Building Partnership through Exchange: Lessons from Rockwood's Media Fellows
AN EXCITING COLLABORATION
Rockwood Practice of Partnership is "to build and maintain strong,
interdependent relationships that move our work forward." We know this takes
time, trust building, skillful communication, and aligned purpose. We're
excited to feature one, of many efforts, to build collaboration within this
critical sector, called the Knowledge Exchange Program.
progressive media sector serves as a powerful arena for political debate - from
producing critical commentary on today's issues; to crafting policies around media
ownership and technology access; to organizing and engaging communities in media
literacy and production. Not unlike
other progressive sectors, the media sector also faces the challenge of its organizations
competing for resources and struggling over different strategies rather than
finding ways to work together.
BEHIND THE BEGINNING
Exchange Program is a
weeklong exposure program for grassroots leaders to experience Capitol Hill and
for DC advocates to experience the field of grassroots work. The program idea
was suggested by Becky Lentz, a former Program Officer at the Ford Foundation,
and bloomed out of a conversation between Gene Kimmelman at Consumers Union,
and Hye-Jung Park at the Funding Exchange. Both have participated in Rockwood's Fellowship in Media,
Communications, and Information Policy.
Gene is Vice-President
for Federal and International Policy at Consumers
Union and has engaged in
media and telecommunications policy advocacy for more than 25 years. Gene explained his experience of the challenges
in the media sector: "Posturing, critical statements of not being able to work
together, suspicions about who is in closer with funders and has money." He was
frustrated that media leaders were not overcoming these barriers.
that in her work at the Media Justice Fund, she
"to bring communities
together to create a space where people can learn from each other, share
resources, and get involved in social movements overall." The Media Justice
Fund makes local and regional media justice grants to groups working within
marginalized communities "to organize around media and communication
technologies and to affect media accountability, infrastructure and policy
Hye-Jung expanded their idea to involve grassroots organizations, and the
Center for International Media Action.
Kelsey and Chris Murray at Consumers Union, and Charlene Allen at the Funding
Exchange also joined in the coordination and design of the Knowledge Exchange
Over the last
year, the Knowledge Exchange Program has conducted two weeklong sessions bringing
eight grassroots leaders to DC and, with the intention of "exchange," will
bring DC leaders to Oakland to "try on the shoes" of local leaders at the
Center for Media Justice.
In the first
two Knowledge Exchange sessions, grassroots organizational leaders participated
in discussions on current media policy issues like low-power FM radio access, affordable
broadband, and the upcoming digital television transition. They met with
senators and congressional representatives, visited the offices and attended
hearings with FCC commissioners. Leaders presented their local work and
campaigns to Consumers Union's advocates to reciprocate information-sharing
about local strategies and issues.
program has produced rich learning for everyone involved. Knowledge Exchange
participant Peggy Berryhill, Director of Services and Planning
at Native Public Media shared:
"It was valuable to share
our experience and learn from other organizations about how they are engaging
people in different contexts. Most of us in Native media, are dealing with a
different context because much of our community is in rural areas and because
of how policy advocacy differs for sovereign nations."
Edyael Casaperalta, who is a Program and Research Associate with the Center for
Rural Strategies, also appreciated the
different perspectives and learnings that the program offered her. The Center
for Rural Strategies launched a "white spaces" campaign to fight for usage of
television broadcast spectrum to expand access to broadband for rural residents.
She confessed, "Before I went, I was cynical about policy work and its
benefits, but after the exchange, I can see that with a lot of hard work,
policy advocacy can have an impact." Edyael was excited to jump into her
regional work in the South with a different level of expertise.
and Peggy also valued the opportunity to connect with other grassroots and
media justice organizations. Edyael described a possible urban-rural
partnership between her organization and the People's Production House and Peggy was inspired by the youth engagement work of groups like
Manhattan Neighborhood Network.
Joel Kelsey at
Consumers Union took a lead role in coordinating the program. Joel believed
that the program has allowed DC based participants to gain "a better
understanding of the priorities of grassroots groups and also what is needed to
build effective national and local collaborations." Specifically, Joel pointed to the learning that "sometimes [national
advocacy leaders] need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, that
really technical DC speak can influence the way a meeting goes, can influence
the way people connect to issues, and can really change the comfort level in
Catherine Borgman-Arboleda at Center
for International Media Action joined the collaboration offering their expertise in
program evaluation and
assessment. She felt "the program organizers' strategy of bringing on an evaluator from the
beginning to conduct a participatory assessment made an important contribution
both to building trust and for creating a mechanism for very diverse interests
and priorities to inform program planning."
Some of the lessons she drew from
participants about building partnership were:
- The importance of trust and
relationship building before entering into planning collaborative work.
- How the flexibility of program
design and participatory model increased the ownership and takeaways for
leaders of grassroots and media justice organizations.
- Acknowledgement of power dynamics
- real and perceived - allowed them to explore assumptions, maintain an
openness to learning about different strategies, and foster deeper
forward, the Knowledge Exchange Program participants generated different
possible ideas for working together including exchanging research about how
communities are affected by public policies like sharing local stories with
national advocates to support federal policy. Joel was excited about the possibilities
of grassroots groups hiring a full time lobbyist that can represent grassroots perspectives.
Knowledge Exchange enters its third year and prepares to launch the exchange
with DC leaders visiting the Center for Media Justice, Hye-Jung shared that she
believes the effort is an important "first step," to building collaboration. Gene
invited other organizations to test out the model of the exchange program,
saying "We don't own this and would love to share it more broadly so that
others will think about ways to do this and do this different and do it