Announcing “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism” Awardees

The Agora Journalism Center, the gathering place for innovation in communication and civic engagement, at University of Oregon’s School of Journalism & Communication, is pleased to announce the awardees of “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism.”

With funding from The Robert Bosch Foundation and the News Integrity Initiative, the “Engaging Communities” project aims to achieve cross-border collaboration with engagement practitioners in the media. The project will support media outlets focused on building connections and trust with their communities. Building on a successful model from the 2018 “Finding Common Ground” project, four media outlets from Europe and four from the U.S. were selected to receive over €10,000 in project and mobility support to expand on their community engagement projects. The awardees will also attend two facilitated sessions with the cohort to share best practices and recognize opportunities for collaboration.

The selection committee, which included members of the Engagement Lab at Emerson College and the European Journalism Centre, reviewed over 60 proposals from which eight winners were selected.

The “Engaging Communities” projects will work collaboratively to reflect on how to assess and articulate the value and impact of their engagement work by utilizing the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide (RPG) which was co-developed by the Engagement Lab and the Agora Journalism Center along with the participants in last year’s “Finding Common Ground” initiative. More information about the RPG can be found in the latest Agora Journalism Center report, “Building Engagement: A Report on Supporting the Practice of Relational Journalism.”

Similar to the Finding Common Ground initiative, each Engaging Communities project leader/project representative will also visit a fellow participant’s project in order to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations of their engagement work. To get a sense of how this works, check out this video. This year’s selected projects will also receive mentorship and guidance from leading engagement practitioners.

Here is how the Engaging Communities awardees describe their projects:

