The “Tipping Point” – A Strategy to Motivate South Sacramento County Community Reporters to Create “Neighborhood News Bureaus” … (Part 1 of Five Part Series)
By Ron Cooper

Since last October, with our first application for Knight Foundation “News Challenge” grant funding, and continuing on into the future, Access Sacramento is embarked on a purposeful partnership with five other nonprofit agencies. They are: La Familia Counseling Center, Asian Resources, Florin Creek Community Center, Valley Hi Library and The Pannell Center in Meadowview. Our primary goal is to develop new ways of community “story-telling” and media distribution by better utilizing existing technology (cable television, radio, and “Internet streaming”) and reaching out to embrace more web based content sharing, cell phone technologies, on-demand/on-line viewing, and video “blogging”.

During the past 25 years, we have always attempted to stay “current” with the latest technological advances challenging Sacramento County residents – particularly those peoples traditionally overlooked by commercial media. The Board and staff of Access Sacramento believe “NNB’s” connects to the “next great thing” – broadband Internet distribution of user created content. The Knight Foundation agreed, selecting our proposal in the top 7% of 2,400 international applications. But without Knight funding, how to we proceed from here? And why South Sacramento County as the initial target area? Wouldn’t it be easier to introduce a new “high tech” idea in an area of the County with higher incomes and households with a high percentage of Internet users already established? Yes, but who promised this was going to be easy.

By partnering with five trusted organizations in South Sacramento County, the NNB Project attempts to address several significant and historic concerns.

Ethnic Diversity: The geographic area we are focused upon for the initial project is roughly the communities located within Supervisor Jimmy Yee’s district. The area is known as the most ethnically diverse population in the region.

Sharing of Vital Information: No community newspaper serves this geographic area and local residents, including Sacramento City Council woman Bonnie Pannell, observe that commercial media too often seek out negative stories about “South Sac” and fail to cover positive stories.

Relevance: In studies of Internet and technology usage, approximately 60% of any general population actively use Internet based resources and 40%, for a wide variety of reasons, have not. Further study has determined that in addition to cost, technophobia, training, differences in language, etc. this 40% often do not see the relevance of online content to their daily lives and reflect an unusually high percentage of persons-of-color.We believe South Sacramento residents struggle with Internet usage. We believe broadband access to the Internet and knowledge of how to use Internet data is critical to personal success and to our democracy. Let’s start our NNB project by providing services to those communities our statistical evidence shows have the greatest need. If we are right, those skilled in Internet use will soon become contributors, once we achieve a community “tipping point”.

Generations Interact Differently: Young people (under 35) have grown up with computer, cell phone, and other communication technologies at their fingertips. They demand a high degree of fast interaction with electronic data and immediate availability of information is critical. Older generations seek out information using “old technology” and interact in a more passive style – reading the newspaper or watching TV for information. Each generation views the other with a certain degree of mistrust based upon how their information gathering styles differentiate one from the other.

Applying These Insights to “The Tipping Point”: Malcolm Gladwell noted in his 2006 book “Tipping Point”, that to make major changes in a population, you need to identify a relatively few people who have unique sets of social skills. By identifying “connectors, mavens, and salespeople” (watch for definitions in next week’s newsletter or seek out info on Wikipedia for “Tipping Point, the book”) and by providing them with new information, a “tipping point” can be achieved similar to the way “epidemics” spread a disease.

Over the next five weeks, Amy Lawrence will profile our five NNB partner organization beginning with the Pannell Center in Meadowview. Next week in Part 2 of 5, I will share the “tipping point” principles I believe will help us continue to “make a difference” now and into the future.