Media Events @ COF ’12

GFEM had a large presence at the Council on Foundations Annual Conference in LA. If you were unable to attend the conference, or missed some of our sessions and events, here’s a wrap up of the activities.

We kicked off the conference with a member meeting and discussion about public media in the LA-area, and specifically models for success that involve deep commitments to the community that the media organizations serve. The conversation featured Bill Davis, President, Southern California Public Radio, which operates KPCC public radio, the largest public radio service in Southern California; Michelle Levander, Director of the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at USC Annenberg and founder of the Boyle Heights Beat, a hyper-local, multi-lingual, dual print and online news service created by youth and adult journalists covering the Boyle Heights neighborhood of LA; Cinthia Gonzalez, one of Boyle Heights Beat’s amazing journalists; and Mary Lou Fulton, Program Officer at the California Endowment, which supports Boyle Heights Beat as part of its work on community health (because health happens at the neighborhood level, and an informed community is a healthier community).

After that robust conversation GFEM’s board chair David Haas hosted a private funder dinner at WP24, giving funder colleagues a chance to connect and share their work in a small setting.

Immediately following dinner GFEM and COF presented the 2012 Henry Hampton Award to The Interrupters, a MacArthur Foundation-supported film by Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz made with Kartemquin FilmsThe Interrupters presents an unflinching portrait of the organization CeaseFire and its courageous struggle to eradicate violence in the gritty streets of Chicago. Academy Award-nominated director John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) presented the award to director Steve James, followed by a discussion about the film and its impact with CeaseFire founder Gary Slutkin and Interrupter Ameena Matthews.

The following morning we gathered funders for an in-depth discussion about the anti-violence group CeaseFire, which is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson and McCormick Foundations. The roundtable discussion was a chance for funders to delve into the core strategy and success of the CeaseFire project and hear how the model is being used throughout the country. We also highlighted the collaborative tech innovation, PeaceTXT, created by Ushahidi and Medic Mobile, coordinated by the social innovation PopTech Accelerator and supported by the Rita Allen Foundation.

Shifting from technology’s use in anti-violence efforts to games for good, one of GFEM’s three COF sessions highlighted games as a unique engagement opportunity for funders. Michelle Byrd, Co-President, Games for Change; Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor, USC Interactive Media Division; Jessica Goldfin, Special Assistant to the President, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; and Dan White, CEO, Filament Games were on hand to discuss the rapidly evolving field and show concrete examples of successes, and failures, and answer questions about what they’ve learned along the way. Learn more about what works from The Knight Foundation’ s brief report. See a full list of the games-based activities at the conference. Funders interested in this exciting and quickly evolving field should check out the Games for Change Festival June 18 -20 in NYC, featuring Jane McGonigal and Lucy Bradshaw.

Off to another lovely funder dinner with Anna Deveare Smith and special guests, then sleep. But not for long.

Delving back into technology for social change, our second COF session, co-presented by ZeroDivide, focused on leveraging the power of mobile phone technology and how foundations can support grantees’ use of mobile applications to meet their missions. Presenters John Bracken, Director/Journalism and Media Innovation at the Knight Foundation; Manuel Santamaria, Grantmaking Director, Silicon Valley Community Foundation and Laura Efurd, Vice President and Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, ZeroDivide showed exciting examples of mobile civic engagement tools making a real impact, including VotoLatinoFresno BusTrackerMobile Voices, and SafeCast.

View the list of mobile resources compiled for funders and check out ZeroDivide’s recent report “Funding Mobile Strategies for Social Impact: The Future is Now.”
For those who couldn’t attend, there will be a free webinar on Tuesday 5/22 covering this topic.

Finally, see a selection of tweets from the session and help keep the conversation going use the #fundertech hashtag.

Our game track continued with a deep dive into the world of games for social good with a conversation among top practitioners in game development. Tracy Fullerton, Associate Professor, USC Interactive Media Division; Kristy Norindr, Research Manager, USC School of Cinematic Arts; Susana Ruiz, Cofounder, Take Action Games; and Benjamin Stokes, Researcher/PhD Student, USC Annenberg School for Communication shared knowledge of game theory and practice and discussed how games are being used to address urgent issues — from human rights and immigration to sustainable agriculture and community development.

Our final event was a night of living history celebrating Stanley Nelson and his widely-lauded documentary Freedom Ridersfeaturing a discussion moderated by Anna Deavere Smith.

Introduced by Ralph Smith of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, we shared media highlights recognizing Mr. Nelson’s unique genius in bringing the essential stories of the 20th century to the screen and into our collective conscience. Following dinner Anna Deavere Smith led the discussion with civil rights veteran and Freedom Rider Reverend James Lawson and Saket Soni of the New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice.

For more on Nelson’s work see Firelight Media and check out the video about Firelight’s Producer’s Lab – a mentorship program for 12-15 independent diverse producers. The Lab began as a way to provide infrastructure support for diverse producers to help overcome some of the barriers to completing their film or video. Participating producers work with Nelson and his team of senior producers, writers, editors, new media, and fundraising specialists to complete their projects for a national broadcast. To maximize the impact of their films producers receive support to develop a community engagement campaign. Each year a select number of campaigns will be implemented through Firelight’s Community Action Division.