Convening Community to solve bog complex problems – Future of Pub Media?

Social Media for what? As the shadows lengthen, I am seeing that the new role for public media is not simply to bring you Jane Austen on Sundays – though that is worthy – but to use the trust evoked in a generation public TV and radio to help us as citizens help each other face terrible times.

The mortgage crisis is now clearly not just about a few people who should have known better, as many like to see it, but is a crisis so deep and wide that it has the power to doom not only individuals but cities. As houses fall, so do streets, the blocks then neighborhoods and then entire cities. Loss of taxes will shutter schools, loss of taxes will neuter governments, loss of mobility and loss of value will shut down people. So the financial cancer spreads until maybe America comes to a halt.

So what to do? This is where social media will I think play it’s most important role – that of empowering people to come together and to help each other. This is I think where the history books will tell the story – not that Facebook or My Space were cool, not that business finally got it. No I think the story will be that Social Media enabled the rise of Community Power and that it was Community Power that helped America through these times. That it was Community Power that replaced machine Democracy and restored the Republic.

Big claim! So here are some early signs – you can see this great power stir before your eyes

 

KETC, a client of mine, the Public TV Channel in St Louis, has been chosen by CPB to test how well a public TV station can be in Convening the wider community of its city to come together and help each other cope with a giant crisis. Here is a link to the background.

I am writing today to offer up an early report. This week we held the first on air/web town hall meeting.

For the first time St Louisans could see that they were not alone. The room was full of all sorts of people. St Louisans could see the enormous amount of help that was there for them. They could hear stories of all the things that could happen for bad or good. They could feel hope.

The show (links part 1 – part 2 – part 3 – part 4) was masterful. First of all it set the context – it gave the whole story. Then the full range of risks and remedies were explored.

As I watched this show, I felt as I had after Robin’s cancer diagnosis when we met the wonderful team of people who saved her life. I felt that while the situation was dire, that I might lose not my home but my wife, that we had the benefit of a great team and of the best that medicine could offer – we knew what we were up against. We knew that we had a chance. We had hope whereas before we had only fear.

I thought that I knew it all before the show. But I didn’t. In an hour, Ruth had covered the full story. No sound bites here. The full story!

The last segment was for me the most gripping. Here the show is opened up to the audience, to callers and those on the web. Here the voice of the community spoke. The dignity of the people and the panel was something to behold. The barriers between the helpers and the helped were eliminated. Something important happened.

The full impact was also revealed.

This is much more than a person losing their home. This is about the ripple effect that kills blocks, kills communities and in the end can doom the city. The ripple effect affects us all.

Next week we have a second show. This time we will focus on the the ripple effect – how can St Louisans work together to protect their communities? How can the people save their city?

Of course what you see on TV is merely the surface. If you look at the video, you will see The Swan – You will see the show but behind the scenes the feet are paddling hard under the surface.

The guys at KETC are paddling like fury all over the city and the state connecting people to help and more important connecting the help to the help. Have a look at the credits at the end of part 4.

This is the hard graft – many organizations, I call them Nodes of Trust, are meeting each other for the first time and seeing how much they can do to help each other do a better job.

Many are also seeing that the mortgage crisis itself is only part of a much more dangerous threat, the Ripple, that has the power to take the entire city down.

This is why I make the claim I do. I can think of only one way to dig our way out of this mess – to connect the people so that they can take charge themselves. Social Media and stations like KETC are the way to make these connections.

Many are starting to see that many who got caught were not foolish but unfortunate or worse exploited.

St Louisan are starting to feel that they might have a chance of beating this – a chance not because of false hope or exhortation but hope drawn from meeting other good men and women and seeing that together they can make an impact. Seeing that they are not helpless.

I think that KETC is on its way to prove out the hopes of CPB – that Public Media can be seen as a powerful force for good in their community. For who else can do this work? Who else can act as the convenor in these tough times?

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