Thinking about your feedback loop; what information are you trying to get from whom, to whom, and to bring about what change?
Our goal is to connect people in historically disadvantaged communities into the information revolution. We use our physical newspaper to create a sense of community throughout McElderry Park by getting neighbors talking with each other. The paper is also a tool to show positive, resident-led programming within our community to the outside world, which knows our neighborhood most commonly as "the place The Wire was filmed". We provide a feedback loop within the community for residents and local service organizations to communicate with each other. We've recently begun to reach out to former residents of our community who are currently incarcerated, providing a way for them to access information about their home communities, as well as connect with and share experiences from inside the prisons.
Part of BOOM! is to also network with employers and non-profits from the Baltimore region to do information-economy employment training. We teach graphic design, digital fabrication, web design, and application programming through periodic workshops. Our ultimate goal is to bring together neighborhood initiatives to create a more connected, resilient and economically stable community.
What mediums or mechanisms do you use to collect feedback? (check all that apply)
Paper, Phone or voice, Website, Physical gathering.
Could you briefly describe the way you collect the feedback?
The newspaper we use is physically distributed to community residents every 8 weeks. We deliver the paper in person to nearly 2000 homes in our community. We encourage our delivery team (usually 20-25 people) to strike up conversations with their neighbors as they distribute. We accept in-person contributions to the newsletter, as well as online. Our BOOM! Academy workshops are held in person, and the curriculum develops as interests and needs of our participants change. Because much of the neighborhood is poorly connected with the Internet, most of our communications are in-person meetings and phone calls through a well developed network of organizers, block leaders and neighborhood navigators.
If other, please specify
Feeling of being listened to
If other, please specify
Meetings and Published newspapers
Give two concrete examples of how feedback loops have brought a program or policy more in line with citizens’ desires.
The community recently received a grant through the US Department of Justice for crime reduction programming. Before our newspaper began publishing this past November, planning meetings for gathering community feedbacks had 4 or 5 neighborhood residents in attendance. Since we've begun our circulation, meetings are regularly 20 to 30 people, ensuring many more community voices are heard.
Our BOOM! Academy workshops are beginning to provide economic incentives to our community. For example, many of the stores in our residential district, East Monument Street (which is part of the Main Streets USA program), are not owned by local residents, and provide little service to us. However, now we have local residents beginning to sell "designer" goods from our digital fabrication training--providing both desirable information economy skills and economic benefits to residents in our community.
If there was one thing you could change to increase the impact of your feedback loop, what would it be?
We need scale and to be noticed. Currently, our initiative is but one of many things vying for attention in Baltimore. One of our most well-respected newspapers, the City Paper, was recently bought-out, and print media is thought of as a dying medium. We are slowly growing and gaining support from local politicians and social enterprises, but it is still not fully sustainable. We need to find out our niche and build out a sustainable business model that can fund staff and our programming full-time.
It looks like an interesting way of getting different models of operating. We are mostly ad-hoc'ing our organizational structure, and it would be valuable to see how others work.
What is the one thing you would most like to see changed to improve the competition process?
Navigation around the Changemakers site is a little challenging. I really liked the peer review/feedback part of the competition, however.
What are you doing to make sure that feedback providers know that they are empowered by the information they can give and that they know exactly what the information they are providing?
We have targeted programming to reach out to various demographics in the community that otherwise wouldn't communicate with each other (particularly tensions among White, Latino, and Black populations). We publish as much as possible in Spanish and English, and distribute and publicize our paper widely. We have an open editorial board, and anyone is able to join in. We find that keeping our platforms open sourced and allowing anyone who is interested to come to any meeting helps us keep relevant and answer the need of our community.