Sneak Peak Webinar with QnA [Video]


Recorded: December 20, 2018  

Webinar Transcript 


Welcome! We’re so glad you’ve joined us today for a sneak peek and to learn more about the new Community Commons platform.

My name is Adam and before we get started, let’s go over a few logistics.


Today we’re using GoToWebinar for this presentation. You’re all muted but please feel free to post any questions in the right hand panel. We’re going to spend time today answering questions you might have, but if something occurs to you, please drop your question in the panel before you forget.


Today, we’ll be discussing the changes to Community Commons that are on the way at the end of the month:  what you can expect, and how you can be a part of the process. We will leave plenty of time at the end for questions including how you can get the data you need for your community reports.  

I’d now like to introduce my colleague, Erin Barbaro. Erin will share a bit about our journey with Community Commons: both past and future. Erin has been a part of the Community Commons team since it began. If you’ve ever sent and received an email to The Commons; or if you were part of a Community Commons hub, then you may already know Erin. It has been my pleasure to work alongside of Erin and to introduce her to you now.



Hi Everyone my name is Erin. As Adam said, I’ve been a part of the Community Commons team since before it was The Commons. The site opened back in 2010 with a single map and it has been my honor to watch the site grow to over 70 thousand members

In January, we are opening a new chapter. And, on behalf of The entire Community Commons team, I would like to express my gratitude to you and all of our members. Since the announcement of the new site, I’ll admit we’ve been a bit overwhelmed by the response. There have been hundreds of chats, phone calls, and emails. And, of course, lots of questions.  Most of this webinar is going to be devoted to answering those questions.

Something else has happened during this transition. Something that really surprised and truly touched us.

Many people have reached out asking - not what they could get from The Commons - but what they could give. One of the most frequent questions has been: How can I help? We hope to answer that today. But first --

Thank you. Thank you for asking how to help. Thank you for being a part of this journey. And thank you for being a member of The Commons. All your support has reinforced my personal belief that by being a part of The Commons, I am a part of something bigger - That we can all come together for the common good.

In order to understand where we are going, I’d like to look back at where we’ve been.


Origin Story

Over a decade ago, the origins of The Commons were just starting to take shape. Sitting around the table were 3 organizations:


  • Community Initiatives with expertise in facilitation and convening
  • The Center for Applied Research and Engagement Systems at  the University of Missouri with expertise in mapping and data analysis
  • And The Institute for People, Place, and Possibility (IP3), a new organization at the time,with expertise in storytelling, capacity building, and putting data and tools into context


Our three organizations had been collaborating on a number of different tools for some time to support our work around health, equity, and sustainability.  Between all of us, we had quite a bit of experience in decision support, mapping, and technology to bring all those tools to support communities in their work.

As a team, we were lucky to be a part of  - and support - many different conversations and efforts that were happening at the CDC, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, the Kellogg Foundation, Y-USA, United Ways, and many others.


We were able to participate both at the national level; as well as spend  time in communities really understanding how they were working together...and in particular seeing how communities were using the approach of collaboration and coalition building to create lasting change.


We saw a  very organic and grass roots effort forming around coalitions - an authentic collaboration between long term colleagues, friends, and neighbors.  Something that we really saw as the key to success for truly creating healthier, sustainable, and more equitable communities for the long term.


It was only natural that we asked:  How could we support skill-building and  relationships that would live beyond a funding cycle and a particular grant?  How could we connect with others outside of those vertical relationship, stringing down from a big funder at the top to an individual community at the bottom? And How could we instead build a horizontal network of people that supported one another; that built each other up and learned from one another.


We found ourselves making connections, and drawing relationships… and building bridges across different networks and - kind of - accidentally found ourselves in the position where we were helping to connect and support this movement -


We thought how can we scale this? how can we actually make this so it doesn’t require a phone call to one of us? How do we help individuals and changemakers find the information they need? Things like:


  • who else is doing this work?
  • what actions have made an impact?
  • what data has helped you make the case?
  • what successes and failures can we build from?


