Update 03/01/2018 at 2:30 pm
$2,000 challenge grant to reach $5,000
We recently announced a new goal of $7,000. Now we have an anonymous donor who wants to help get us there.
If we can reach $5,000 in total pledges from folks like you, this donor will make a pledge of $2,000. That means we need to raise just under $3,000 in the next 15 days.
Reaching this goal will keep our collective momentum going and let us begin building local capacity for the first cohort of info districts. Please consider pledging today.
Don't know what info districts are? Read our original proposal below.
Update 02/27/2018 at 11:40 am
A New Goal: $7,000
Thanks to 42 local journalism supporters, we've reached our goal! Community information districts are now on the horizon.
But let's keep moving closer. Raising an additional $5,000 means we'll be able to start identifying prime candidates for info districts without delay.
The first cohort will be in New Jersey and the additional money we raise will support the work of our local research partners there, including the Center for Cooperative Media, Sustainable Jersey, and Free Press News Voices.
This new goal will cover the costs of conducting focus groups with local government leaders, documenting the local news ecosystem, and finding collaborative local journalists and organizers willing to support their community's info district campaign.
From there, we'll be just one step away from piloting this solution to the local news crisis.
Together we can change the state of local news and improve our democracy. Let's do it.
And if you're just coming across this Kickstarter and need more details about our work, please read on.
Lack of local news and information is detrimental to democratic societies.
Communities use information to hold public officials accountable, coordinate social and economic activity, solve problems, and foster a sense of connectedness.
Information promotes civic literacy and engagement. It fosters innovation and solidarity. It is the lifeblood of community.
But people needlessly suffer without it. And most are well aware of the opportunities they’re missing.
Existing local news ecosystems are not meeting their needs. Public trust in institutions and civic engagement are at all time lows. The corresponding decline in local journalism is not coincidence. In fact, it is one of the causes.
One key to fighting these symptoms of democratic decline is by reversing the ongoing decline in local journalism in the United States. We can do this by building community information districts.
Info districts are democratically established special service districts that provide local news and information services to the communities that fund them. They mimic other special districts that provide basic public services, including water, sanitation, or fire protection.
Communities create these districts by passing an ordinance or referendum to assess a small fee on residents. When pooled together, those fees support a public service that the private market has not been able to provide.
Our mission is to support local communities that want to publicly fund and cooperatively design news and information services that are accountable to them.
Your support will set the foundation for the development of the first info district cohort in New Jersey in 2019.
We're going to raise approximately $1 million over the next 18 months to launch three pilot info districts by the end of next year. And we've already garnered the interest of leading philanthropic funders in the U.S. But major donors can't give us any money until we've incorporated as a non-profit.
That's why we're turning to others like us – who believe that the republic and the press rise or fall together – to set the foundation for this democratic endeavor.
Non-profit incorporation will allow us to get to work on three key initiatives: legal research, market analysis, and newsroom redesign.
On the legal front, we need expert analysis and guidance on how to create and maintain cooperative, transparent, and accountable special service districts.
Our market analysis needs to explore ways to identify communities in need of our support and understand what makes one a prime candidate.
We'll also get to work designing a public-powered newsroom from scratch with leading thinkers and doers in journalism and civic engagement.
Then, in the beginning of 2019, we'll get to work on the first community information districts ever.
And we'll be able to do all of this because your donation today will unlock the door.
Before we can raise $1,000,000, we need to raise $2,000. Here's where that money will go.
- Incorporation services w/ Pro Bono Partnership: $500
- N.J. incorporation fee: $75
- N.J. incorporation expedited service fee: $15
- N.J. non-profit renewal fee in 2019: $25
- Registering as a 501(c)3 with IRS: $600
- N.J. charity registration fee for 2018: $150
- N.J. charity registration fee for 2019: $150
- Kickstarter fees (.08% + $0.20 per donation): approx. $160
- Fundraising support costs: $325
When info districts launch and join the cooperative, they'll receive a seat on our board to oversee the organization. Until then, here's who is heading up the project.
Our director is Simon Galperin, a community engagement and business development consultant with a mission to increase the capacity of communities to problem solve together.
Our advisors include:
- Ariel Zirulnick, Executive Editor, The New Tropic
- Heather Bryant, Director, Project Facet
- Jennifer Brandel, Co-founder and CEO, Hearken
- Darryl Holiday, Editorial Director, City Bureau
- Andrew Losowsky, Project Lead, Coral Project
- Andre Natta, John S. Knight Journalism Fellow, Stanford University
We also have allies in the following organizations:
- Sustainable Jersey
- Center for Cooperative Media
- Coral Project
- Free Press
- Project Facet
- CUNY Graduate School of Journalism
- City Bureau
And we're actively looking to recruit advisors and allies from the following sectors: community organizing, K-12 education, civic technology, and libraries.
Finally, here are a few places you can learn more about us.
- Community Information Cooperative website
- Read about us in Nieman Lab
- Read about us in Columbia Journalism Review
- For those who like information delivered via tweetstorm
- We were recognized as a top digital media innovator in 2017
Image credit: Lora Ohanessian
Risks and challenges
We've participated in research, interviews, and forums across the U.S., speaking with 100+ journalists, foundation funders, local government officials and advisors, librarians, and citizens to test the info district idea.
We don't believe that our approach will work everywhere but we know it can work in enough communities to make a difference.
That's why we'll only work with communities genuinely interested in establishing and maintaining info districts.
Here are the challenges we'll face.
Political: Local partners may not be able to build enough momentum to lead to passage of the ordinance or referendum necessary to establish an info district. To overcome this challenge, we'll conduct market analysis to select communities that are prime candidates for info districts.
Fundraising: The cooperative will become self-sustaining with the establishment of 20 info districts – what we estimate to take about 4-7 years. Until then, we will bootstrap what we need to, seeking philanthropic support along the way. We think we'll be able to get that support because we offer a self-sustaining investment opportunity. Every info district established is one less local news ecosystem that needs ongoing support. That's why we'll overcome the fundraising challenge.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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