Build a community-wide listening post
GroundSource has helped several cities develop “Listening Posts.” These are community media projects, where the creators distribute phone numbers to residents, ask them questions, and publish the responses on public forums. Reporters can tap community members to take the pulse on current events, or to get insights into day-to-day life. Several Listening Posts are up and running, including Listening Post New Orleans, Listening Post Macon, the Jersey Shore Listening Post, alongside Listening Post-like projects by Solutions Journalism in the Southwest, and Prairie Public Media in North Dakota.
New Orleans was the first city to use GroundSource to build a Listening Post. Twice a month they put out a question to their sources, and routinely get a ten percent (and often higher) response rate, full of nuanced discussions about current events and life in the Big Easy.
In Macon, Georgia, the local Listening Post asked people to share their experience and opinions on guns and gun control. The Listening Post used Groundsource technology to collect and publish Macon’s thoughts. People who texted the number got a series of responsive questions about their experiences. Then, The Listening Post Macon published them on the blog.Responses came from life-long gun owners and anti-gun advocates; people who had never touched a gun and people who kept them in their houses.
One mother wrote in to talk about the gun violence that shattered her family--and encouraged her to buy a gun for herself and her remaining children. Georgia Public Broadcasting then followed up with that mother to produce a longer story, for both the radio and website.
Hear the roar of a crowd, even outside the stadium
The stands were packed at the 2016 Copa América Centenario. Univision wanted to hear from soccer fans who cheered from their homes, bars, and streets, on top of the fans who were at the games. Univision used a combination of social media outreach and Groundsource technology to capture the spirit of each game. Groundsource helped Univision build an interactive Facebook Messenger tool, where fans could ask questions and share their opinions. Within hours of publishing the feature, 700 fans were interacting with Univision online.
Find the real experts
In 2016, Colorado Public Radio wanted to know what Colorado residents thought of Amendment 70, which would increase the minimum wage to $12. But CPR reporters didn’t want to just ask economists about their forecast--they wanted to hear from the people this law would directly impact.
Using Groundsource’s platform, CPR gathered input from business owners, minimum wage earners and other stakeholders. They heard about their enthusiasm, their fears, their hopes and their worries about what would happen if the law passed.
Let your audience be proactive, not reactive
The Virginian-Pilot wanted to gather thoughtful community feedback on the proposed light rail in Norfolk. When the debate turned nasty—and spilled over into the comments section—they tried a different approach. Editors printed the Groundsource phone number in the newspaper and posted it next to light rail stories online. They received far more thoughtful, on point and civil responses than they had been able to gather before. Hear what Virginians had to say.
Shape your organization's future
NASA and a group led by Arizona State University called ECAST—Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology—used GroundSource to young Americans to have a say about the future of space exploration. They promoted their GroundSource phone number at gatherings, and received hundreds of survey responses, providing them with a window into the priorities and thoughts of a demographic whose support may help determine whether and how America remains committed to its space program.
Partner with researchers to make new discoveries
Radio Namlolwe, a radio station north of Nairobi, has a very strong relationship with its audience. When they put callouts on their air encouraging people to text in, responses can number in the thousands. Cambridge University’s Africa’s Voices project used GroundSource to collaborate with Namlolwe. Together, they have gathered opinions on issues like presidential term limits, banning plastic bags, and food security. Not only was Cambridge able to gather data on the use of SMS messaging for community engagement, but local NGOs and political organizations got an insight into their communities’ needs.
Find the stories before they break
ProPublica deeply incorporates audience and community engagement into their reporting. Their team recently used GroundSource to solicit stories from New Yorkers about the cost of housing, and whether they were getting pushed out by landlords seeking higher rent. They received back dozens of stories, which in turn led to follow-up reporting. Read some of ProPublica's investigations.
Prairie Public Broadcasting, working with the news collaborative Inside Energy, is taking a similar tack, putting up signs and publishing call-outs online to encourage North Dakotans to step forward and share their perspective on a range of issues, including the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is proposed to route through Native American reservations.
Gather tape from your desk
Did you know you can use GroundSource to gather sound clips too? Imagine being able to quickly compile a community-driven audio piece in just minutes. Voice interaction works just like the text message back-and-forths: When people call the phone number they can answer specific prompts, either by pressing a number on a keypad, or by leaving a voicemail at the beep. Colorado Public Radio used this feature in a pre-election story called, “What Does it Mean To Be An American Now?”
Help people make informed decisions
GroundSource is specially built to connect to external data sources, making it easy to connect community members with data about where they live. In Detroit, Outlier Media is focused on serving low-income Detroiters with information they need. Using “webhooks,” they’ll be linking GroundSource to a database with information about rental properties. The database will include whether properties are in foreclosure, who the landlord is (and whether they owe back taxes), whether utilities have been shut off, and more. The idea is to give people a simple way to assess the rental risk involved in a property they might be looking at.See the results here
Baykeeper, an environmental organization devoted to preserving, protecting and restoring waterways from New York to New Jersey, has always been strong at policy and research. Just this past February, they released a report on microplastics in area waterways that got picked up by the New York Times and has since rippled far and wide. Building on that success, they want to get better at ensuring that the important policy and research work they do engages people in the communities they serve -- and in turn helps them build a base of advocates and supporters.
They are using GroundSource to build this base, person by person, announcing the phone number at events, having people share their phone numbers, posting signs, and promoting on social media. Recently they’ve hit on a strategy that is gaining traction: Sending out a biweekly “micro” newsletter via SMS with news on their latest work, and a space for people to share back questions and stories. Their first edition had a more than 20 percent response rate, and they’re now planning on keeping up that rhythm for the foreseeable future as they seek to position themselves as a repository of water expertise and knowledge -- a resource for their community.
Reach beyond your Twitter followers
How do you reach people who don’t have internet access?
Georgia Public Broadcasting’s Listening Post, working with the Macon Housing Authority, handed out flyers to more than 1,000 public housing authority residents with a phone number and a keyword to text in. Their goal? To find out about residents’ experience with home internet connectivity. Through this outreach, Macon’s Listening Post and Housing Authority found that 80 percent of respondents lacked home internet access. Now, The Listening Post in Macon, alongside the Macon Housing Authority, have both insight and a direct line to these residents.
The Texas Tribune didn’t invent the idea of a news organization hosting community events, but they were the first to put events at the very heart of their business and audience development strategies. They piloted GroundSource at a recent TT meetup and used it to ask audience members trivia questions. More than 40 of the 100 or so people in the audience played, giving them a way to capture the energy in the room, and hold onto it for future engagement opportunities.
Build a listening community in rural areas
Solutions Journalism is spearheading a new project called “Small Towns Big Change,” which seeks to develop solutions-focused journalism covering small towns in the West and Southwest from New Mexico to Montana. They’re collaborating with news organizations across the region, and using GroundSource to develop relationships with people in the small towns they’re covering. Read stories from “Small Towns Big Change” here.
Get feedback on your events
GroundSource makes it easy to use events as an opportunity to harness the engagement and intelligence of the community -- making big gatherings a great opportunity for community development. The Soap Box Derby in Macon, Georgia reached out to GroundSource to explore ways they might use texting for their big annual event, which draws out thousands of Maconites from different neighborhoods, backgrounds and walks of life. Groundsource helped The Soap Box Derby gather community feedback, during and after the event, over text. During the event, organizers asked people to text in which car they thought was the sleekest, most colorful or best-engineered. More than 600 people texted in, which in turn enabled them to follow-up and ask for feedback after the event to improve the Derby.