AMP’s top 10 turning points of 2013

Turning points are moments when you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay where you are.  Figuring out the next best move is a kind of improvisational dance – requiring much agility and willingness to be vulnerable, while stepping into the unknown.

Here at Allied Media Projects, we’ve arrived at 2014, having navigated many turning points over the past year with grace, thanks to the deep commitment to figuring-out hard questions on the part of our incredible staff.

We are entering the new year with more love than ever for the people who inspire and sustain AMP’s work: AMC participants, Detroit Future Media alumni, Detroit Future Schools students, teachers, and artists, Digital Stewards, Digital Justice Coalition members, our funders, our sustainers, our Board of Directors, and our many partners and collaborators.

Below we’ve selected the top 10 AMP turning points from 2013.

10. The third round of DFM wraps up

DFM graduation collage

From January - June 2013, AMP led the best round of Detroit Future Media trainings to date, with a class of 50 phenomenal Detroit community organizers. We led focus area classes in Education, Entrepreneurship, Transformative Arts Practices, and Digital Stewardship, followed by media workshops in video production, graphic design, web design, podcasting, beatmaking, and wearable electronics.

In the Spring, DFM was selected as a finalist in the Arcus Global Prize for Collaborative Social Justice Leadership. Janel Yamashiro and Diana Nucera spent the weekend in Kalamazoo, where they shared The DFM Story video with dozens of other finalists from around the world.

The DFM Graduation in June was bittersweet, as we celebrated the many incredible media projects that came out of DFM Round 3, while also saying goodbye to DFM co-coordinator and video Instructor, Imad Hassan, due to funding cuts. Later that Summer, Janel Yamashiro, DFM co-coordinator and web instructor, also transitioned out of her role due to funding uncertainties. Imad is now launching his own production company, In Detroit Films and Janel started a media services cooperative with other DFM alumni called Co.Open (read more about it below).  

Since September, we have been combing through the past three years of Detroit Future Media Curriculum and conducting interviews with DFM alumni to understand DFM’s direct impact on participants, and its ripple effects on the city, and to document the theories and practices of DFM.  Look out for the publication of the Detroit Future Media Guide to Digital Literacy zine in early 2014.

9. DFS moves to "anchor schools" model, plants roots in four awesome Metro Detroit schools

participants in the DFS Network Gathering

2013 saw Detroit Future Schools finish its second school year transforming education in Detroit from the ground up, and launched into its third year. DFS continued to hone best practices for integrating digital media into K-12 classrooms in order to foster "11 Essential Human Skills" such as curiosity, critical consciousness, and metacognition – throughout schools, in students as well as teachers.

Detroit Future Schools celebrated the end of the 2012-2013 school year with its first-ever DFS Network Gathering held in conjunction with the Allied Media Conference. There, they connected with other youth and educators from Detroit and around the country and sharpened the visions for youth leadership in education transformation.

For the 2013-2014 school year, DFS decided to focus intensely on work in four schools, where they could have school-wide impact, rather than scatter their efforts in classrooms across the city. Those schools are: the James and Grace Lee Boggs School, Hamtramck High School, Tri-County Educational Center, and Henry Ford Academy: A School for Creative Studies.

The opportunity to get involved with DFS is still open to any teacher in Detroit or beyond, through the upcoming Rida Institute. DFS staff are hard at work compiling the Detroit Future Schools Guide to Transformative Education, which will "open source" DFS pedagogy for any teacher or school that wants to adopt it.  

We want to show special appreciation for all the DFS teaching artists who worked tirelessly over the past year to humanize education in Detroit: Bobby Colombo, Domonique Baul, Maya Stovall, Piper Carter, Isaac Miller, Joey Rodriguez-Tanner, Nate Mullen, and Conja Wright.  

8. The Digital Justice Coalition reconvenes to plot its future

DDJC logo
Since its founding in August, 2009, the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition collaboratively wrote and won a $1.8 million federal grant to advance broadband adoption in Detroit. We used that funding over a period of two years to produce three big programs that built the leadership and digital media skills of hundreds of individuals and organizations in Detroit.  

In October of 2013, the DDJC sat down for a day-long retreat to reflect on the past four years of our work together and develop a strategy for the next phase. In 2014 we plan to continue our successful model of community technology education, known as DiscoTechs (Discovering Technology fairs), to bring digital justice priorities into local policymaking and to connect with efforts to advance digital justice policies on regional and national levels.  

7. AMP launches Sustainers Campaign

The end of a two year federal grant with the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, under which we launched our Detroit Future programs, was a significant turning point for AMP. It meant that our organization’s budget shrunk, almost in half, which meant many cuts to the scale of programming and the size of our staff team.

To re-stabilize after budget cuts and to create a steadier stream of income for our work moving forward, we launched our Sustainer Campaign, which allows the people to whom we feel most accountable (you!) to sign up to make monthly contributions to our work – from as little as five cents to five hundred dollars.  We explained the logic behind this campaign with these three reasons. And we made a video, looking for your love.  