  • Are We Safe? (The News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina) – What scares us? What are we afraid of – for ourselves, our families, our communities? What keeps us up at night? Recently, we have noticed that worry, stress, and fear are most often the themes underlying the questions we receive through comments, social media, phone calls and emails to our newsroom, and through our current project using Hearken. There is deep concern about all types of serious issues: crime, affordable housing, bad leadership. That audience feedback is why we decided to launch “Are We Safe?” This year-long project will encompass stories that address our region’s fears and concerns, from infrastructure to personal safety issues to job security. Every story will examine readers’ personal experiences, statistics, potential solutions, and, most importantly, accountability. To increase trust, transparency and mutual understanding, we will include readers in ride alongs with journalists. We also are planning four community listening events so that our audiences can discuss their concerns.
    • Project Co-Leads: Dawn Vaughan and Anna Johnson
    • Mentor: Andrea Wenzel, Temple University
  • DN Más Cerca (Diario de Navarra, Pamplona, Navarra, Spain) – Diario de Navarra, a local paper founded in 1903, has always been focused on serving the Navarrese community and working for its better understanding. “DN Mas Cerca” aims to build connections and trust. We approach the community as active citizens and invite them to shape our journalism. In order to listen and co-create we have designed a relational engagement model that allows us to be more relevant and achieve a positive impact. A pilot project has been implemented in a village of 6,000 citizens. How we did it: Developing trust in an ongoing process that involves listening, validating, co-designing, action, impact and measurement. Inspirational sessions with a multidisciplinary team with journalists, sociologists and talent experts. Face to face meetings with neighbors to identify and understand their key needs interests, goals and challenges as a community. A conversational scenery where dialogues and connections among them could be held and inspiration could be moved to action.
    • Project Lead: Estefania Nicolas
    • Mentor: Ashley Alvarado, KPCC
  • “Ehrenamt” volunteering newsletter (Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, Germany) – One in five Berliners, 800.000 people, are involved in volunteering. As Berlin’s major local paper, Tagesspiegel has been continuously reporting on this community, dedicating one page every week to volunteering and civic engagement. During the annual “volunteer days”, founded in 2011 by Tagesspiegel, hundreds of Berliners get in touch with local volunteer initiatives by participating in park clean-ups, cooking meals at the homeless shelter, or giving after-school lessons to refugee kids. Our annual fundraising campaign encourages readers to donate to community projects (425.000 euros this year). To strengthen this network in a digital age, we are launching a monthly newsletter with news stories, interviews with local initiatives, and classified ads for volunteer organizations. Newsletters are integral to our local reporting: every week, 12 “Leute” newsletters report on the 12 districts of Berlin; every morning, the “Checkpoint” newsletter greets readers with news roundup.
  • Gathering Against Violence (Illinois Public Media/Illinois Newsroom (RJC), Champaign-Urbana & Danville, IL) – I would like to continue my engagement work with gun violence survivors and host a series of World Cafe style events in Danville and Champaign, Illinois where community members will discuss strategies for solving community violence (particularly gun violence) with their City Councils and Mayors. Illinois Public Media hosted World Cafe style dinner and conversation events on gun violence in anticipation of the April 2 municipal elections. Community members worked with journalists to build questionnaires for local elected office candidates, asking how they plan to address the gun violence issue and the many community factors that increase the prevalence of violence. City Council and Mayoral candidates answered these questionnaires and we used them as our primary election coverage. Now it is time for the newly elected City Council Persons and Mayors to hold true to the commitments they laid out in the campaign rhetoric. This grant will support events that turn rhetoric into action
  • How to Engage Conflict-Affected Community (Democracy & Freedom Watch, Georgia) – I’m a reporter at Democracy & Freedom Watch, Tbilisi-based bilingual (English and Georgian) news website which is focused on covering issues related to democratic development and human rights in Georgia. DFWatch is perhaps the sole news media in the country that covers the very coherent community of people commuting through conflict line, which separates breakaway Abkhazia with Georgia proper. Their number varies between 5 to 12 thousand. A large majority have a status of IDP and live in settlements adjacent to the conflict line. The goal is to establish a mechanism to extract opinions and problems and seek their solutions of community. To this end, we plan to: Host meetings with community members; Vitalize conversation via creating FB group which will work as a main platform of communication; Establish a core group of community activists, bloggers and socially active youths, and train them in grassroots activism; Host a Facebook live streams with decision-makers.
    • Project Lead: Malkhaz Gagua
    • Mentor: Ivan Sigal, Global Voices
  • Quartiers Connectés (Rue89 Strasbourg, Strasbourg, France) – The goal of Quartier connectés is to build trust in media within popular neighborhoods of Strasbourg. Because in these areas, people only see journalists next to policemen or firemen, they tend to assimilate journalists as a part of a “system” they globally mistrust. Therefore our journalists go inside these neighborhoods and invite the inhabitants to discuss their issues with them, freely, outside of any timing nor frame, in open meetings we call “conférence de rédaction ouvertes” (open news conferences). The inhabitants have a chance to meet journalists, talk to them, exchange information and participate in the news building process. During the discussion, they understand what’s newsworthy within their testimonials and how journalists will work upon these topics. Then they see their issues published alongside other topics from the global city. They feel they are a part of the global community, connected, and that’s how we build trust.
  • Seattle Globalist Community Newsroom (The Seattle Globalist, Seattle, WA) – The Seattle Globalist’s coverage areas are immigrant communities, communities of color and other communities underrepresented in media. We recently updated our strategic plan to emphasize coverage led by the needs of our target communities. One strategy to increase our public outreach and transparency is through “Community Newsrooms” targeted to our coverage communities. For this project, we envision a pilot of three public forums from August to October. If they’re successful, we will expand to other communities. We would work with leaders of a specific target community on a two-hour forum. This will include a short talk by a guest speaker from that community, and the rest of the session would consist of “talk sessions” with journalists (our freelancers or other guest reporters) around three or four specific questions meant to evoke concrete stories and story ideas — from news to features to profiles — generated and led by people from the communities we cover.
    • Project Lead: Venice Buhain
    • Mentor: Madeleine Bair, Free Press
  • Why Utah? — East West Series (The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City, Utah) – Salt Lake City is, in many ways, a tale of two places. The East Bench along the Wasatch range is predominantly white, wealthy and Mormon and ‘known’ as Utah’s center of political, social and economic power. The West Side corridor is the most racially diverse area of our historically homogenous state, known for the challenges that stem from inequity. In many respects, the West Side is the future of Utah; the East Bench is less so. These two parts of our city do not know each other well, if at all. For the past 9 months, The Tribune has hosted the Why Utah? Facebook group to bridge the gap between Utahns of different backgrounds and beliefs. We are encouraging Utahns to talk about what’s happening in their neighborhoods and how it’s being represented in the media. We plan to bring this conversation off social media and live into the public to increase dialogue, understanding and trust. Why Utah? will serve as a launch pad for expanded conversations and media coverage.

