Like many of you in the media impact space, the team at Media Impact Funders has been focusing efforts on learning more about how and when storytelling makes a difference. Citizens are increasingly encountering misinformation and disinformation, which is creating confusion about who and what to trust and undermining productive public debate. And as we grapple with complex and difficult societal issues, engaging with facts, evidence and science is critical to the health of our democracy.
The upside? Foundations, for their part, are recognizing that understanding the dynamics and the science behind communications is one crucial component to telling better stories by delivering the right messages to the right people. They have a key role to play not only in supporting content production, but in clarifying and elevating research that can support quality journalism, impactful storytelling, and scientists’ own ability to convey the importance of their work.
To that end, we’re dedicating this month’s AIM (Assessing the Impact of Media) to the Media Impact Forum, our annual flagship event that serves as a convening point for a wide variety of funders and topics. This year, on May 10 in Philadelphia, the #MIForum (that’s our hashtag for the day) will devote a full day to helping philanthropy focus on the special role of science in our national debates, and the importance of sharpening the communication of science.
If you can’t join us in person, we encourage you and your colleagues to tune in via the livestream. Here are a few impact-minded speakers to pay close attention to:
- EepyBird—Ever wonder what would happen if you dropped a few Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke? Take one minute and watch the geysers for yourself. Then come back here and let us introduce you to the creators of that viral video, seen by more than 120 million people since the video’s creation in 2006. The men behind EepyBird, Stephen Voltz and Fritz Grobe, will be presenting ideas from their Viral Video Toolkit for Nonprofits, which, thanks to support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, explores how nonprofit organizations can increase impact by creating contagious content.
- The Frank team—If you have ever had the pleasure of attending Frank (the gathering for public interest communicators), which operates out of the University of Florida in Gainesville, then you’ve heard of the conference’s chief architects, Ann Christiano and Annie Neimand. Together with Matt Sheehan, a University of Florida journalism professor, this power trio will share a set of principles rooted in a deep exploration of the scholarship in the area of storytelling and memory. Basically, research shows that stories are the building blocks of memory, and that research can help build stories that are more memorable, compelling and inspiring. Speaking of: This will be a high-energy presentation you won’t soon forget. Get it?
- Ethan Zuckerman— “If you’re going to have a favorite founding father, Ben Franklin is not a bad choice. … he figured out that one of the best ways to have financial and political power in the Colonies was to control the means of communication.” Meet Ethan Zuckerman, the director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, who thinks of Benjamin Franklin as a “hustler” because of his business smarts. More importantly, Zuckerman argues that like our forefathers intended with the Postal Service and the free press, we need public spheres to be carefully designed and governed to enable citizens and communities to more effectively connect, communicate and engage civically. We’re looking forward to hearing his ideas.
- Eli Pariser—The co-founder of Upworthy, the site dedicated to promoting viral content “worth paying attention to,” will offer a parallel argument to Zuckerman’s, which is that our current commercial media ecosystem fails to serve all of our communities and everyone in our community equally. Pariser, whose focus is how technology can drive social change, contends that we can and must create new media outlets and practices that actively empower diverse audiences through “community-focused, impact-oriented channels and entities.”
Go to mediaimpactfunders.org/2018-media-impact-forum/ for more information on the Media Impact Forum and the livestream.