1: Initiate public discussions of the future of media communications so the media, independent sector, and the public can communicate most effectively with each other.

1.1 Research: Review exiting research on models for effective print media-community collaborations and conduct research on models for effective electronic media-community collaborations; use the most promising models to stimulate and/or enhance local media-community collaborations (i.e., "public" journalism, applied research partnerships among the media, independent sector and public).

1.2 Think tanks: Create topic-specific think tanks to explore ways in which media-comunity collaborations can better serve citizens' needs.

1.3 Public discussions: Hold community-wide public discussion(s) on these issues.

1.4 Publish: Produce and disseminate printed material to relate the ideas that evolve from these efforts.

Objective 2: Raise the profile of the independent sector as an important source of information, which is on par with business and government, in its impact on individuals and its influence on the quality of community life.

2.1 Focus groups: Conduct focus groups with members of the media to gauge their level of understanding about the independent sector and community problem-solving.

2.2 Promote training: Identify and promote ways in which the media can learn more about the independent sector.

2.3 Database: Work in partnership with the Seattle Public Library to create an electronic database of independent sector "news sources" that can be accessed by the media and the public. Work to promote database access.

Objective 3: Improve the independent sector's capacity to communicate with the media and its consituencies, especially as can be achieved through new technologies.

3.1 Focus groups: Conduct focus groups with members of the independent sector to identify barriers and opportunities fo increasing communications capacity.

3.2 Promote training: Identify and promote training to increase the independent sector's understanding of new technologies and public access.

Objective 4: Initiate media and independent sector planning to make better use of the community's communication infrastructure (i.e., "electronic democracy," and the interactive potential of such "new" media as computer networks, cable and telephone interconnects, faxes, etc.).


Electronic Democracy: the interactive potential of the "new" media includeing computer networks, cable and telephone interconnects, faxes, etc.

Independent Sector: charitable not-for-profit organizations and their philanthropic donor base.

Public journalism: journalism which contributes routinelyu to the strengthening of civic culture, through such techniques as convening, hosting, or facilitating a community's coming to grips with critical issues. (Davis Merritt, editor of the Wichita Eagle and Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University, are leaders of this "movement")

Citizens Effectiveness in the Age of Electronic Democracy

Fact Sheet

  • What: A three-year research and community education project on how our region can use the new information technology, along with improved relations between media and nonprofits, to help citizens be more effective and powerful.
  • When: January 1, 1995 through December 31, 1997
  • Where: The Puget Sound region, Washington
  • Why: A big-thinking, independent effort is needed to spur a local information highway that serves citizens as well as corporations and government (and allows them to "reinvent community"). Non profits and media organizations can do a better job of this "reinvention" by improving the ways in which they interact with each other on behalf of the public good. "New media" including interactive television, computer-assisted communication, and "electronic democracy" are being pioneeredd and tested here. Seattle has a history of creativity and civic involvement that makes a new level of dialogue possible.
  • Who: Good News / Good Deeds is a project of the Institute for Creative Development, a Seattle-based think tank which has facilitated think tanks on the future of such asreas as philanthropy, chemistry, nuclear energy, and public television. Principals are Jan Gray (broadcast background), Stephen Silha (print/nonprofit background), and Marion Woyvodich (print/marketing background). A number of organizations and individuals are collaborating.
  • So What? Expected products include focus group research to improve media coverage of the nonprofit sector, a report on national models for media-nonprofit collaboration, training sessions and materials for journalists, philanthroupists, and nonprofit leaders, a series of public discussions, and an electronic database of nonprofit "sources" for use by news organizations and the public. Out of the process will come a broader understanding of how the new media can work for citizens, and a commmunity communications syustem that enhances citizens' efforts to foster healthy communities.


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