Rji-pivot-project-local-america

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3. Local America

  • A platform for a community to define civic needs, then measure and guide progress toward meeting them. Every community in America needs to know how it ranks with its residents and businesses. Reliable answers are critically important because they may not jibe with what the opinions of community officials. But there are no systems that deliver reliable answers. Local America will be a platform for communities to rank themselves across a broad Livability Index covering 20+ categories. Champion: Tom Grubisich.

BACKGROUND ON GRUBISICH
NEW: How data-driven local journalism can increase engagement


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VIEW A DEMO OF LOCAL AMERICA


Faced with what looks like a "lost decade" economically,communities are struggling to find smarter ways to invest shrinking resources to preserve their A and B ratings and fix their D's and F's. To do that, they must start with a reliable baseline to measure what to do and then how to do it. That's what Local America provides.


Communities everywhere are struggling to shore up their livability in a financial/economic crisis that looks to last through this decade. How should public spending be allocated when revenues are not likely to increase even moderately between now and 2013? To maintain livability, which programs should get scarce resources and which should be ceilinged out? How should the most expensive but faltering programs, like K-12 education, be restructured to make them both strong but cost-conscious?

Every community in America needs to know how it ranks with its residents and businesses -- a baseline of how it's performing -- what's working, what isn't, based on civic consensus. Reliable answers are critically important because they may not jibe with what the opinions of community officials. But there are no systems that deliver reliable answers. Local America will be a platform for communities to rank themselves across a broad Livability Index covering 20+ categories. The rankings won't come from outside groups. The communities will own them. What are the community's strengths that are worth protecting? What needs to be fixed? With their livability rankings from data and feedback from local experts and "the wisdom of the crowd," communities will have credible answers that are continually updated. The initial ratings will come from a wide selection of data collected, filtered, structured and weighted by Local America and interpreted by "sense-makers" from the community. Those first-cut ratings will be pushed up or down by weighted community feedback. Community empowerment doesn't stop there. Each resident will be able to generate rankings based on his/her personal preferences. For example, the 28-year-old software developer is likely be especially interested in whether his/her community has a dog park and in trails, tennis courts and nighttime entertainment and leisure venues. The 38-year-old mother is likely to be most interested in the quality of the schools, playgrounds and activities for young children.


This slide deck tells the Local American story -- http://newshare.com/pivot/localamerica.pdf


Local America has patented its Livability Index, including the algorithm and the contextualization process that will produce the ratings. The Alteryx business intelligence company of Irvine, Calif., is providing us with free software to develop the Index. Matt Leighninger, executive director of the Deliberative Democracy Consortium in Washington, D.C. -- a leading expert on public engagement -- says Local America "could be a lifeline for the news media as an industry (see slide #8 in deck). We have a strong chief adviser, Mike Orren, who founded Pegasus News, a network of 35 community sites in Dallas-Fort Worth. We believe the rankings, because they're owned by the community, will be a strong attraction to residents who want credible information about how well -- or not -- their community is performing.


Costs will be low because content will be generated from data and community feedback.


Local America will have three revenue streams. We will sell licenses to existing local websites, most of which are looking for strong, unique content. As "The New News" columnist for the hyperlocal industry website Street Fight -- http://streetfightmag.com/category/commentary/the-new-news/ -- I will introduce the system to potential licensees, including Datasphere of Seattle, Wash., which powers 1,900 community websites operated by TV stations in major markets. These sites are hungry for good content that will engage their audiences. We also plan to market Local America to community foundations and other nonprofits throughout the U.S. that might want to feature livability rankings in topic areas built around the areas of interest, like the environment. Local America's Livability Index -- on which rankings are based -- can be expanded or contracted to suit the licensee's needs. Local Amerifa will also receive a percentage of the revenues from advertising that licensees sell against the inventory of our pages


Our next step is developing a demo covering 10 communities in metro Washington, D.C., including the District of Columbia. Attached is a sample article based on the District of Columbia's Housing rank. The headline -- "Poorest Wards Lead District's Housing Values" -- gives you an idea of the compelling content we will produce. To develop the demo, we need to raise $60,000. Having our project featured or endorsed by Reynold Journalism Institute will help us raise that money and put in action a project that will strengthen communities everywhere and build a new bond of trust between them and the news media.


