Elevation & Evolution of Citizen Media | The Tiziano Project

This Entry has been submitted.

Elevation & Evolution of Citizen Media | The Tiziano Project

Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The @tizianoproject wants to elevate citizen media through training, technology, & verification: http://360.tizianoproject.org

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In the most connected communication era in human history, the reach of an everyday citizen can extend beyond that of a major news corporation. A cell phone clip from Iran is able to, near instantly, be uploaded and viewed worldwide – an ability that has the power to drastically shape global events. A new form of content producer is emerging: the active participant. Yet, we have seen this be abused: the false kidnapping of now-fictional blogger, Amina, or the fake CNN iReport on Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ heart attack that resulted in the company’s lowest stock price in months. The professional journalist, while not always worthy, is vetted by the industry and therefore carries some element of trust. As active participants continue to pour content into mainstream information channels, we find ourselves in need of a credibility system to help insure that this new role provides trustworthy, accurate, and contextualized information.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Similar to Yelp.com, where active reviewers and those considered most helpful by the community are elevated to “Yelp Elite”, The Tiziano Project is integrating a status-based verification system into its developing citizen media platform. Through community monitoring, combined with participation from professional journalists, we seek to establish a system for vetting and elevating citizen content producers. The Tiziano Project is developing our award-winning Tiziano 360 Kurdistan -- http://360.tizianoproject.org -- into a platform through a $200,000 grant from the Knight Foundation. Through this grant, we are going to scale the technology for use by other organizations and curate this content on an interactive map. We will then create a communication layer allowing for direct discourse between interested parties and citizen media producers. Citizen journalists will have profiles and be rated within the system by the community, as well as professional journalists. Their profiles will clearly list the reports they have produced, discussions they participate in, what training they may have, and a score based on their involvement and support of the community. This score will be able to be used and embedded by news organizations, media websites, blogs, etc. as a reference for the validity of the information the citizen reporter produces.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The Tiziano Project at its core is a new media journalism training organization. We send professional journalists to conflict, post-conflict, and underrepresented regions to teach local communities how to tell their own stories. Through rigorous two-month trainings, we ensure that our citizen reporters adhere to strict journalism standards and ethics, while teaching everything from interviewing techniques to article construction to multimedia production. This field has been fraught with organizations attempting to bring storytelling capabilities to local communities -- many through the model of simply providing technology with minimal training. Many organizations failed. The Tiziano Project seeks to enable the evolution and elevation of community journalism by openly providing curriculums, training materials, and lesson plans for like-minded projects, along with a high-quality platform for displaying program content, enabling direct communication, and establishing credibility for participants. Through our platform and training model, we work with organizations around the world to train and foster a network of “sleeper journalists” who can then be called upon by news organizations and journalists during immediate times of crisis and need for local reporting.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Dozens of organizations conduct community journalism projects around the world -- each completed with varying levels of success and quality. Many of these programs are poorly funded, volunteer operated, or lacking in the leadership and experience necessary to conduct a truly beneficial community journalism program. The Tiziano Project seeks to elevate the work of these organizations through collaboration – rather than competition. We are positioned as a community journalism meta-organization that will help foster, grow, and support like-minded programs and their citizen participants.
About You
The Tiziano Project
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

The Tiziano Project

Organization Country

, CA, Los Angeles County

Country where this project is creating social impact

, AL

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Scaling (the next step will be growing impact on a regional or even global scale)

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

The Tiziano Project was founded by three idealistic graduate students -- Andrew McGregor, Tom Rippe, and Jon Vidar -- who flew to Rwanda to teach new media storytelling in an orphanage. The idea was that it is immoral for YouTube and undocumented genocide to exist at the same point in human history.

We quickly realized that Rwanda was far more diverse than Hollywood’s frequent portrayal. We knew then that we wanted to empower local citizens to shape outside perceptions of their own communities.

Shortly after launch of the 360 Kurdistan, we received an email from a student planning to volunteer in the region. His parents were understandably upset about his decision to travel to Iraq. He directed them to our website and after spending more than an hour exploring the culture, they fell in love. Not only were they excited for their son, but they themselves wanted to come visit.

We knew then that our model works.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

A global goal is to influence public perceptions of conflict, post-conflict and underrepresented regions, while the goal at the local level remains job creation. We would love for all of our students to continue working in journalism, but we are just as happy if they go on to start a wedding photography business or join a new media department of a company utilizing their new skills.

