When the goal is not to scale: How can civic and community media be more resilient?

Alongside Dr Rob Watson and Dr Jennifer Jones we have been working with Internews Europe to develop a Strategy for Resilient Local, Civic and Community Media. The overarching question is how can we can best support and build a resilient set of networks that can sustain, advocate and demonstrate the social and economic value of community media. The report, which will be out soon, will provide a snapshot of the policy discussions that shape the community and civic media landscape, and will look at how community broadcasting, civic journalism, hyperlocal media, and participant-driven media, at a local and neighbourhood level, can find a proper place within the policy making process. As a recognised and valued contributor to social value, community development and economic resilience.

This report makes the case that community and civic media is social value media. It asks how we can renew our idea of the role of media in society? The solution offered is to link media practice with the concept of social value, making media an integral part of the social economy, thereby recognising that community and civic media can be an effective tool for social reform.

It is increasingly difficult to see media, communication and journalism in simply binary terms.

There are many questions being raised about what the role and purpose of our media, communication and journalism are, and how they can be undertaken in ways that are socially accountable, democratic and responsive to the needs of the people they serve? While these debates are taking place in media and journalism networks, similar discussions are taking place across the social sector, between public sector organisations, not-for-profit enterprises, and civic and community groups. If we join these discussions together, and form a bridge between them, as advocated in this report, we can renew our understanding of the role of community and civic media as a vehicle for of social change.

The core concept in this report is Social Value. This is an elusive and fluid concept that can be used to suit different needs and desired goals and patterns of behaviour. The approach taken to social value here, however, recognises that value is not fixed, but is something that is generated in the interaction between different social groups, organisations and agents operating in our communities.

Value is not just a transaction, it is a way of explaining what we believe to be important about our lives, what we cherish, where we belong, what we want to protect, and what we want to share and pass on to others.

This means going beyond a view of economic value that simply accounts for what we can exchange between one another, and the bottom-line cost. It asks, instead, what it is that people regard as meaningful in their lives, and how this can be articulated and represented in a diverse, inclusive, creative, democratic, socially just and joyous interplay of different types of media. It is through the lens of community and civic media — as social value media — that we able to tell our own stories in our own words, about those things that matter to us, and which will improve our lives and our wellbeing.

This report outlines the challenges of the social economy, and it asks how we can put together an inclusive and sustainable route map to move forward. This is not a debate for industry and professional insiders alone. This is a debate that affects everyone, which means that as many people as possible should be involved in discussing how the changes to the way we communicate and connect with one another are being implemented. If we are to chart a sustainable route forward it will be necessary to understand what the principles are that might guide the main actors and organisations who are going to argue for, and then implement these changes. The challenge is to figure out how we can bring these actors together from the social sector, such as charities, public service bodies, and not-for-profit groups, along with activists and advocates from the community and civic media movements. How can we ensure that they speak with a strong and unified voice, and will be able to articulate a shared ethos of social value ideas and principles that can be applied to communications and media?

Many are rightly questioning what is wrong with our present media culture, and they are asking how we might more readily make media that is responsive to our future needs and concerns? Activists and advocates in the community and civic media movement have always argued that if we want better media, then we must be able to make it ourselves. This report hopes to be a positive contribution to this discussion, by asking how we can better explain these ideas to others, and how we can identify what will be different in the new circumstances, and what we can do to make them flourish.

The report draws on case studies and desk-based research including sections on civic deliberation, social value, social economy principles and resilient community media business models.

Niche revenue models for independent media. Business. Resilience. Diversification. Innovation. @cecook www.mediainnovationstudio.org www.clarecookonline.com

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