Local America has adopted some of the best and most community-faced features of that technology with its patented Livability Index. With our partner, the business intelligence company Alteryx, we will collect, sort, filter, structure and interpret huge amounts of data about your communities in 20+ categories of livability (every thing from jobs & economy to health & wellness to education to vision and even fun). That data, weighted for its relative importance, will be run through our algorithm to produce a first cut of ratings showing how your communities perform.


Then the communities will respond with their own grades, which will also be weighted and run through the algorithm. Advisory groups will be empowered to tailor the Livability Index to the special character of each community and ensure that there's strong user feedback to the data-driven ratings. The community will own "own" its ratings.


The ratings are not cast in stone. They will be dynamic, going up or down with new data and community feedback. The citizenry will avidly watch for the ratings like they check the weather or sports results. But they will do more than watch. With their feedback, they will make sure the ratings reflect the actual status of their community -- both its strengths and weaknesses.


The Local America Livability Index is much more than a media stunt to attract audience. It will provide each community with a balanced baseline of performance which it can use to plan how to invest scarcer financial resources.

Video from MIT center demonstrates data-measurement transformation

This video with Erik Brynjolfsson, director of the MIT Center for Digital Business, beautifully summarizes the transformation that data measurement is bringing to decision making -- It happened first in business, and now it's coming to government, from city hall to Pennsylvania Avenue.


That's why Local America, with its data collecting, structuring and interpreting capacity, can help take community news to "the new world we want to create." The Local America baseline is built on both data and community feedback. This is the "deliberative democracy" that Matt Leighninger talks about. It is the the kind of inclusive, reciprocal engagement that Peggy Holman, JTM, TFN, the Knight Commission and Michael Fancher -- and now Pivot Point -- say the news industry must embrace if it is to to transform itself. Local America provides one "do-able" platform where this transformation can begin.


LocalAmerica enters partnership with InstantAtlas and Rizzoma

There was strong agreement at Pivot Point that "do-able" projects to reimagine journalism, especially at the local and community levels, should have a networking mission and capacity to make wide connections. To achieve those goals, Local America is developing a clear and do-able strategy through which we intend to build relationships with community foundations and other local betterment groups around the United States.


Local America and InstantAtlas -- http://www.instantatlas.com/ -- are partnering to produce community ratings. InstantAtlas will produce maps, charts and tables based on the ratings. In step one of the partnership, InstantAtlas will help Local America produce a demo of the ratings to show to nonprofit and for-profit entities involved with or interested in the new trend of performance-based community indicators. Local America's ratings fit perfectly into this trend because they are produced through a combination of data and community feedback to the data. The end result is ratings the community owns.

InstantAtlas helps community groups do a better job of identifying problems and finding the resources -- current and potential -- to help people, particularly the disadvantaged, improve their lives, particularly through their empowerment -- sometimes individually, such as patients in health care, sometimes collectively, such as a group seeking to fix a neighborhood problem.


Networking, as you well know, doesn't just happen because you want it to -- you have to find and provide the social tools that promotes action-oriented connections. Toward that end, we are exploring a partnership with Rizzoma -- http://rizzoma.com/ -- which lets people collaborate in real time. I'm interested in how this tool can build networks of local experts and the "wisdom of the crowd" to balance the community performance ratings Local America will produce from the data its collects and interprets. Robust collaboration will help Local America produce ratings that balance data and what the community thinks and knows. This collaboration will also help the community to do what Matt Leighninger and the Deliberative Democratic Consortium advocate -- convening all community players, public and private, to identify challenges and problems, and then set about fixing them.

Journalism That Matter's Peggy Holman discusses community

Peggy Holman, in a Q & A with Tom Grubisich in his "The New News" column in Street Fight, talks about how journalists can do what the news industry hasn't done well -- even after two decades-plus of "civic journalism" -- connect with their community. http://streetfightmag.com/2012/07/12/we-are-likely-to-see-serious-disruption-in-news-industry/


Non-news plays are getting all the advertising revenue

Example of LocalAmerica data analysis on DC schools (posted Aug. 28, 2012)

Data can obfuscate as often as it informs. Local America pulled apart the District of Columbia's "Comprehensive Assessment Scores" to find that while the scores may represent a "five-year high," ( http:osse.dc.gov ) according to the District government, they didn't bring gains to a majority of schools in the poorest parts of Washington. This is thel kind of analytical lens through which Local America will look at the flood of local data to discover what's actually happening in communities. DOWNLOAD / READ PDF BACKGROUNDER (two pages)

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