And we wondered...Could we build a community-focused technology framework to mirror this role of supporting communities and changemakers that we found ourselves in?


Could we actually scale this in a way that we could capture this movement, and move this idea of Community Commons in a direction  that anyone could browse, interact with and learn from?


So back in 2010 we created what we called the Map of the Movement which was a display of all of the place-based efforts around the country - trying to connect those to one another and really beginning to support that network.


This was the first map on the site what would later become known as Community Commons.


As time went on and the Map of the Movement grew more and more popular, and our user base grew, we began to hear the value in having the combination of the bridge building AND the storytelling WITH the complementary data for those who really wanted to dig in around a specific topic area.


So we actually ended up merging these pieces into The Commons and that's how it became what you see today.


But that was back in 2011. And to give you a sense of just how long ago that was from a technology perspective -  that was the year the iPhone had just surpassed the Blackberry in popularity. How many smartphones have you had since then? And how many of your children have even heard of Blackberry?


Over the last 10 years something great has happened - and a lot more websites have come up that are providing access to  data and mapping, and reporting tools, and even stories.


That is fantastic and we are thrilled that that has changed.  We want to be able to build on that momentum to support, lift up and connect people to the best available resources: stories, data, and technology. And we know there is more that could, that can, and should be done to leverage our collective impact.

Deepening Our Commitment 

And so, that brings me to where we are today. We have had an incredible journey, we’re grateful to everyone who has been a part of this. but now? Now it is time to upgrade The Commons.


So during this upgrade, we are doubling down on our commitment to that original vision. We are redesigning the site from the ground up. It’s going to become a platform for you: For Changemakers:


  • It will always be improving. It’s not going to be a one-and-done project. Our commitment is to have ongoing updates and improvements
  • It’s going to have  modern software, not aging technology. The software will mirror our vision:  open source and collaborative.
  • It’s going to have gathered resources, curated by our team, and our network to help you find the best information to create positive change.
  • And it’s going to be collaborative. No more centralized decision-making: Community Commons will be built for you and alongside of you. And your feedback will help shape the Commons
  • We are going to focus on customization not standardization. You’ll be able to create your own experience, including creating collections around topics and themes that interest you.

Unlike other software designs and releases that you may see out there, you’re not going to see a shiny, finished product.  We are going to bring you in midway through development because we want your input.


We’re here today, nearing the end of our first 6 months of development on Community Commons. In January, we’ll be starting simply: you can expect to see stories at the core, as always; you’ll see a mapping tool similar to what you’ve used in the past, with a starter list of indicators which will grow over time.

In March, you will see more indicators added and a new community indicator report function we think you’ll love, and it’s going to include data that you will help select. By June, you’ll see more toolkits and resources added, more collections, more data, and more of YOUR ideas incorporated into the site.

In addition to this, we’re working hard behind the scenes curating content. This content will help you find high quality information to create change in your communities.

Sneak Peek Screenshots


Let’s go take a SNEAK PEEK at what you can expect in just a few short weeks.


Here’s the homepage.

As always, the core of our work is centered on the stories of change from around the nation. What’s new? Well this is focused on you. Quickly find your favorites here on the left, and your saved items and account settings here in the upper right corner. You’ll also see a toggle here to turn “on” or “off” Help. If you’ve been chased around the Commons recently by our friendly Commons Otter, trying to inform you of the changes coming - you might appreciate the “off” button. But this friendly otter, when toggled on, will assist you in using the tools and features of the new site, connect you to support material, and answer your questions.

Here in the subheader you’ll notice maps, data, and stories; and an early link to the community report. Until this is available in March, this link will go to an area for helping shape the indicators included in the Community Report.

Notice on the left here, a new feature we’re very excited about: COLLECTIONS!


