Social Connectedness / 2013
Ballot Brief Ground Game
Capitalizing on the immediate success of KCET’s recently launched Ballot Brief, Ground Game further engages citizens throughout the City of L.A. by 1) providing open access to easily understandable information relating to Angelenos’ biggest gripes: traffic, pot holes, air quality, etc., including the related voting records of their elected officials; 2) providing additional background information on these topic that will help individuals understand the complexity of the issues; and 3) connecting citizens to nonprofit organizations that are committed to solving the problem, thereby opening doors to volunteerism. The goals of Ground Game are 3-fold: to further engage civic-minded citizens; to provide easy entre for individuals who have not yet engaged in civic activities; and to foster volunteerism that will advance the goals of non-profit organizations and, at the same time, open avenues for participation to individuals. BACKGROUND Beginning with the 2012 election cycle, Ballot Brief brought L.A. voters information that went beyond the headlines, allowing them to dig deeper with explainers, helpful guides, and cheat sheets of City-wide propositions. Coverage went beyond “horse-race” politics to include important information on the issues through regular online stories and segments on KCET’s daily television program SoCal Connected. Most importantly, Ballot Brief brought voters transparency behind proposition campaign financing. By developing unique “whose funding whom” databases, Ballot Brief brought to light data that is theoretically public, but is difficult to understand because of the complicated way it is accessed and presented. From the moment Ballot Brief coverage began, KCET website traffic saw immediate and exponential growth, garnering a total of 2.5 million page views, 900,000 of them on Election Day, leading to a 5,900 percent increase in average daily website traffic. During the months leading up to the election, the majority of Ballot Brief’s proposition coverage – the cheat sheets and funding databases - were ranked on the first page of Google search results. Major media outlets throughout the U.S. referenced Ballot Brief in their own election coverage. PROJECT OVERVIEW Ground Game will expand the potential of Ballot Brief beyond election cycles by working year-round to build civic engagement in the City’s most disengaged precincts. Through a targeted, ground level informational campaign focused on precincts with low voter turn-out and by utilizing bi-lingual grass-roots and guerilla marketing methods, social media marketing, and word of mouth marketing in collaboration with community-based non-profit’s, Ground Game will acknowledge, empower, educate, encourage, and engage individuals in Los Angeles. By connecting with people on a deeply personal level, “What’s your gripe?,” we will plant the seed of engagement. After all, we all have grievances--rich, poor, regardless of cultural differences--we are in this together; we are a community. The Ground Game website will foster empowerment by providing an easy way to express the grievance and will educate people by connecting them, based on their street address, to their elected officials voting records and providing more in depth information on the subject, and lastly, Ground Game will make the connection between personal gripe and civic engagement by revealing volunteer opportunities within community-based groups.
What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?
Since 1964, KCET has served Los Angeles and an 11-county region of Southern and Central California. We reach one of the most diverse market areas in the country with the finest regional, national and international programming, as well as with educational resources and community events.
In October 2012, KCET announced a merger with San Francisco-based Link Media, an award-winning national media organization focused on global news and culture. With the new name of KCETLink, our merged organization is poised to introduce an entirely new model for independent public media that represents the future of the industry – driving digital innovation, creating sustainable growth and serving the public interest. Utilizing multiple on-air, online and mobile distribution platforms, KCETLink will have a greater capacity to address key issues in our local communities, as well as across the nation and around the world.
Over the years, KCET programming has received numerous awards:
Ballot Brief was launched in 2012 and met with tremendous success as discussed above.
Our weekly news program, SoCal Connected, has been recognized with several of the highest honors in broadcasting, including the George Foster Peabody Award; two Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards; and 17 Los Angeles Area Emmys Awards, among others.
Since its launch in May 2012, our transmedia, cultural journalism program, Artbound, has been named “Best Arts & Culture Site” at the 2012 LA Weekly Web Awards; has won a National Entertainment Journalism Award for “Best Documentary or Special Program, Short” from the Los Angeles Press Club; and has received two Golden Mike Awards from the Radio & Television News Association of Southern California.
Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.
There are a number of Los Angeles based organizations and groups dedicated to increasing engagement and resolving a variety of community issues. Ground Game will link individuals to these organizations based on personal gripes as expressed on the Ground Game website. Examples of these organizations may be: Healthy City, Neighborhood Councils, and Volunteer Los Angeles, among others.
In addition, we will initiate relationships with USC’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute on Politics and Maplight as advisors on the Ground Game project.
Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?
Quantifiable information will be gathered using Google Analytics to provide statistics relating to Ground Game website activity. We will also monitor Neighborhood Council elections voting turnout to determine if there are increases in engagement. In the long term, we will collect hard data in the 2015 citywide elections by re-evaluating voter turnout in Ground Game precincts.
How will your project benefit Los Angeles?
One of the downward indicators identified by the LA2050 report in the Social Connectedness arena is low voter turnout. Ground Game will address this challenge by honing in on the Los Angeles precincts with the lowest voter turnout and working to build civic engagement in these micro-neighborhoods. Initially we will focus on 6 to 10 of the worst precincts and launch a grass roots marketing campaign as described above, encourage people to express their frustrations, use the Ground Game website to link individuals to their elected officials, provide additional background information on the issue, and connect individuals to volunteer opportunities. By first focusing on a select number of the most disengaged precincts, we will refine our project methodology and build an engagement toolkit that can be replicated in other areas of the City.
We are currently shifting through publically available, but difficult to decipher, information on each voting precinct in Los Angeles to determine the precincts most in need.
The LA2050 Report also found low rates of volunteerism in the Social Connectedness category. Ground Game will directly address this issue by linking citizens with nonprofit and other community groups who are committed to solving specific issues in the community.
What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?
We envision a vibrant and engaged Los Angeles population. People from all walks of life have the opportunity to freely and easily express their opinions through a neutral website that connects them to education, solutions, and volunteer activities. We envision a Los Angeles that is characterized by engaged and empowered, like-minded citizens rather than by isolated, silo’d neighborhoods.