The Media Learning Seminar (MLS), sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, provides community and place-based foundations and other organizations with an opportunity to learn about the changing media landscape and emerging technologies that affect their communities’ information ecosystems. The fifth annual MLS took place in Miami on February 20 – 21, 2012. After attending the conference, participants were asked to complete an online survey to collect information about their satisfaction with the event, as well as how they might apply their learning.
II. Summary of Findings
The 2012 Media Learning Seminar (MLS) comprised a diverse group of organizations that included not only community and place-based foundations, but also nonprofits, libraries, and other community organizations. By all accounts, attendees were very positive and satisfied with their MLS experience. Respondents felt that the MLS provided a good venue to learn more about the leadership role their organization can play in addressing information needs in their communities. They also felt, to a higher degree than last year, that it gave them new ideas for how their organization could take action to further address their community’s information needs.
Two primary ways that attendees hope to act on their learning include: 1) Incorporating media strategy into their community work, 2) building partnerships and collaborations with other community organizations.
Prior to the conference, all attendees received a USB drive with documents related to MLS and the information was found to be worthwhile according to survey respondents. Nearly all respondents (95%) who received the thumb drive opened at least one document, and those that viewed the documents gave most of the materials a high rating for usefulness in preparing to attend the MLS. The videos included in the pre-conference materials received lower ratings of usefulness across the board. About two thirds of those who received the USB drive shared documents with other staff internally, with their board, or with external contacts.
Of the three plenary sessions, the What’s now, What’s next plenary with Paula Ellis, Amy Webb and Michael Maness, received very high ratings by attendees. It scored the highest in all three categories assessed in the survey; relevance, learning something new, and ability to take action. When asked what they would like to hear more of in the future, respondents indicated that they want to learn from case studies that draw lessons from successful (and unsuccessful) projects and learn how to build successful relationships.
Two new aspects of this year’s MLS were the Sunday Expo and live tweeting during some of the plenary sessions. The EXPO: Tested Tools and Ideas, was attended by over half of the respondents and the majority or attendees found the information interesting and valuable. In regard to the live tweeting, respondents had mixed feelings regarding its value; 30% felt that was very valuable, while 47% felt that the live tweeting was of little of no value.
In terms of attendees thoughts about the future of Knight’s support of community information, 30 wished to see increasing knowledge sharing efforts, 23 wished that the CIC will continue in its current form, and 15 proposed that Knight provide deeper support to fewer organizations.
Overall, the 2012 MLS appears to have been a successful and effective conference in enhancing learning and understanding of community information needs and inspiring leaders to take action to address the information needs in their communities.
Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.