Who are the innovators in community media? What media are they making that is driving forward the way we think about, use and create engaging and challenging forms of community media? As the world moves forward, and the technology that supports our ability to communicate is transformed, we need to understand what drives the process of innovation in community focussed forms of communication and media. While our legacy forms of media still resonate for many – television, radio, newspapers – new and emerging communications practices need to be understood.
The development of a Community Media Innovation Index would serve as an insightful encapsulation of the role of community media as a catalyst for social transformation through innovative communication strategies. At its core, this index would be an interactive process that articulates a set of multifaceted attitudes and processes in which community media transcends traditional media paradigms, fostering cultural diversity, civic participation, and facilitating a more inclusive public dialogue. Essentially, an innovation index would explore the indispensable role of community media in enhancing the fabric of local communities. It would do this by providing platforms for diverse voices and perspectives, thus enriching public discourse and empowering marginalised people and groups.
An essential task in preparing for the establishment of an innovation index would be to examine the adaptability of community media in embracing technological advancements and new media platforms. Demonstrating such adaptability would not only ensure the relevance of community media in the rapidly evolving media landscape, but also amplify its impact on social change. By highlighting the unique position of community media in addressing pertinent social concerns—from strengthening community capacities and improving public service provision to ensuring information accessibility—an innovation index would underscore the pivotal role of community media in shaping an informed, engaged, and dynamic society.
The suggestion is that a Community Media Innovation Index would provide a nuanced understanding of community media’s contribution to societal progress, emphasising its importance as a dynamic force in the contemporary media environment as we move forward, holding dear the democratic and civic values and lessons we’ve learnt in the past, and applying them to forms of media and communication that we do not yet fully understand, which will be normal and integrated for future generations.
Definitions of Innovation
In the context of communications and media, innovation is identified through various indicators and factors, including technological developments, economic sustainability, audience research, and the impact of media regulations. The sustainability of local journalism, for example, has been profoundly altered by technological developments, making it easier and cheaper to produce content.[i] Good media need sound financing for economic sustainability, which is especially challenging for smaller, local media outlets.[ii] Audience research is another important aspect, as it needs to go beyond reach and scope to understand the evolving media consumption patterns.[iii] Media regulations, governmental interference, and intense competition among media outlets and digital disruption also play a significant role in identifying the need for innovation in the media sector. These factors collectively contribute to the identification of innovation in communications and media.[iv]
An ‘innovation index’ for community media and community-focused communications would involve a comprehensive assessment of various innovation indicators specific to these sectors. While the existing Global Innovation Index (GII) focuses on innovation at the national level, a community-focused innovation index would need to consider indicators such as community engagement, media diversity, technological adoption in community media, local content creation, and the impact of communication initiatives on the community’s social and economic development.[v] This index could also encompass factors like the use of emerging technologies, local talent development, and the ability to address community-specific challenges through innovative communication strategies.[vi] To create such an index, it would be essential to engage stakeholders from community media, communication experts, and local communities to identify the most relevant and impactful indicators.[vii]
- The European Innovation Scoreboard provides a comparative analysis of innovation performance in EU countries, other European countries, and regional neighbours, focusing on various dimensions such as research systems, firm investment in research and development, and use of information technologies.[viii]
- The Global Innovation Index (GII) ranks countries on their innovation capabilities based on various indicators, including science and technology clusters, innovation performance at different income levels, and innovation leaders.[ix]
- The Community Innovation Survey (CIS) is a reference survey on innovation in enterprises, providing information on the innovativeness of business economy sectors, innovation drivers, barriers, outcomes, and cooperation.[x],[xi]
Given the lack of a specific innovation index for community media and community-focused communications in the search results, the development of such an index would require a tailored approach to capture the unique aspects of innovation in these sectors.
Community Innovation Challenges
Community media organisations face several challenges in promoting innovation, including resistance to change, cultural disruption, financial sustainability, and limited access to funding. These challenges can hinder the adoption of new technologies, collaboration, and the development of innovative content. Additionally, media regulations, governmental interference, and the need for sustainable funding can impact the ability of community media organisations to foster innovation. Furthermore, the intense competition among media outlets and digital disruption contribute to the challenges faced by community media in driving innovation. Overcoming these obstacles requires addressing issues related to cultural disruption, financial sustainability, regulatory environments, and access to funding, while also fostering a culture of openness to change and collaboration within the community media sector.