Designing for the Ear: The Best of Podcasts and Audio Storytelling

Here’s a helpful resource and landing page for Design Week 2019 panel titled “Designing for the Ear: The Best of Podcasts and Audio Storytelling.” More information about the panel can be found here and here.

Panelists & Moderator:

The How
Because we’ll be spending much of the panel focused on some advanced techniques in audio storytelling, we’ve provided some foundational information to get you started in launching a podcast:

The What

We’ll update this page to reflect any additional resources and helpful information that comes up before and during the DWP19 event.


Building Engagement: A Report on Supporting the Practice of Relational Journalism

This report is the outcome of a collaboration between the Agora Journalism Center at the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication and the Engagement Lab at Emerson College in Boston. It reflects the melding of our respective missions—the Agora Journalism Center’s mission of supporting and researching the intersections of media innovation and civic engagement, and the Engagement Lab’s mission of designing for civic learning and action.

In these pages, we describe what we learned from collaborating on the Finding Common Ground project. That initiative brought together seven teams of journalists from across the U.S., U.K. and Europe who aimed to create meaningful dialogue around pressing public problems, ranging from affordable housing to prisoner reentry, and from a diversity of geographies, spanning rural Kentucky to post-communist Lithuania. Working with these remarkable projects provided a unique opportunity for us to design a framework for journalists who are engaging people in face-to-face conversations, sometimes difficult ones across lines of political and cultural differences – a piece of journalistic practice often ignored or misunderstood. A key concept guiding this work is the notion of relational engagement: journalism that focuses on engaging with people as members of communities, not just as “audiences.”

In this report, we present the Reflective Practice Guide, a methodology for documenting and reflecting on community engagement efforts and impacts, so that journalists and the organizations they work for will be better able to assess the value of doing relational engagement work. The guide grew out of a previous study by the Engagement Lab that looked at how a range of practitioners from government, NGOs and news organizations sought to build trust with their changing constituents. Here we refine that work to a specific community of practice, highlighting the unique challenges and opportunities engaged journalism presents. We strongly believe that the future of journalism will hinge on the way organizations build and maintain relationships with communities. And managers and funders need to take notice because this work often requires different skills than traditional journalistic practice. The insights in this report and the tools we provide do not solve the problem, but they are building blocks towards pushing the institution of journalism to recognize that there is a problem.

At a time when journalists are grappling with eroding trust in media and finding new ways to build connections with the communities they serve, we offer a concrete way of talking about and documenting relational engagement. We hope that these tools are valuable to journalists, academics, and engagement practitioners. Please take a look, try things out, and start the conversation!

— Regina G. Lawrence, Executive Director, Agora Journalism Center
— Andrew DeVigal, Associate Director, Agora Journalism Center
— Eric Gordon, Faculty Director, Engagement Lab

Engaging Communities: Call for Applications

With trust in the media weakening on both sides of the Atlantic, journalism is under pressure to reinvent itself in order to fulfill its vital role in safeguarding democracy. News media organizations are recognizing the importance of engaging the public through storytelling, transparent newsrooms, and community outreach projects.

Are you interested in expanding an existing engagement project? With funding from Robert Bosch Stiftung and News Integrity Initiative, the University of Oregon’s Agora Journalism Center is offering eight mini-grants across Europe and North America to fund community engagement activities.

The project, “Engaging Communities: Reflecting on the Work of Engaged Journalism,” aims to achieve cross-border collaboration with engagement practitioners in the media by supporting existing projects focused on building connections and trust with their communities.  We aim to convene projects that will benefit from reflecting on how to assess, demonstrate and articulate the value and impact of their relational engagement work.

Selected applicants will receive up to € 10,120 in support and mobility grant funding to expand on their engagement project as well as attend two facilitated sessions with the grantee cohort to share best practices and recognize opportunities for collaboration. Each project leader/project representative will also visit a fellow participant’s project in order to gain a deeper understanding of the day-to-day operations of their engagement work.

