Appalshop, founded in 1969 as a War on Poverty program, is a non-profit multi-disciplinary arts and education center in the heart of Appalachia producing original films, video, theater, music and spoken-word recordings, radio, photography, multimedia, and books.
Our goals are to enlist the power of education, media, theater, music, and other arts:
* to document, disseminate, and revitalize the lasting traditions and contemporary creativity of Appalachia;
* to tell stories the commercial cultural industries don’t tell, challenging stereotypes with Appalachian voices and visions;
* to support communities’ efforts to achieve justice and equity and solve their own problems in their own ways;
* to celebrate cultural diversity as a positive social value; and
* to participate in regional, national, and global dialogue toward these ends.
Appalshop has identified the development of our online communication as the key project to address to raise our organizational capacity. Specifically focused on our innovative criminal justice national dialogue project (www.thousandkites.org) we intend to: 1) measure the strengths and weakness of our organization and network partner’s communication capacity through face-based research and sharing, 2) improve intra and inter- regional communication around pressing social and economic issues , 3) develop a new platform of communication beyond current practices, and 4) create community pride and investment in Appalachia by challenging stereotypes and letting people tell their own story in their own way.
Specifically, the backbone of building our online communication capacity is the implementation of a relationship management system, CRM, for tracking and communicating with our partners, constituents and contacts. Training staff in the use of the CRM, creating institutional best practices, migrating current contacts into the new system, and setting up internal and external processes to fully utilize this new technology our are goals for the first phase of implementation. This project would expand our ability to communicate with our community, increasing the impact and reach of our programs. In addition to the CRM, we envision the online communication project developing a monthly email newsletter, increasing the number of updates to our website, and exploring innovative ways to migrate content from our daily work (audio, video, image, and text) to our emerging online community.
Appalshop has been granted a free CRM account from the Sales Force. In 2009 our current VISTA trained staff in the use of SaleForce, migrated a ‘test batch” into SalesForce, and has begun developing an implementation plan. Building on our current VISTA’s work, along with a team members from across the organization, the VISTA would take the lead in implementing the first phase of SF, using Sales Force’s online learning tools, identify the key programs applicable to our needs, and lead the staff through taking the courses and subsequent discussions to enhance learning. The key goals in the first phase of developing our CRM are: to work with our web design firm to connect Sales Force’s online forms to our website and email accounts, create a process for entering leads and contacts, develop email templates for communication, and customize SalesForce to fit our organization structure and needs. We anticipate the VISTA member convening meetings, tracking goals, and looking for opportunities to raise the capacity of our staff and community participants in the use of technology that moves our organizational goals forward. Specifically we intend to do an “assets survey” to evaluate and codify existing opportunities and content being produced through our education, radio, artistic, and community development work that could be migrated into engaging web content.
In early 2008 Appalshop began a consultancy with the Doris Duke Foundation/EMC2 to explore new innovations within the arts and community development. Appalshop’s leadership has identified the development of our database, online presence, social networking sites, and communication strategies as the pressing organizational priority. Expanding our communication capacity will increase the effectiveness of our work, garner more community participants, expanding our individual donor base, and allow us to use our staff time more efficiently. In late April 2009, key Appalshop staff will take part in a week long retreat to work with a technology consultant and organization planning expert to map our future steps in creating stronger communication and online strategies. A VISTA member will bring needed support at a crucial moment in our process.
Appalshop’s education and community work (community radio, theater, youth media, internet, and film making) addresses pressing social issues ranging from rural health issues to exploring the U.S. criminal justice system. At the heart of our artistic production is the belief that low-income communities have the knowledge and experience to find the solutions to problems in their own ways. Developing our online, database, and communication capacity will allow Appalshop to add breadth and depth to its work.
Appalshop’s programmatic work strives to involve community participants at every level of the organization’s process. Developing our online community and communication capacity will deepen our participation base, heighten our impact, and expand our possibilities for partnerships across the programmatic divisions of our institution. We anticipate an increased involvement from rural youth, low-income participants, traditional musicians, and stake-holders in the pressing social, economic, and environmental issues facing the central Appalachian region.
Technology Capacity Coordinator
The VISTA member will work to improve Appalshop’s capacity to digitally present its history, work, and issue-based campaigns to diverse audiences through digital delivery; build the capacity of staff to integrate emerging technologies in their organizational work; prepare a new generation of technology leaders to work at Appalshop and in their communities. All work will support Appalshop’s mission to involve the people of Appalachia in the representation of their culture, traditions, and stories.
Goal 1: Develop and expand Appalshop’s online capacity
Goal 2: Broaden Appalshop’s communication capacity and online content
- Developing training opportunities for Appalshop staff in CMS and CRM applications.
-Learning about, updating, and maintaining project database and facilitating integration with other online project tools. This will involve research on Sales Force (the online database), communication with other non-profit organizations to learn what tools they effectively use, and the implementation of gained knowledge in Sales Force and our online community.