Of our 12 students from Iraqi Kurdistan, four of them had jobs in new media within three months of completing the program. Since 2007, we have conducted programs in DR Congo, Somalia, Kenya, Turkey, Iraq, and the United States, with students going on to work anywhere from NGOs to the Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, each of our trainees and the participants in our larger community form a network of “sleeper journalists,” ready to influence the future of their societies.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

As an organization, we are entering a period of expansion and scale. Our training model is established and tested, while our platform is funded and being developed into an easy to use tool for curation, communication, and verification.

Through these channels we seek to provide a model and support for successful community journalism. Our curriculums, course material, and online platform will enable meaningful and engaging citizen media projects. While our community verification system will provide news organizations and main-stream audiences, large and small, with a trusted pool of sources, content, and information.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Alpha platform launch with proposed programs with Voice of America and the National Constitution Center in Haiti and Afghanistan

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Finalize Scope of Work for platform; Identify interactive agency and begin development.

Task 2

Secure partnerships for initial launch projects.

Task 3

Identify and recruit training teams; Conduct training programs in Haiti and Afghanistan.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Open the platform up for public use!

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Complete technology development and Beta test with select organizations.

Task 2

Complete marketing push and community outreach for platform launch.

Task 3

Secure partner organizations for continued use by both community journalism organizations and major news outlets.

How many people have been impacted by your project?

More than 10,000

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

More than 10,000

Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured


What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

Stable funding has been our largest problem to date. While the Knight Foundation grant will ensure that the outlined technology development will be completed, we have identified several revenue streams to sustain The Tiziano Project moving forward. First, we will position the platform as a tool for selling our services as a work-for-hire training organization. Second, we will integrate revenue generation into the platform through print sales and licensing, reporter funding, and donations. Finally, we will explore licensing models for commercial implementation of the platform in anything from large scale Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives to personal travel websites.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

Consumer attention will continue to veer from traditional news sources as community produced content floods the market. Already, many people get their news via Twitter and Facebook. Our platform’s verification system will provide a needed level of checks on community producers and their content. This becomes a tool for both consumer to consumer information sharing, as well as for news organizations to interact with active participants in local communities.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

Our platform at its core is a container for community media and verification. We plan to implement it for journalism, however, this container can be applied to an infinite number of industries should it fail to gain traction. Examples include a Corporate Social Responsibility team wanting to present stories of their company’s local impact or a Hollywood studio creating a movie campaign around user submitted content and community dialogue.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

While our community provides small and recurring donations, we also actively pursue foundational, corporate, and governmental support. This has come from both J.P. Morgan Chase and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (through the Knight News Challenge in collaboration with Google).

We have also received assistance from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and are currently in discussions with the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the State Department to support US funded initiatives overseas. In addition, we are collaborating with the National Constitution Center to develop programs in Afghanistan and Latvia.

Finally, we plan to integrate revenue into the platform via direct print sales and image licensing, reporter and organizational funding, donations, and platform licensing.

Tell us about your partnerships

While we have not received support from any of the above organizations to date, we have received generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation through the Knight News Challenge and JP Morgan Chase through the Chase Community Giving Program.

We are also currently working through details for potential Alpha test projects with the Broadcasting Board of Governors (Voice of America), the National Constitution Center, and the Pennington Foundation. And have had discussions with both Al Jazeera and YouTube for distribution.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

CoFounder & Executive Director, Jon Vidar (photojournalist and new media strategist);

Advancement & Outreach Director, Victoria Fine (Journalist / former Managing Editor Huffington Post Impact & Education);

Business Development Director, Mara Abrams (Formerly Executive Director Remedee Foundation);

Technology Director, Chris Mendez (KUSC and formerly Channel One News);

Video Producer & Mentor, Grant Slater (KPCC);

Designer, Grant Kindrick (Has worked for Channel One News, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards).

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Investment, Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Collaboration or networking, Pro-bono help (legal, financial, etc.), Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Human resources or talent, Marketing or media, Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas, Mentorship.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list

We strongly believe that people are the key to a successful project. As such, we are always looking for innovators, collaborators, developers, professionals, mentors, and generally amazing individuals who actively believe in the work we are doing. If you would like to support The Tiziano Project in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to us and see if there are ways in which we can work together.

More specifically, we are actively looking for an Intellectual Property Lawyer willing to provide Pro-bono advice and legal counsel on our platform, as well as developers looking to contribute to the system and designers interested in helping to extend our brand and marketing material.

Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

The @tizianoproject sends professional journalists to teach local communities how to tell their own stories - tizianoproject.org