New White Paper Highlights Need for Civic Innovation, Attention to Community Concerns to Build a Healthy Information Environment

October 11, 2011

Media Advisory
Contact Erin  Silliman


New White Paper Highlights Need for Civic Innovation, Attention to Community Concerns to Build a Healthy Information Environment 

Washington, D.C.—On October 17 the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will release the final in a series of eight white papers aimed at implementing the recommendations of the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.  The paper—“Assessing Community Information Needs: A Practical Guide” by Richard C. Harwood—proposes four guideposts and nine strategies for communities to assess and build a healthy information environment.

The formal release will take place during a high-level roundtable discussion among a select group of leaders, innovators, advocates and experts from the national, state and local levels on Monday, October 17 in Washington, DC. Following the presentation of the paper, these leaders and experts will debate the best ways to incorporate the strategies at a time when citizens need to focus on re-building and re-engaging the community. Several strategies include creating authentic, credible steering committees to guide the work; mapping community concerns; mobilizing the community as a resource; cultivating boundary-spanning organizations; and telling the community’s story of change.

The Knight Commission’s landmark report, Informing Communities, includes 15 recommendations to advance the information needs of American communities in the broadband age. The 17 members of this bipartisan blue ribbon commission concluded that citizens should participate actively in community self-governance to address community affairs and pursue common goals. Reliable and relevant information, the capacity to use that information and engagement across communities are the building blocks for democratic communities. The white paper to be released on Monday provides a guide to understanding how to assess and build healthy, engaged and informed local environments.

Who:   Featured Speaker

Richard C. Harwood is the founder of the Harwood Institute for Public Innovation. For more than 20 years, Harwood has been dedicated to transforming public and political lives by supporting individuals, organizations and communities in their quest to create change.

             Roundtable participants include:

  • Joaquin Alvarado, Senior Vice President, Digital Innovation, American Public Media
  • Kathy Brown, Senior Vice President, Public Policy Development and Corporate

Responsibility, Verizon Communications

  • David Crowley, President and Founder, Social Capital Inc.
  • Sasha Costanza-Chock, Assistant Professor of Civic Media and Principal Investigator,

Center for Civic Media, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

  • Bill Densmore, Principal, Densmore Associates, and Director and Editor, Media Giraffe
  • Nathan Dietz, Associate Director of Research and Evaluation, Office of Strategy and
           Special Initiatives, Corporation for National and Community Service
  • Mike Fandy, Vice President, Learning & Conferencing, United Way Worldwide
  • Christopher Gates, Executive Director, Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement
  • Joe Goldman, Director, Omidyar Network
  • Robert Hackett, President, The Corella & Bertram F. Bonner Foundation
  • Darell Hammond, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, KaBOOM! Inc.
  • John Horrigan, Vice President of Policy Research, TechNet
  • Jacquie Jones, Executive Director, National Black Programming Coalition
  • Bob Levey, Freelance Consultant, Journalist, Speaker, Fundraising Executive
  • Caroline Little, President and Chief Executive Officer, Newspaper Association of
  • Lynn Luckow, President and Chief Executive Officer, Craigslist Foundation
  • Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Founder and President, AmericaSpeaks
  • Chris Meyer, Executive Director, National Center for Media Engagement
  • Amy Mitchell, Deputy Director, Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in
  • Forrest Moore, Executive Vice President, America’s Promise Alliance
  • Mayur Patel, Vice President of Strategy and Assessment, Knight Foundation
  • Wendy Puriefoy, President, Public Education Network
  • Jan Schaffer, Executive Director, J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism
  • Paul Schmitz, President and Chief Executive Officer, Public Allies, Inc.
  • Marsha Semmel, Director of Strategic Partnerships, Institute for Museum and Library
  • David Smith, Executive Director, National Conference on Citizenship
  • Nancy Tate, Executive Director, League of Women Voters
  • Mary Thomas, Executive Vice President, The Spartanburg County Foundation
  • Vivian Vahlberg, President, Vahlberg & Associates
  • Lisa Flick Wilson, Director of Strategic Partnerships, The Harwood Institute for Public

Moderator:  Charlie Firestone, Executive Director, Communications and Society Program, The Aspen Institute

*Media who are interested in attending should contact Erin Silliman for details at or 202.736.5818.

What:     A roundtable discussion on assessing community information with key policymakers and leaders. The paper will also be released and available at on Monday, October 17.

When:    Monday, October 17, 2011, 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Watch:   The roundtable will be streamed live at or you can follow the discussion on Twitter at @knightcomm and  #knightcomm.

Agenda: The roundtable will begin with a presentation by Richard Harwood, followed by discussion among the invited roundtable participants about the recommendations and how they may best be implemented.

Interviews can be arranged by contacting Erin Silliman at or 202.736.5818.


The Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy was a blue ribbon panel of seventeen media, policy and community leaders that met in 2008 and 2009. Its purpose was to assess the information needs of communities, and recommend measures to help Americans better meet those needs. Its Report, Informing Communities: Sustaining Democracy in the Digital Age, was the first major commission on media since the Hutchins Commission in the 1940’s and the Kerner and Carnegie Commissions of the 1960’s.

The Commission’s aims were to maximize the availability and flow of credible local information; to enhance access and capacity to use the new tools of knowledge and exchange; and to encourage people to engage with information and each other within their geographic communities. Among its 15 recommendations the Commission argues for universal broadband, open networks, transparent government, a media and digitally literate populace, vibrant local journalism, public media reform, and more local public engagement.

The Knight Commission is a project of the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

About The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation: Founded by Richard C. Harwood over twenty years ago in reaction to the cynicism and distrust that permeates much of politics and public life, The Harwood Institute ( is today a leading change organization, recognized nationally for a unique approach to breaking down barriers and empowering people to make progress in improving their communities. Harwood has worked with thousands of individuals, guiding them to make more intentional choices which will lead to fundamental change and a different way of thinking, living and doing business in this country.

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