Every so often, it’s crucial to take a step back and look at the big picture.

This year, we took a break from our usual spring newsletter to contemplate how we’ve spent the last five years, and what we hope to do next.

Below, learn more about what’s been on our minds: new tools/services, key issues, and internal comings and goings.

We send this occasional missive out to stay in touch with our fabulous colleagues and clients. As always, we’d love to hear what’s captivating you. Share your own big picture, and let us know if we can help you to fill it in.

—Jessica Clark, Executive Director, Dot Connector Studio

New tools and services

Need help with product design, innovation, or impact?
We’re excited to announce a new strategic partnership with Bay Area consulting firm Multiply Bureau, led by Hannah Eaves. Learn more.

Get your refreshed and expanded Impact Pack here!
We launched a revamped version of our media strategy deck, the Impact Pack, with a streamlined “interfaces” suit, updated icons, and a few new cards, including one for the “sixth sense” for those of you inventing new experiences.

Puzzling over revenue models? We also debuted a new expansion pack called “How do we pay for this?” which helps you figure out funding sources for your media projects. Many thanks to attendees at the News Foundry and others who have helped us to road test this new suit.

Order cards today

Free: A tool for turbocharging membership

We also partnered with Emily Goligoski of the Membership Puzzle Project to design another expansion pack distilling the six common motivations for supporters of news sites to contribute time, money and expertise.

These cards are based on discussions with hundreds of supporters, and you can use them as you are building your strategy to kick off conversations about what compels your collaborators and how they might co-design work with with you.

Download them for free here.

Key issues

Fostering Collective Wisdom
Why co-create and why now? In the latest issue of Immerse, we showcase the launch of a new field study published by the Co-Creation Studio at the MIT Open Documentary Lab: Collective Wisdom: Co-creating Media within Communities, across Disciplines and with Algorithms. We’ll be featuring related excerpts, interviews, and original responses in Immerse through December.

The field study itself is a collaborative endeavor: it brings together knowledge from conversations with 166 practitioners/scholars and highlights trends, opportunities, and challenges to help advance the understanding of creative efforts outside the limits of singular authorship. It was authored by Katrina Cizek and William Uricchio, with co-authors Juanita Anderson, Maria Aqui Carter, Detroit Narrative Agency, Thomas Allen Harris, Maori Holmes, Richard Lachmann, Louis Massiah, Cara Mertes, Sara Rafsky, Michèle Stephenson, Amelia Winger-Bearskin, and Sarah Wolozin.

Troubleshooting our augmented future
In March, Jessica launched her Immerse column, Interface Everywhere, which explores projects and issues at the cusp of the physical and the digital. Don’t miss her take on cases in search of uses and the policy challenges posed by mixed reality

Museums, art and tech 
Our next issue of Immerse will be sponsored by the Knight Foundation in conjunction with their call for ideas about how arts institutions can invent new ways to engage audiences through immersive experiences.

Since our last update, Immerse has published six issues and corresponding newsletters—addressing new directions in immersive audio, ways that disability can inform creative practice, how to build new distribution pathways for VR documentary, and more. Immerse relies on friends like you: Please send us story ideas, write responses, share our pieces far and wide, or make a gift today.

Evaluation that moves as fast as change
Dot Connector Studio’s co-founder Katie Donnelly has been reconceptualizing Media Impact Funders’ Impact Assessment Initiative: learn all about the new web resources here and read Katie’s latest articles on Lean Impactpodcast metrics, and impact tools.

Media philanthropy…and its discontents
For MIF, Jessica co-authored an in-depth report with Sarah Armour-Jones, Global Media Philanthropy: What Funders Need to Know About Data, Trends, and Pressing Issues Facing the Field. Read more about what U.S. funders can glean from this research. A few highlights: parachuting in is out, and keeping grantees safe is paramount. 

In the fall, she also co-presented a session at SRCCON:POWER with Molly de Aguiar, who now leads the Independence Public Media Foundation, on what a more equitable relationship between funders and applicants/grantees could look like. Read their open letter to media funders, which caught the attention of Forbes

Fighting disinformation and cultivating trust
When the Knight Foundation on Trust, Media and Democracy released its final report and recommendations in February 2019, word got out through this Medium site with “Ten ways to rebuild trust in media and democracy.” Throughout the year of research gathering, listening to expert testimony, and deliberating, the commission relied on the Medium site—edited by Nancy Watzman for Dot Connector Studio—to spark conversation.

How to make journalism that represents all of us
As the Knight Commission’s report notes, a big part of establishing trust involves making sure communities are heard and represented. The Dot Connector Studio team continues their work with the Ford Foundation and Democracy Fund on strategies for increasing equity in news and deepening journalists’ engagement with audiences. As part of this work, we’ve been evaluating Take the Lead: 50 Women in Journalism, a leadership program funded by the Ford Foundation and the Democracy Fund.

This year, we also welcomed a new client, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, for an examination of the first year of the Community Listening and Engagement Fund. See the engaged journalism resources we assembled for this project, and stay tuned for insights later this summer.

Also in engaged journalism news:

  • Assistant Director Michelle Polyak presented at the People-Powered Publishing Conference with the folks at Engaged Journalism Centre, Hearken, GroundSource and the Membership Puzzle Project—check out their slides with useful tips on revenue and engagement
  • We collaborated with jesikah maria ross on evaluating Capital Public Radio’s community-informed documentary series View from Here. Here’s a piece written by ross highlighting the process. 
  • The Gather newsletter featured our work.

Comings and goings

Congrats to: 

  • Michelle Polyak, who we promoted to Assistant Director. She now oversees day-to-day operations of the business and works on research and systems development for our clients.
  • Co-founder Katie Donnelly, who has also moved into a new role: overseeing our work in learning and evaluation. She’s currently leading qualitative assessments of media projects and developing learning tools to increase diversity and equity in journalism.

Welcome to:

  • Mark Glaser, the founder of MediaShift, is working with us to explore new business models and the rise of philanthropic support for local journalism for the Knight Foundation. 
  • Sarah Lutman and her team at 8 Bridges Workshop—we’ll be building on our successful previous collaborations for Knight, MIF, and the Wikimedia Foundation for some new projects launching later this year.

A fond farewell to:

  • Nancy Watzman, our former director of strategic initiatives, who is now directing the Colorado Media Project. We look forward to working with her more in her new role, and via her own consulting firm, Lynx LLC.
  • Angelica Das, our longtime senior associate, who’s now the senior program associate for engaged journalism at the Democracy Fund. We also look forward to working with her in this new role.