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My Next Adventure: Journalism’s Wicked Problems and Democracy’s Complex Systems

After two amazing years working with local journalists across New Jersey and New York City on creative experiments in revenue models and community engagement this is my last week at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

For the past two years I’ve had the good fortune to work with Molly de Aguiar and Chris Daggett at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation where they have been pioneering an “ecosystem model” for supporting and strengthening local news. Through the Local News Lab project, which was funded by the Knight Foundation, we have built a more connected, inclusive and responsive news ecosystem in New Jersey. We’ve experimented with new revenue ideas, community engagement efforts, philanthropy models and groundbreaking collaborations. We didn’t just fund good ideas, we looked for people and projects that could help make structural change in local news.

We have learned a lot (check out our lessons learned here). All of that work is going to continue – stay tuned for big things to come from Molly and the Local News Lab.

In 2011 I wrote a blog post calling for a “systems approach to remaking journalism.” In New Jersey the Dodge Foundation is showing that this approach has promise. Their ecosystem approach is rooted in the idea that the challenges facing journalism are not individual problems but rather complex systems of economics, technology, policy, culture and more. Jay Rosen has called these “wicked problems,” and they are just the sort of problems I love to work on.

One of our partners in the work of the Local News Lab has been the Democracy Fund,  a bipartisan foundation established by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar to help ensure that the American people come first in our democracy. Democracy Fund focuses on engaged citizens and vibrant media, supporting innovations and institutions that help people understand and participate in the democratic process.

Starting in June I’ll be joining the Democracy Fund as Associate Director for the Informed Participation program, helping lead their local journalism work and investments around the country.

I’ll be building on our lessons from the work in New Jersey and exploring new ways we can intervene in the complex systems that shape journalism and the public square today. This is a natural evolution of the work I’ve been doing because systems thinking is at the core of how the Democracy Fund approaches its work. To get a sense for what that means, check out this local news and civic participation map that Democracy Fund recently published. It will serve as a starting point for the work ahead. And because the Democracy Fund is supporting the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation’s innovative work, I get to continue to work with them as an ally and partner.

At Democracy Fund we’ll be doing this work in partnership with local communities who want to think big about new ways to support vigorous local news and a robust public square. I’m thrilled to be joining the Democracy Fund at this critical moment for our politics and our press.

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