-Managing online marketing campaigns using the knowledge gained in the advancement of the database, which will involve integrating petition and letter writing software into our campaign model of advocacy
-Maintaining communication with Thousand Kites partners through email, letter writing, and web 2.0 tools
-Generating radio, web, print, and video content to build capacity of the Thousand Kites Project in these artistic fields
-Aid in design, content management, and upkeep of the Thousand Kites website
The VISTA would take the lead in implementing the first phase of SF, using Sales Force’s online learning tools, identify the key programs applicable to our needs, and lead the staff through taking the courses and subsequent discussions to enhance learning. The key goals in the first phase of developing our CRM are: to work with our web design firm to connect Sales Force’s online forms to our website and email accounts, create a process for entering leads and contacts, develop email templates for communication, and customize SalesForce to fit our organization structure and needs. This was done for the Thousand Kites project, building on work by previous VISTAs and with support of Kites and other Appalshop staff. Andy brought both knowledge and energy to this work. We anticipate the VISTA member convening meetings, tracking goals, and looking for opportunities to raise the capacity of our staff and community participants in the use of technology that moves our organizational goals forward. Andy worked with Kites staff and community members providing training and technical and design including in flip-video cameras. We anticipate an increased involvement from rural youth, low-income participants, traditional musicians, and stake-holders in the pressing social, economic, and environmental issues facing the central Appalachian region. Andy’s work included all these stakeholders. Andy also contributed to strengthening the Thousand Kites website http://www.thousandkites.org/ which expanded involvement from stakeholders nationally. We intend to do an “assets survey” to evaluate and codify existing opportunities and content being produced through our education, radio, artistic, and community development work that could be migrated into engaging web content. We surveyed over 200 of our partner organizations leaving behind a clear needs assessment of our community. Our internal assessment is ongoing.
Appalshop as a whole has an expanded understanding of the use of databases and particularly SalesForce. We have also learned from the work done by the Kites project developing and presenting work based on the emerging Kites model. This is a model we will adapt for other projects.
Andy also developed and used a process for using MoxX for updating Appalshop “front page” which we continue to use. He also developed a much-improved website for our annual Seedtime on the Cumberland festival http://appalshop.org/seedtime/ This site served us well before the Festival and will continue to be a resource as we work with community partners to plan next year’s events.
Program Development and Outreach
Julia works in various capacities at Appalshop/Thousand Kites Project. She manages “StoryLine,” our online story-gathering project, for which she uploads audio to the content management system, and writes the copy for the website. She also responds to communication via our social networking sites and writes emailblasts. She works with community members (locally and nationally) to gather their stories about the criminal justice system and post them to the website. She also is currently creating a plan for a google map to document these stories using new technology. She also co-produces our campaigns. For our most recent campaign, Calls From Home, Julia coordinated the targeted outreach to radio station managers, prison chaplains, and prisoners and their families. She does the background research for the campaigns and organizes content. Including partnerships with other non-profits for viral marketing support. Julia works with community members (stakeholders) to identify community needs to inform future campaigns and communication strategies. Julia also produces our weekly radio show, Holler to the Hood, which broadcast online, as well supporting workshops that train community members and stake-holders in radio/online production.
When Julia arrived at Appalshop, she spent the first couple of months working with staff to revamp the project’s website, making it media rich, clean, and efficient. We now have an direct model for people to call in their stories and a way to share them on the web. At the same time, Julia aided in the creation of a Facilition Guide, which helps Thousand Kites be a model for communities to take action. This document makes our work process more efficient because we can now direct people to the guide, instead of having to talk through all the details with each individual community. It is available in print and online and has greatly increased our capacity to train and garner participants. Julia has taken the lead on developing our database, updating contacts, and training staff on a system for long-term use. Overall Julia has worked at all levels of the organization to build our communication, online, and digital capacity.
Julia is able to identify key opportunities, and run with them. While looking through old email to learn more about the project’s correspondence, she found an unanswered email from a poet who was willing to volunteer his time to the project. Julia contacted him about possible connections, and now his network of poets has become a tremendous source of capacity in our project. His online community of writers has generated hundreds of audio samples for our website. Another example of this was when we received an email from a woman in the Virgin Islands who is dealing with the prisoners from her community being shipped up to prisons in our region. Julia saw this as an opportunity to really immerse in a community’s issue and help them find ways they could take action locally. The group has since produced their own radio program and hosted multiple film screenings using the Kites tools.
Without our VISTA we would not have gotten several projects off the ground or reached the level of capacity that we have. Julia greatly expanded outreach and participation in our program by local, regional, and national communitiy members through building our communication backbone, developing a model for web-site content production, and building tools to lower the threshold of working with our program. It has simply impacted the entire organization to have someone focused on capacity building and research.
Technology Capacity Coordinator
As the Digital Presenting Coordinator, our VISTA member will work with the Media Archive and Web Team to improve the Appalshop’s capacity to digitally present its history, work, and issue-based campaigns to diverse internet audiences. Presentations will consist of text, visuals, audio, and video files. Specific tasks include:
- Devising a method and/or template for creating web-based digital media
- Training Appalshop staff, community members, and youth to make digital
presentations of their own work
- Developing a plan and infrastructure for uploading presentations to web and
distributing presentations to multiple,diverse audiences; plan/infrastructure
should emphasize use of new networking/technology tools like YouTube and MySpace
- Creating an introductory webpage for Appalshop’s Film Division that includes
articles, interviews, and audio and video pieces about Appalshop Films’ history
and current work
- Using work from Appalshop’s Media Archive to create issue- or topic-specific web
presentations and distributing them to key, yet diverse, web audiences
All web presentations will support Appalshop’s mission to involve the people of Appalachia in the representation of their culture, traditions, and stories.
Stewart Machlyn Blair was successful in integrating web 2.0 strategies into Appalshop’s training programs and building advanced technology learning opportunities for advanced youth so they could continue to contribute to Appalshop’s overall work as a non-profit media arts and education center. Blair also was successful in initiating and testing digital delivery services, contributing to building the databases necessary to implement digital delivery.
One of the difficulties Blair faced was organizing his time among different responsibilities. This challenge was recognized early in his service and we developed more pro-active mentorship that seemed to help.
“Blair greatly increased our capacity to provide technology and media education training and access in an area where there are few opportunities for young people or adults to gain media/technology literacy, and use these new tools to participate in their communities.”
- Rebecca O’Doherty, supervisor