The challenges faced by community media organisations in promoting innovation include:
- Resistance to change and cultural disruption, which can hinder the adoption of new technologies and innovative content.[xii]
- Financial sustainability and limited access to funding, especially for smaller, local media outlets, impacting their ability to drive innovation.[xiii],[xiv]
- Media regulations, governmental interference, and intense competition among media outlets and digital disruption, which pose obstacles to innovation within the community media sector.[xv],[xvi]
To overcome resistance to change, community media organisations can employ several strategies, including effective communication, addressing the benefits of change, and understanding the root causes of resistance. Here are some ways to overcome resistance to change:
- Communicate the Benefits: It is essential to communicate the benefits of the proposed changes to all stakeholders. This helps in creating a shared understanding of the positive outcomes that the change can bring.[xvii]
- Identify the Source of Resistance: Understanding the root cause of resistance is crucial in developing effective strategies to address it.[xviii] By conducting surveys, interviews, or focus groups, organisations can gain insights into the concerns and fears driving resistance to change.[xix]
- Articulate the Advantages of Change: Ensuring clear and consistent communication is essential to overcoming resistance. By articulating the advantages of the proposed changes and their potential impact, organisations can help stakeholders see the value in the change.
By employing these strategies, community media organisations can create a more inclusive and adaptive culture that is aligned with their values and effectively overcome resistance to change. Some common reasons for resistance to change in community media organisations include:
- Cultural Disruption: Change can lead to cultural disruption, challenging existing norms and ways of doing things. This can create resistance, as people are naturally conservative and find disruption difficult to foster.[xx]
- Mistrust and Lack of Confidence: Employees may resist change if they mistrust the motives behind it or lack confidence in its success.[xxi]
- Emotional Responses: Change can evoke emotional responses, leading to resistance due to fear, anxiety, or a sense of loss.[xxii]
- Lack of Communication: Inadequate communication about the reasons for change and how it will be implemented can lead to resistance.[xxiii]
- Fear of Failure: Employees may resist change due to a fear of the unknown and the potential for failure associated with the proposed changes.[xxiv]
- Existing Organisation Culture and Norms: Deeply rooted organisational culture and norms can create resistance to new ways of doing things, including new processes, leadership, team structure, or technology.
Understanding these reasons for resistance is crucial for community media organisations to develop effective strategies to manage and overcome resistance to change.
Innovative Community Media Practices
Some examples of innovative communication and media practices include:
- Use of Emerging Technologies: Emerging technologies such as virtual reality, wearable journalism, and video creation technology are revolutionising the media industry, changing how content is gathered, delivered, and consumed.[xxv]
- Adoption of New Media Platforms: The rapid development and adoption of new technology has changed the face of communication through the shift from traditional media to new media, including the use of web-based and mobile apps for news dissemination.[xxvi]
- Product, Process, and Social Innovation: Media innovation includes product innovation (e.g., new content formats), process innovation (e.g., new ways of content creation), and social innovation (e.g., using media services for social ends).[xxvii]
- Creative Communication Strategies: Creative ways to communicate information to employees, such as using videos, internal communication campaigns, and other engaging content, are being employed to improve employee engagement and information retention.[xxviii]
- Diverse Communication Technology Examples: A wide range of communication technology examples, including phone, email, blogs, social media, vlogs, podcasts, livestream, and online chat, are being used in various work settings.[xxix]
These examples would need to demonstrate the diverse and evolving nature of innovative communication and media practices, indicating how they encompass technological advancements, creative strategies, and the adoption of new platforms. To promote innovation in community communications and public media engagement practices, several strategies can be employed. These include:
- Strategic Community Management: Engaging new, existing, and potential community members through strategic community management can foster innovation in community media.[xxx]
- Repositioning and Paradigmatic Innovation: Repositioning media for new target audiences and embracing paradigmatic innovation, which includes changes in mindset, values, and business models, can drive innovation in media organisations.[xxxi]
- Adoption of Emerging Technologies: Embracing emerging technologies such as virtual reality, wearable journalism, and video creation technology can revolutionise media practices and enhance public engagement.[xxxii]
- Consistent, Accurate, & Informative Engagement: Providing consistent, accurate, and informative engagement through various communication channels, including online and offline methods, can expand community engagement and promote innovation.[xxxiii], [xxxiv]
- Overcoming Cultural Disruption: Overcoming resistance to cultural disruption by communicating the benefits of change, challenging assumptions, and providing education and training can create a more adaptive and inclusive culture, fostering innovation in community media.[xxxv],[xxxvi]
By implementing these strategies, community media organisations can effectively promote innovation in their communication practices and public media engagement.
