Tag Archives: cohesion

Community radio – we are in dire need of it

logoAs I said in a blog last year, I don’t come from just a town in Kentucky; I come from a community. It’s not always cohesive, there are conflicts (thankfully, mostly unarmed), not everyone likes each other, but it’s a community: people there have common experiences and common values, across economic and education levels, even if they don’t have the same religion or political beliefs. In addition to the local newspaper, one of the things that has helped to build this sense of community in my hometown is the local radio station, WSON. For many residents, listening in the morning to WSON is a non-negotiable morning ritual. Listeners hear about school sporting events, obituaries and funeral notices, farm reports, information on community arts events, information on events at the local community college, and interviews with candidates for local office. In the evenings, high school basketball games – boys and girls – or baseball or football games are broadcast live. You can see their program lineup here.

As a result, even if you don’t have children, you care about the schools in the area. You know when friends and co-workers have had a death in the family. You have opinions about local elections or local bond issues coming up and you’re more likely to vote. I haven’t lived in Henderson since I was 18, yet, anytime I go back, I listen to WSON in the mornings, because I know my family will be talking about what they heard later in the day. It’s hilarious to see my sister’s Facebook posts when she’s listening to a high school sports event on WSON, posting her pleas to the Interwebs for the team to do better, or her congrats for the team doing well.

Now, I live thousands of miles away, in a city in Oregon that’s just about the same size as where I’m from, but there’s no community radio station, commercial or nonprofit. The local paper is published only twice a week and isn’t read by most residents – I have a lot of thoughts as to why, mostly having to do with the quality of reporting, but I’ll save that for another blog. Most people I talk to here don’t know when there is a local election coming up, let alone who is running or what ordinances they are being asked to consider. Twice I found out a neighbor had died weeks after his or her passing, and I was mortified that I hadn’t offered condolences to the surving spouse at the time. I don’t know when events at the local university are happening, and frequently hear about things I would have loved to have attended.

Facebook helps a little to know what’s going on, but it’s not enough. Even if an organization types its events into the Facebook event feature, and frequently shares that event on their status update, people on Facebook may never see it in their newsfeed, because of the network’s algorithms, which push sponsored content and often hide the content from a user’s friends and from pages that user has liked. Twitter helps only if I happen to be on Twitter at the exact moment a local event is posted – otherwise, I miss the tweet, and the event. I try to remember to visit to various web sites and Facebook communities to see what’s going on, but I often forget. TV? The TV stations here are all based in, or focused on, Portland – they rarely even talk about the state legislature (which is in Salem), let alone something nearby. Public radio? Again, the nearest public radio station is focused on Portland, not any of the cities or towns around it (I love OPB, I really do – but it’s no substitute for a local station).

World Radio Day is February 13. It’s promoted by UNESCO, and it’s an example of how the United Nations and other international development agencies still have a lot of programs that leverage radio to help promote agricultural knowledge, educate communities about HIV/AIDS, keep a community up-to-date about a water and sanitation project that will affect the area, help promote gender equality and opportunities for women, promote inter-cultural understanding and tolerance among different groups in the same area, and on and on. Radio remains a powerful force for human rights and development. Here are examples:

I can listen to the radio for free, and while mowing the lawn, driving in my car, cleaning my house, etc. – I can’t do that with a newspaper or TV. What about a podcast? Well, that could work if you have a fantastic broadband connection – here in my town, most people don’t – or you remember to download the podcast every day, which I’m sure I wouldn’t. As Radio Boise says:

A radio can be found very inexpensively at almost any thrift store, plugged into an electrical outlet, and the sounds of nearby broadcasts come spilling out, instantly available. The internet, a wonderful place, is rarely provided for free and, because our country is so large, it will take a long time to develop a pervasive public wireless network. And mobile is also a reality – but also has a monthly fee for access. Radio can be heard by anyone, even by a kid with a crystal-based home-made radio or like me, with an old stereo receiver that my parents gave me that has a simple bundle of wire shoved into the antenna port, or streaming online in a browser or your mobile phone . . . the root of the broadcast, radio, is a signal sent into the air and received for free…

The internet provides vast means in which you can entertain your ears, most of which at their root are computer programs. When human beings program a show to share on the airwaves, the idea is that a warmth and personality is communicated with awareness of our communities’ nuances that the automated mechanisms cannot provide. That is one definition of community.