Collections will be curated by our team for you to browse OR created by you! Here’s an example of a collection created by a changemaker like you. Collections can include stories found on the Commons, your favorite maps and eventually - data cards. You can pull together the content that helps you paint the picture and tell a story to your stakeholders. These collections can be public or private and the kinds of content that can be included will grow overtime.


You’ll also see a map room - it should be familiar to what you’ve had in the past. The number of indicators - and features - will grow over the course of 2019. Your feedback will help prioritize the data list and functions.

Some of the new features you can expect to see include the ability to save maps to your collection and more granular data at the block group level from The American Community Survey. This new mapping environment is built on open software to better align with our mission and values. The data engine behind the scenes will be accessible via API.


By March, you’re going to begin seeing these beautiful indicator cards. These are designed to represent the data in the most meaningful way, rather than a one-size fits all data visualization. This takes time. Your feedback will be critical in prioritizing indicators. Once a data card is created, you’ll be able to select it and re-focus it on your location, add it to your collection, share it, and more.

And there could be so much more! Your feedback will help prioritize the list of additional features and functions we’ve got in the queue.


Here in this forum, you’ll be able to comment on and submit  feature requests, offer support to one another, offer lists of your favorite indicators and even get support on your curriculum. We’ve had some teachers and professors share with us that they are using Community Commons in their lesson plans. We look forward to continuing to be part of educating our country’s next generation of changemakers  


You may notice that the designing principle behind all of this is to align the technology to our original vision for The Commons: one which is for you and alongside of you. Number 1 front and center for our mission here is to support changemakers doing the work … supporting you, listening to you, building tools that make your work easier, helping you connect to each other.  and so we are here for you. You are the The Commons.


As you’ve likely learned from this webinar, Community Commons is much more than a website. It is an initiative for the common good consisting of the tools, maps, reports, and data you’re familiar with but also, a story network, facilitated initiatives around health and well-being, a partner network of thought leaders and change makers, a field builder to connect and strengthen networks, and an information hub to find resources to create change.


So here we are: The Commons platform is evolving. We’re looking forward to the next chapter, starting in January - starting very simply and growing from there. We’re going to need your help, your stories, your feedback, and your ideas. Let’s start by turning it over to Adam to hear your ideas through our facilitated Q&A. 



The first question is: will it still be free?

Yes. The Commons will always be free. In order to sustain this site, we will accept donations or contributions but it will be optional. Non-payment will not prevent you from using the the Commons.  If you are an organization who would like to sponsor indicator cards or collections around your topical focus, let us know. We need your thought partnership!


The next question is: What do I do about my community assessment?

This is a big area of concern. We get it. Until our community indicator report is fully developed in March, you need access to data. You’ve got work to do! We can point you to some great resources for indicators, including a link to the Center for Applied Research and Engagement System’s Indicator Report. As a follow-up to this webinar you can expect an email with a link to FAQs, and a resource guide for where to access reports. These are resources we would recommend and we also welcome you to share your favorites on the forum.


What happens to my hub?


If you had a hub or were a member of a Hub on Community Commons, many of these Hubs have been moved to the Engagement Network. If you have questions about a specific Hub please let us know and we can direct you.


What will happen to my saved maps and reports?

You’ll need to download any saved maps and reports from the current site before the end of the year. We’ve got more information about how to do this in our FAQs which we will send around after this webinar.


Will you still have stories?

Yes, absolutely. Stories of community change are at the core of what we do. Not only will we have stories, but we’re expanding who tells those stories. You may be already seen our Community Commons contributing writers network outreach in our newsletter and on social media, that’s because we want you! So much of the vision for the Commons is telling real stories of what’s happening in communities just like yours, but without you there are no stories, so lend us your voice. Also, the new Community Commons is optimized to tap into and share existing web-based platforms so if you have a resource you’d like us to know about, shoot us a message.


END OF TRANSCRIPT - FAQs available here


Did this help answer your question?

thumbs up
thumbs down

Thanks for the feedback! 🙏🏽