Encouraging Risk Taking
Community media organisations can encourage experimentation and risk-taking in their communication strategies through the following approaches:
- Providing a ‘Living Room’ for Meetings and Dialogue: By creating a space for open dialogue and exchange of ideas, community media organisations can foster an environment that encourages experimentation and risk-taking in communication strategies.[xxxvii]
- Experimenting with Communication on Different Channels: Embracing a multichannel approach and experimenting with communication on different platforms can provide opportunities for trying new strategies and taking calculated risks in reaching and engaging the community.[xxxviii]
- Prioritising Direct and Personal Communication: Emphasising direct and personal communication with the community can create a more intimate and responsive environment, enabling the organisation to test new approaches and take risks in a more controlled setting.[xxxix]
- Cultural Disruption and Values-Led Approach: Integrating a values-led approach into cultural disruption can help overcome resistance to change and create a more adaptive environment, allowing for experimentation and risk-taking in communication strategies.[xl]
By implementing these strategies, community media organisations can create an environment that supports and encourages experimentation and risk-taking in their communication strategies, ultimately fostering innovation and growth.[xli] Furthermore, experimentation and risk-taking in community media communication strategies can yield several benefits, including:
- Reaching a Wider Audience: Experimentation with different communication channels and content production techniques can increase the potential for community media to reach beyond its traditional boundaries, empowering a wider range of people to contribute to, participate in, and actively shape their media landscapes.
- Enlarging Democratic Impact: By reaching a wider audience, community media can enlarge its democratic impact, allowing for increased citizen participation and engagement in public discourse.
- Improved Community Engagement: Experimenting with communication on different channels and providing direct and personal communication with the community can lead to improved community engagement, as it caters to diverse communication preferences and fosters a stronger relationship with the audience.
- Empowering Volunteers and Enthusiasts: Experimentation and risk-taking can make media production a rewarding and fun activity for volunteers, leading to increased enthusiasm and active involvement, which in turn can enhance the effectiveness of community media projects.
- Adapting to the Changing Media Environment: Embracing experimentation and risk-taking allows community media to adapt to the changing media environment, including the adoption of new technologies and the development of innovative content formats.
- Multi-Channel Communication: Embracing a multichannel approach and experimenting with communication on different platforms to cater to diverse communication preferences and reach a wider audience.
- Direct and Personal Communication: Prioritising direct and personal communication with the community to foster a stronger relationship with the audience and improve community engagement.
- Adoption of New Media Tools and Developments: Providing opportunities for all citizens to learn about new media tools and developments, empowering a wider range of people to contribute to and actively shape their media landscapes.
These benefits highlight the importance of embracing experimentation and risk-taking in community media communication strategies to foster innovation, community engagement, and a wider democratic impact. They illustrate how community media organisations can successfully experiment and take risks in their communication strategies to enhance community engagement, reach a wider audience, and adapt to the changing media environment.
In conclusion, a Community Media Innovation Index would serve as a foundational piece in redefining and elevating the discourse surrounding community media. It has the potential to successfully identify critical issues pertinent to the development of an index that measures innovation within this sector. These issues range from the need for embracing technological advancements and fostering cultural diversity, to enhancing civic participation and ensuring accessibility of information for all.
We can see, thus, the necessity of shifting perspectives on community media, moving away from traditional views to recognise its significant role in driving social change. It emphasises the importance of community media in empowering marginalised voices, contributing to community resilience, and acting as a vehicle for public service, especially in underrepresented areas.
However, the journey doesn’t end with the identification of these issues. There is an urgent need for these matters to be further discussed and explored in open forums. Such discussions should aim at challenging the established norms and perceptions of community media. By bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders – from media practitioners and community leaders to policymakers and the general public – these forums can foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of community media’s value in today’s society.
Ultimately, the goal is to create a more comprehensive and nuanced understanding of community media’s impact and potential. This understanding is crucial for developing effective strategies and policies that support and enhance the role of community media as a pivotal agent of innovation and social transformation. The development of a Community Media Innovation Index is a step towards this goal, providing a valuable resource for those seeking to champion the cause of community media in a rapidly changing media landscape.