Room for all? How social entrepreneurs in media are forging a new infrastructure for participation.
Our world has changed profoundly over the years. Historic changes in technology and globalization have transformed traditional power structures in the world, opening the way for millions to participate in society in a way that they could not before. And change is accelerating. A world of rapid change is a complex landscape to navigate. In the past, we had hierarchies in our societies and institutions that—for better or worse—kept the world organized. Today we live in a more decentralized world. Knowledge is no longer enough. We all must be creative, flexible, and empathic problem-solvers, able to collaborate, create, and act constructively in ambiguous and changing environments. Media has broken through traditional boundaries to occupy nearly every facet of our lives, our communities, and our sense of the world. Social and mobile media are disrupting mass broadcast, forging new networks and narratives, attracting new voices and audiences, which is having a profound impact on society.
The old rules determining who produced and consumed media, and how, have broken down. New rules are just now emerging – shaped, in many cases, by the innovations of social entrepreneurs. Their initiatives are causing us to re-imagine the roles of audience, journalist, and media enterprise in this new reality. They are improving access to information where it has long been unattainable. And they are laying the groundwork for media that drives broader and more effective civic participation.
We’ll look forward toward this emerging infrastructure by examining the strategies of key social entrepreneurs:
- Reaching out to new audiences – like Ken Banks who has developed new channels that connect otherwise excluded citizens in South Africa, Afghanistan and the Philippines to information ecosystems.
- Financing independent media – like Sasa Vucinic, former CEO and Managing Director of the Media Development Loan Fund, whose new initiative converts audience into investors, providing new capital to independent news organizations.
- Engaging marginalized actors in the production of news - like Cristi Hegranes whose network enables coverage of developing-country issues typically overlooked by mainstream media
- Strengthening information communities – like Sascha Meinrath whose technologies ensure that all people get secure and affordable access to Internet service.
With the help and experience from these leading Social Entrepreneurs, we will understand some of the challenges and barriers that prevent wider participation and what are some of the solutions that they are currently implementing. After a brief introduction of each case we will open up for discussion questions such as: How can citizen-journalism help increase corporate and government transparency and accountability? How should journalism be financed? Where is the line between activation and advocacy in media? What are tools for making information available and understandable for larger audiences? Which of those tools do really work? What media skills must citizens develop to improve participation? How do we define ‘quality’ in journalism?
More than 120 Ashoka Fellows work on media-related projects; their innovations are highlighted in the Ashoka News & Knowledge Initiative. These social entrepreneurs have pioneered mechanisms that allow citizens to engage freely and powerfully with media to advance their own lives and society, advancing knowledge citizenship for hundreds of millions of people at all levels of society. They work to improve information access for all; ensure the quality of the information we get and use; build capacity for individuals and communities to apply knowledge to changemaking; and ensure the sustainability of media amid constant technological, economic, and political change. Each News & Knowledge Fellow has passed Ashoka's selection criteria: s/he has a pattern changing idea, and the entrepreneurial talent, creativity and ethical fiber to succeed.
The Globalizer Summit on Media Innovation will take place in June 2014 in Bonn/Germany in conjunction with the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, leveraging the global community of experts and policy makers in attendance. Additionally, the group also collaboratively identified new approaches to scaling the social impact of media and ways of financing these in plenary discussions and thematic workshop sessions at the Global Media Forum. Through exchanging and documenting insights that are ripe for the whole media development sector this created new knowledge and tools for the field.