Imagine attendance surging at community theater productions and local sports events, imagine donations increasing to local nonprofits. Imagine the local police being able to be interviewed on a local public affairs show and putting to rest rumors that are creating conflict and fear within the community. Imagine local service clubs not having to disband from lack of members, but rather, seeing a surge in membership. Imagine people running for office getting to each make a pitch to listeners. Imagine not finding out your neighbor died two weeks ago because you cheerily asked his wife, “So, how’s your husband!” – imagine, instead, being able to attend the funeral or send flowers.

In my community, in addition to all that desperately-needed local information a local radio station could provide in English, it could provide an hour-long program in Spanish, helping our growing Spanish-speaking population to know about public events and free events at the local library that could help them integrate into our community even more.

This town where I live, right here in the USA, needs a local radio station. And I bet this is true for towns all across this country.  When local information disappears, local connections disappear as well. And I think it’s disappearing here – and in communities across this country.

So, now all we need is the space, the equipment, the know-how and the appropriate federal filings. Piece of cake. The Prometheus Radio Project says “Many stations get on the air for under $15,000 and can stay on the air for less than $1,000 per month.” Maybe if I win the lottery…

Also see:

Goodbye newspaper, goodbye community?

My Blogs re: social cohesion, building understanding

To Do List the Day After the USA election

The USA Presidental election is over in the USA at last. While not everyone is happy with the results, everyone is happy that it is over. It feels like it’s been going on for two years or more!!

This Presidential election has been contentious, controversial and very, very heated. I wrote in another blog about mistrust being rampant in so many communities in the USA and elsewhere, but the reality is that, fueled by this election, mistrust has seeped into organizations and families all over the USA: friendships have dissolved, many people aren’t speaking to various family members, and employees and volunteers may also not be speaking to each other because of what’s been said and done in this election, perceptions of the candidates and perceptions of the candidates’ supporters.

Strong feelings about the election and the issues it raised can poison workplace congeniality, kill employee and staff motivation and drive the exit of employees and volunteers you really didn’t want to lose. Maybe some of this has already happened at your nonprofit or government agency. You may need to do a number of things over many months to ease tensions, heal hurt feelings, reinforce your policies regarding workplace behavior and culture, and make sure everyone understands that the mission of your organization is always the priority while acting in an official capacity as an employee or volunteer.

You could:

  • Encourage departments to organize lunch together one day every other week, or do this for your entire organization if staff numbers are small, for a few months. You could introduce non-work topics for each lunchtime: recommendations for binge-watching, best classic black and white movies, predictions about March Madness, etc. Or have lunchtime trivia contests. The goal is to create fun, friendly, non-political conversations and help employees and volunteers again see each other as real people with real feelings. You don’t have to say why you are doing this – just do it.
  • Have a simple, fun contest for staff. For instance, ask them to bring in photos of themselves as babies or very young children, or in a Halloween costume, put the photos on the bulletin board in a common area and ask people to say who they think each person is. Or staff can bring in photos of pets they have, or have had, and staff can guess what animal belongs to what staff member. Or have a weekly staff award, like most tenacious, or most congenial, or person with a work situation that would make the best reality show. The winner could get a gift card. Again, this creates fun, friendly, non-political conversations and help employees and volunteers again see each other as real people.
  • Consider posting appropriate quotes in the break room that encourage humanity and kindness. For instance, from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address: Let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations. Or this quote from Carlos P. Romulo: Brotherhood is the very price and condition of man’s survival.
  • Organize several activities over the course of coming weeks that will remind staff and volunteers of the mission of your organization, such as a Q & A with frontline or program staff, a video of clients talking about the difference the organization makes, etc. This is good advice anytime, not just after a contentious election.
  • Remind staff in various ways that, at your organization, people matter, and in the workplace, we need to take care of each other, we need to have each other’s back. Cite individuals in front of all staff that have demonstrated this, or any teamwork, in some way. Have a brainstorming session on what kinds of words your staff would like, ideally, to be able to say about their workplace culture.
  • Note in an all-staff meeting that your organization’s staff has the right and responsibility to ensure that the work environment is free of hostility aimed at employees, consultants, volunteers or clients because of protected classification, such as race or gender, and that there are federal and state laws that prohibit hostile work environments on the basis of sex, race and religion. It’s better to do this in-person, in a conversational tone than a memo, as it feels less like a cold command, but certainly, you can also send out a written memo as a reminder of what you discussed in a recent meeting on this topic.
  • Remind staff – employees and volunteers – that, in the workplace, political discussions should never interfere with work, should be avoided with clients, and among staff, should never be allowed to devolve into debates over race, national origin, gender roles or religion, as such talk could be construed as creating a hostile work environment, even by someone not participating in such debates but just hearing such. Remind staff that such discussions should not happen in the workplace and, instead, should happen outside of the organization. This may require a written memo to drive home the point if things are getting out of hand.
  • Immediately take aside any employee, consultant or volunteer who seems to be crossing the line regarding political comments and remind them in specific terms what they have said that is inappropriate and in violation of your policies. Take appropriate action for repeat offensives, including dismissal.
  • If your organization, as a part of its mission, is focused on issues that came up frequently in the election, such as marriage, immigration, refugees, veterans, safety, government transparency, women’s health, insurance coverage, etc., make sure all staff, including non-program staff, know where the organization stands on these issues and knows how to properly refer any questions or criticisms of such.
  • Be absolutely strict on senior staff demonstrating the behavior they want out of subordinates and volunteers in all of the above. If they aren’t walking the talk, all of the aforementioned is for naught.
  • Be prepared to say goodbye to employees, consultants or volunteers who cannot let go of hostility about the election and are letting such affect their work and the work place.
  • Welcome questions or discussions from staff about any of the above.