How to Apply

  • Prepare an application in English using the following Google Form. All applications are due by Friday, April 19 before 5 pm PT / 17:00 (GMT-8).
  • Designate a project leader who will communicate with Agora Journalism Center staff and oversee the completion of the proposed project.
  • Save the date for the initial Engaging Communities workshop in Portland, OR, June 13-14, 2019.
  • We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within news media organizations.


Selected project recipients will receive up to €10,120. This award includes the expected expenses for traveling to two cohort gatherings, one in the U.S. and one in Europe, as well as the cross-border visit to another project. Additionally, selected projects will receive mentorship and guidance from leading practitioners.


  • Participating projects must be based in North America or Europe (as defined by the Council of Europe). Prior to applying, project leaders must already have some relational engagement project in the works with their community either digitally or in-real-life. We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within a news media organization.
  • In terms of time commitment, all project leaders must:
    • Be available for the Engaging Communities workshop in Portland, OR, on June 13-14, 2019.
    • Be available to visit another project site during the summer/fall of 2019 and welcome a fellow Engaging Communities participant at his or her host site.
    • Be available to participate in a follow-up Engaging Communities convening in Europe in November, 2019 (dates and location TBD).
    • Participate in monthly video conference calls with the cohort as well as their project mentors.
    • Share best practices at the Engaging Communities workshops and gatherings as well as in a brief project report.
  • Participating projects are expected to utilize the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide (RPG), which will be introduced at the first convening, to assess their engagement project.  Grantees must commit to implementing the Engaged Journalism Reflective Practice Guide according to guidelines that will be provided.


  • April 19: Deadline to submit completed applications.
  • April 30: Awardees will be informed
  • May 15: Public announcement of the awarded projects
  • June 13-14: Attend the gathering in Portland to participate in a peer-learning workshop.
  • July-October: Carry out cross-border visits.  At least one project representative per team is expected to visit one other project for mutual learning and exchange.
  • November: Attend a second gathering with the cohort in Europe. Details to come.


Please direct any additional questions not answered in our FAQ  below to Engaging Communities’ project director, Andrew DeVigal, at


How will the project leader receive the grant funds?

The grant can only be paid to the project leader and not to an organization. For administrative reasons, there can only be one grant recipient per project. The funds will be distributed in U.S. dollars via check or wire transfer (for individuals outside the United States).

After the selection process, awardees will be notified immediately. Project leaders will be asked to sign a contract (Memorandum of Understanding) with the University of Oregon that will include:

  • Duration of the project;
  • Intended purpose of the project and terms of use;
  • Confirmed participation in the launch/closing workshops and cross-border visits;
  • End-of-project review: brief report on the project implemented, including lessons learned from the workshops and cross-border visit.

How can the grant money be used?

The grant money can be used in any way to support your relational engagement project. However, a portion of the funds must be used to travel from your home to the following gatherings:

  • Portland, OR, June 13-14, to attend a kick-off workshop with the rest of the cohort.
  • The cross-border visit to another Engaging Communities project for mutual learning and exchange. These visits must happen between July and October 2019.
  • Europe in November to attend another two-day closing workshop. Details to follow.

Project leaders will be responsible for making their own travel and hotel arrangements with the grant money. We can provide a list of recommended local hotels. Meals will be provided during the workshops in Portland and Europe.

Due to administrative reasons, the funds will likely be distributed after the June gathering. Once the sub-awardee has signed the contract with the University of Oregon, funds will be distributed in a lump sum. UO Contracting takes 6-8 weeks to process, so we encourage sub-awardees to submit required paperwork and signatures in a timely manner to expedite the contract. Sub-awardees are still required to attend the June gathering in Portland even if the contract has not been fully executed.

Which taxes have to be paid?

The grant is subject to the taxation laws of your country, which might deviate significantly from the U.S. Please get professional advice on this in your home country. We cannot assist with the taxes you might have to pay.

What kinds of community engagement projects should apply?

We seek applications of engagement projects that strengthen the relationship between a local news organization and communities they serve. Project activities may include, for example, building community networks, making opportunities for dialogue between diverse community members, or equipping the public in aspects of the journalistic process. Examples of engaged journalism projects can be found on Gather’s list of case studies and featured projects.

We encourage applications from projects that are embedded within a media organization that is dedicated to building and preserving trusting relationships between journalists and the public.