The River Partnership is an association of community foundations located in cities and towns along the Mississippi River. With a watershed of over a million square miles, the river is the kind of natural resource that risks being everyone's treasure and no one's concern. The River Partnership, a second round winner of the Knight Community Information Challenge, will launch six projects that will solve a central problem: residents can't act until they care, and they can't care until they know. Each project will make use of the web and social media to get people engaged with the river that flows through their back yard.
Here are some thumbnails of a few of the projects that will be launched in the coming year:
Community Foundation of the Great River Bend will launch "Quad Cities Wild Places," which is modeled after Chicago Wilderness, which helps people in the Chicagoland area get outside into Chicago's hidden wilderness areas. Quad Cities Wild Places will develop a website with maps, educational material, and even a childrens' "Wild Places Passport," to encourage families to get outside.
The Community Foundation of Northwest Missisippi doesn't yet have a name for its project, but it does have big ambitions -- it calls the project "A Huffington Post for the Mississippi Delta. The surrounding region has no regional newspaper or television station, and the community foundation hopes to bring together research findings and the voices of residents.
The IQ Magazine Community Foundation Consortium backs IQ Magazine, which turns each issue into a deep dive on serious issues facing the residents of Minnesota, including the rise and spread of methamphetamine addiction, affordable housing, racism, renewable energy, and poverty. With support from the River Partnership, IQ will focus an issue on the Mississippi River and use digital media to spread the word beyond its traditional base of print subscribers.
The Moline Foundation will be using digital media and face-to-face social networking to focus the area's residents on one of the biggest projects the city has seen in the past decade: the construction of a new campus for a public university. Residents hope that the campus will boost the percentage of college graduates in the area -- and they also hope that will attract interest from employers to locate in what has been a hard-hit area where unemployment is high. The foundation will co-sponsor public forums, and students in television production classes at the university will be given inexpensive videocameras to produce short, shareable videos that illustrate public sentiment on the future of the campus and the region. Residents will then be able to vote online for the video showing their favorite idea for new development of the riverfront campus.
The Saint Croix Valley Foundation has a goal: they want to create a National Heritage Area in their region. They'll be using funding from the Knight Civic Information Challenge to expand their outreach in the community beyond traditional approaches and into social media.
The photo above illustrates a Mississippi crossing near Moline, IL. The photo was taken by Mika Jarvinen and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License. You can see the original here.