If you try anything at your organization, or are struggling with staff cohesion, share your experience in the comments below.

Also see

For Nonprofit Organizations: How to Handle Online Criticism

Survival Strategies for Nonprofits , a guide for nonprofits facing critical budget shortfalls.

volunteer engagement to promote social cohesion, prevent extremism?

social cohesionThere will be a conference in Brussels, Belgium on 13 October 2016 regarding the possible role of volunteer engagement in promoting inclusion and preventing extremism.

Examples from across Europe and beyond, such as from South Africa, Colombia and Algeria, will be reviewed to explore ways that volunteerism has contributed to building trust and social cohesion. The conference will also discuss elements and factors that are essential for success in such endeavors. The examples will be included in a publication that “will offer analysis of the challenges faced in Europe concerning social inclusion and the risks of extremism from different belief groups and explain how the volunteer projects contribute to addressing these issues.”

The conference is being promoted by the European Volunteer Centre (CEV), supported by the European Commission. The event will be organised in the framework of the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union and with the support of London House and Team London (European Volunteering Capital 2016).

There are lots of ways for an organization that involves volunteers to be thinking about inclusiveness in its volunteer engagement, even if social cohesion or community building isn’t explicitly stated in its mission. For instance:

Also see these related resources:

Goodbye newspaper, goodbye community?

I don’t just come from a city in Kentucky; I come from a community. And I believe that one of the things that has made Henderson a community has been our local newspaper, The Gleaner.

I started reading The Gleaner as soon as I started to read. Everyone in my family read The Gleaner. Every neighbor read The Gleaner. Every adult I knew referenced the newspaper regularly. We all knew what city and county ordinances were up for debate, who had died, who was running for what office, what was happening in the state legislature, who was getting married, who had gotten divorced, local team sports scores, what Spring musical the high school was doing, and all the other things a community should know. The news from our paper crossed lines of culture, ethnicity, religion, political belief and neighborhood. The news was about us, for us. In so many ways, The Gleaner was the best representative of our community, as a whole.

I worked at The Gleaner when I was in high school. I worked there again as a summer intern in 1986. More than 25 years later, when I’m back in Henderson, people recall some of the stories I wrote, some I don’t remember myself. When I left Kentucky, my parents bought me a subscription to my hometown paper, and I would get the newspapers in bundles in the mail. I was long gone from Henderson, but I knew what was going on there. I used what I learned from my time working at this paper in my press relations career, which I chose over a journalism career. More than once, I had a reporter tell me, “I can so tell you worked at newspapers. You always have the info I need!”

In the 1990s, what I dreaded for so long happened: the local owner of The Gleaner sold the newspaper. It came under the management of a newspaper in another state. I got a taste of the identity and news Henderson was losing when I went to The Gleaner‘s web site but couldn’t access the front page story about the death of Dr. Donald Cantley, a beloved member of the Henderson community, a former president of the Kentucky Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics who devoted his life to improving the physical and mental health of children. He established seven school-based clinics to provide care for children with inadequate health coverage of other barriers to care, and was a pioneer in his approach to caring for children with behavioral disorders. It was huge news in Henderson when he died, but the web site had been revamped in such a way that anyone with a Mac OS just a year out of date couldn’t access it. Furious, I called The Gleaner, and a staff member and friend told me, sorry, but the web site is managed by the Evansville, Indiana Courier Press. So I called that other office, asked that the front-page story be emailed to me, told them why, and they sent me… the obituary from page 2. Because they didn’t know who Dr. Cantley was. They didn’t know he was on the front page of the newspaper in Henderson, Kentucky.

