Changemakers Alliance: The Potential

Media that brings Minnesotans together to ask questions in pursuit of perspectives and solutions about today’s challenges.

The vision: Design a first-ever collaborative journalism model that features progressive story-telling directed by Minnesota members who care about equity, justice, trauma, and ecosystems. An underlying goal of Changemakers Alliance is to reduce stereotyped divisions of urban-to-rural residents.

Why will members invest time and funds? There is a fault line in modern media. Much of today’s popular coverage gives headlines and debates about problems, rather than provide solutions and action. Changemakers Alliance will spend its first year focused on four key social issues: balancing equity, transforming justice, healing trauma, and restoring ecosystems. People who are tired of fractured communities widened by polarized viewpoints in media are looking for impactful storytelling — inspiration and integrity about solutions.

A new form of collaborative media seeks to repair limitations and distrust of media by engaging community in story development. Changemakers Alliance is about engaging active members in a story-sharing process that is statewide, fact-based, and asks questions to learn the strengths and challenges of solutions.

Sample of approach in housing

Step 1. Identify Preliminary Members: January/February

Engaged team members are determined in two preliminary virtual conversations about Fears and Legislative Priorities. Discussions are held on the second Saturday morning and second Wednesday afternoon of each month, to give participants a choice of timing. Information from surveys and discussions determine interest in one of two general topics: Transforming Justice (public safety reform, healing trauma, crisis response) and Ecolution (equity, ecosystems, economies). 

CAll working groups will form based on the social issues a majority of participants care about solving. Preliminary ideas: What is needed to welcome Afghan refugees to Minnesota? What steps are be taken to solve the housing crisis? What support is needed for restorative agriculture practices, including with BIPOC and emerging farmers?

How: Advisory board of 16 leaders from around the state are given wording to invite people to that month’s session.  Goal: Engage 50 active people statewide by February; involve 100 by March. Special recruitment will be made to solicit non-Twin Cities participants. Minnesota Women’s Press already has a network of people around the state who trust our intentions. 

Step 2. Create CAll Newsletter for Growth (Feb-July)

Identify the themes, questions, and concerns that emerged during the first month of conversation in a newsletter. Send it to all Minnesota Women’s Press readers, advisory board leaders, and early members. The intention will be to double participants for each month, raise startup revenue, and showcase the creative potential of collaborative journalism.

Multimedia stories from working groups that emerge from Step 1 will be offered on the platform and cross-promoted with the print magazine, which reaches more than 25,000 people per month. 

How to Grow: Ongoing efforts will be highlighted in Changemakers Alliance newsletter twice a month and conversations will be promoted in Minnesota Women’s Press magazine. Goal: Engage at least 500 people as $5/month newsletter subscribers by September.

Sample of Ecolution newsletter, October 2020. Changemakers Alliance news will offer an overview of the issues teams are working on, status reports, action steps, links to eventual stories.

Step 3. Generate Revenue

For start-up funds, we will seek $100K from foundation support and $20K from membership fees and donations. This will enable us to pay for editors/reporters/designers to work with CAll teams ($20K), and kick off a special “salon” series featuring advisory board members, which is designed to raise memberships at the $150/year level ($5K) with topics such as:

Revenue will pay for story developers/writers whose content appears on ($35K); website and database development and survey tools (perhaps Mentimeter, Hearken) to track member interests and locations ($20K); and the hiring of a Collaboration Coordinator ($40K). The Collaboration Coordinator will oversee the membership database, solicitation of $250 bulk memberships in Greater Minnesota communities, marketing outreach, and eventually develop transcripts of monthly forums via YouTube clips, communicate with CAll teams, and connect with Greater Minnesota networks for growth.

Funding levels include:

As of January 5, 2022, $6.2K has been raised.

Step 4. Assess Member-led Journalism Model (August)

The core advisors for Changemakers Alliance development will analyze the successes and challenges from the first half of the year. 

Step 5: Grow the Process (September through 2023)

Editors/reporters dedicated to the Changemakers Alliance development will work with teams on the next set of solutions stories, showcasing perspectives and solutions from around the state that address questions and concerns raised by members. What are the problems to be solved? Who are the solution-makers? What are the story angles, perspectives, and next steps? The primary criteria is that the reporting is not limited to one story in one community — it requires challenges that need a widespread collective effort. For example, how are survivors of gender-based violence being served, protected, and healed in different parts of the state?

One option is to create virtual training modules about how to write impactful and accurate stories. What inspires connection, trust, and action? Members at all levels can learn about the impact of fact-checking and editing as part of the process. (e.g., Google News Initiative and a news team in India developed fact-check training for thousands of residents.)

2023 Goal: Increase subscriptions to Changemakers Alliance newsletter to 5K paying members. If CAll is popular and sustainable in 2023, work will begin by advisory board members to create a co-op structure that offers ownership to statewide members. Shared Capital Cooperative is a Minnesota-based organization that can offer funding toward legal structure work.

Examples of What Changemakers Alliance Members Could Do Next

Authentic public safety and reduction of crime; improved response to mental health, addiction, and domestic violence

Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership, Saint Peter

Problem: A treatment facility doctor and a Fifth Judicial District judge recognized that drug court participants were struggling. Independent stable housing was needed for women with children, with services and a landlord that understood their situations.

What could Changemakers Alliance do? Tell more of the story of how this partnership came to be, how it works, challenges faced, and how the model might be replicated in other communities. What spaces statewide serve in this capacity, what are the strengths and challenges, and what prevents more successes from happening?

Saint Paul’s 48-member Community-First Public Safety Commission

Problem: How can Saint Paul reshape its approach to public safety? A collaboration was created with business leaders, activists, school administrators, tech entrepreneurs, police officers, young adults, The Citizens League, The Robina Institute of Criminal Law at the University of Minnesota

What could Changemakers Alliance do? Tell more of the story of how public feedback was culled, how it turned into recommendations, and how those ideas are playing out. What are other cities doing to improve public safety by reducing crime and responding to mental health/ addiction/ domestic violence issues that goes beyond incarcerating trauma?

Strengthening statewide equity, ecosystems, and local economies

Angela Dawson, 40 Acre Co-op, Sandstone

Problem: How to solve for Black farmers who have been squeezed out of their legacy career because of lack of access to capital otherwise loaned to white farmers

What could Changemakers Alliance do? Follow the story of how BIPOC and emerging farmers are struggling, how 40 Acre Co-op is structured, what it does. What could be served with what resources?

Afghan Resettlement Collective

Problem: How to welcome more than 800 people to Minnesota communities who are escaping from Afghanistan.

What can Changemakers Alliance do? Tell the ongoing story of needs related to education, housing, workforce, meeting basic needs. Share the stories of Afghan mothers.