A project of Democracy Fund

January 21, 2022

Local Fix: Meet the Ecosystem Builders


Welcome to the Local Fix. Every other week we look at key questions in journalism sustainability and community engagement through the lens of local news. But first, we always begin with one good idea…

One Good Idea: Cover voters, not politicians

KPCC/LAist is hiring a reporter for its Civics and Democracy beat, formerly known as its politics beat, as it recenters its coverage. “As we approach the midterm elections, readers and listeners will need reliable information on the state of our democracy and how they can be active in keeping our political system from collapsing,” the announcement reads. Want to bring this approach to your own newsroom? Check out Democracy SOS, a nine month fellowship for 20 teams with up to a $5,000 stipend each (applications due February 7!).

Meet the Ecosystem Builders

For the past five years, Democracy Fund has supported a group of people leading the change in their local communities. We call them the Ecosystem Builders, and we’re proud to share a list of them for the first time. We know this innovative work is happening in dozens of communities nationwide, but we’ve heard from these Builders that when you’re deep in it, it’s easy to feel isolated. And as a national funder, we knew it was crucial to build relationships with local-focused people in their communities (this comes in the form of stipends, coaching, community calls, and more). But there was also plenty we didn’t know that the Builders taught us along the way, such as:

  • Builders are the “green shoots” of news ecosystems, willing to experiment in new projects or help introduce collaboration and new ways of working to legacy organizations.
  • Their work doesn’t always scale in conventional ways, but is more about embracing the tactic of spreading their ideas through mentorship and more. 
  • Doing this relationship-based transformation work takes time, which means funding this work takes time, too. As funders, we should commit to supporting leaders like Ecosystem Builders for longer than a grant cycle and ensure that we aren’t taking too much of that time with grant requirements and requests.

Curious who the heck we’re talking about? Check out the list of Builders here. We know that there are even more Ecosystem Builders around the country. Are you one of them or do you know one? Respond and give them a shoutout via email or give them some love on Twitter and tag us @theLocalNewsLab. We may feature your shoutouts in future Local Fixes.

Reads on Our Radar

Opportunities on Our Radar

Have a good weekend,

Christine and Teresa
@heres_christine and @gteresa

P.S. Want a better sense of our approach to funding local news? You’re in luck! We just updated our webpage at democracyfund.org with lists of how and who we support in local news ecosystems from New Mexico to New Jersey.

The Local Fix is a project of  Democracy Fund’s Public Square Program, which supports work that aims to transform journalism so everyone has access to information they need to participate in our democracy. The Fix was started by Josh Stearns and Molly de Aguiar.

Disclosure: Some projects mentioned in this newsletter may be funded by Democracy Fund. You can find a full list of the organizations here.
Follow us on Twitter at @TheLocalNewsLab.

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