When I was last in Kentucky, I was stunned at the skimpiness of my hometown paper. The cuts in reporting staff have been devasting on local coverage. And the Internet has not replaced this information; I just tried to find some of the information I used to find in my hometown paper, by spending time on various organization’s social media and web sites – funeral home web sites, school social media accounts, government social media sites, etc. I think I know less than a quarter of what I would have known in the same amount of time with a version of the newspaper produced in the way it was in the 1980s.

I remember when I was studying for my journalism degree at Western Kentucky University. One of my professors said that, if you are ever out of story ideas in your local community, just look at the newspaper’s classified ads – there will be something there that will lead you to a story. Classified ads in newspapers now barely exist, replaced by Craigslist. Honestly, I feel like most Craigslist ads are either scams or from creepy people I really don’t ever want to meet face-to-face.

I long ago accepted that my hometown newspaper is going away, slowly but surely. I know this is happening all over the USA. 105 newspapers closed in 2009 alone. In 2007, there were 55,000 full-time journalists working at nearly 1,400 daily papers; in 2015, there were 32,900, according to a census by the American Society of News Editors and the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University, and that number doesn’t include the big buyouts and layoffs last fall, like those at the Los Angeles TimesThe Philadelphia Inquirer and the New York Daily News, among others, and weeklies and magazines like National Geographic.

But what is the cost of this loss? “You know who loves this new day of the lack of journalism? Politicians. Businessmen. Nobody’s watching them anymore,” said Russ Kendall, quoted in this blog on the Bill Moyers site. Kendall was a long-time photojournalist and editor who is now self-employed as a pizza maker. Indeed, I’ve wondered often if state legislatures have been so prolific in some of their legislation that rolls back civil rights legislation, women’s access to health care, environmental laws and more because they know they aren’t being scrutinized by the public the way they were 30 years ago, because of the demise of newspapers.

But the loss is also the loss of community. What city and county ordinances are up for debate? What is happening in the state legislature? What Spring musical is the high school doing? I ask – and people aren’t sure, they can’t remember… not in Henderson, not in the small town where I live now, in Oregon. Local information is slowly disappearing – along with local connections. And social media ain’t so social.

Join me on Twitter Oct. 23 for a tweetchat!

On Tuesday, Oct. 23, from 1-2 p.m. New York City time (10 a.m. Oregon time), I’ll be leading the tweetchat on Twitter.

The tweetchat is focused on building and sustaining online communities for nonprofits, charities, schools, government programs and other mission-based initiatives, though some corporate folks frequently show up and share.

The focus of the chat tomorrow will be on cultivating leaders in online communities. A lively, information-rich online community rarely happens because of just one person answering questions, inviting and welcoming new members, facilitating discussions, regularly introducing new topics, etc. Rather, they happen because of a number of people taking on these roles, officially and unofficially. But how do you cultivate and keep such online leaders?

Participating in the tweetchat is simple: you log into Twitter, and then you click on the link or do a search on the term #commbuild on Twitter. All messages with the #commbuild tag will appear. Keep reloading the tweets and you will see all new messages. To respond, just choose a message and click on “Reply”. Be sure to put the tag #commbuild in your message, however, so everyone else can see it too!

The questions I’m going to be asking on this Tweetchat (subject to change!):

Q1 What is an online community leader, from your POV? Define who that would be. 
Q2 How do you recognize some1 emerging as an online community leader?
Q3 When do you move some1 from unofficial leadership to official (written task description, dates of commitment, etc.)
Q4 Have you ever made some1 an official community leader (facilitator, chat host, etc.) & regretted it? What happened/why?
Q5 Have some1 ever asked to be made an official community leader & you have had to say no? What happened/why?
Q6 Should community leaders have term expiration dates, or do you just keep them as long as they are around?
Q7 How do you recognize/reward community leaders for their contributions?

In addition to this being a terrific learning experience regarding how to cultivate community leaders in online communities, it’s also a great learning experience if you are new to Twitter or to tweetchats.

More about the #commbuild tweetchat events.