6. AMP staff travel the world to do work projects, give presentations, and learn

Detroit Digital Stewards at the International Summit for Community Wireless in Berlin
Detroit Digital Stewards at the International Summit for Community Wireless in Berlin

The first half of 2013 was full of presentations by AMP staff people for national audiences. Jenny Lee presented about the Detroit Future model of meaningful broadband adoption at the Council on Foundations annual conference, and spoke on the closing plenary of the National Conference on Media Reform.  Diana Nucera gave a keynote presentation for the Women’s Funding Network about the intersection of digital justice and feminism, and and Mike Medow presented at South by Southwest Interactive about AMP’s work with neighborhood mesh wireless technologies.  

Over the Summer, Diana co-produced a documentary on Jeju Island in South Korea about community resistance to the construction of a U.S. naval base on their island.  A couple of months later, she was part of a delegation of Detroiters to the International Summit for Community Wireless in Berlin, Germany, sharing the lessons from AMP’s Digital Stewards program. Read an interview with Diana and two other members of the Detroit Digital Stewards delegation to Berlin.

Mike represented AMP in the Knowledge Exchange media policy strategy meeting – hosted by the Consumers Union and Center for Media Justice in Washington DC – and presented comments on online privacy rights at meetings with the Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission. This conversation on online surveillance and privacy continued as Mike attended the Ford Foundation’s strategy session for grantees at Point Lookout in Maine in August. Then, as part of his fellowship with the German Marshall Fund, he met with leaders of European community technology organizations and media rights NGOs to learn from the advances they have made in media rights and access policies for the EU.  

Throughout 2013, Detroit Future Schools representatives gave presentations at the Digital Media Learning conference, the North Dakota Study Group Conference, the Free Minds, Free People Conference, and the Pre-emptive Education conference. Over Spring Break, they self-organized a four-day transformative education tour of New York City. Program Coordinator, Ammerah Saidi was awarded a scholarship to attend the week-long Future of Learning Institute at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in August.

Through all of these travels, we saw how much we have to offer, and how much we have to learn from communities across this planet who are also working towards a more just, creative, and collaborative world.  

5. The AMC turns 15!

banner at AMC2013

2013 marked the 15th anniversary of the Allied Media Conference. Not only was it the 15th, it was the best AMC yet. Early in 2013, AMC Content Coordinator Morgan Willis led the production of the first ever "How We Organize the AMC" zine. This manual served as an invaluable tool in the conference organizing process for the more than 70 volunteer coordinators of Tracks, Network Gatherings, and Practice Spaces.  

The AMC2013 Opening Ceremony featured this collaborative video, produced by Diana Nucera, commemorating 15 years of creating the media we need. Gorgeous photo documentation helps us remember the transformative space that the AMC creates, when, in January, it can all feel so far away. Meanwhile, we’ve been busy applying the lessons from AMC2013 as we plant the seeds for an even better AMC this year – June 19-22, 2014. Click here to register for AMC2014.  

4. DFM alumni found Co.Open

Co.Open logo
Co.Open is a media and technology services cooperative started by Detroit Future Media alumni and former instructors. Since their inception in July 2013, they have have worked for a variety of clients including the Fair Food Network, a food policy advocacy group; Inktown Bound, a social media aggregator for the City of Inkster; the Detroit Farm & Garden store; and H.B. Stubbs, a design company that builds sets for the North American Auto Show.  

3. Digital Stewards grows out of DFM

DIGITAL STEWARDS PRESENT PLANS FOR MESH NETWORKS IN THE DETROIT FUTURE MEDIA TRAINING LAB.
Digital Stewards was developed as a track in the third round of DFM that trained Detroiters to produced three new mesh wireless networks in neighborhoods across the city. Following the conclusion of the third round of DFM, Digital Stewards has spun-off as its own program, supporting maintenance of existing community mesh networks and the creation of new ones.

Beginning in January 2014, DFM3 graduates and former DFM instructors will run a 6-month Digital Stewards training for 20 Eastside Detroit neighborhood leaders, in partnership with the Riverside East Congregational Initiative. Since the completion of DFM, the Open Technology Institute, who co-developed the Digital Stewards curriculum with AMP, has gone on to implement the Digital Stewards curriculum in Red Hook Brooklyn, Dharamsala, India, and Sayada, Tunisia.  

2. Jenny Lee becomes Executive Director of AMP

Mike Medow, Jenny Lee, Diana J. Nucera at AMC2013
In January 2014, Jenny Lee will become the Executive Director of AMP, after sharing a co-directorship with Mike Medow and Diana Nucera for four years. During the period of co-directorship, AMP offered an inspiring example to others in our field for how healthy shared leadership could function, and we advised the Media Mobilizing Project and Global Action Project as they made their transitions from Executive Director leadership to Co-Directorships.  

We decided to end AMP’s co-directorship this year, when it was clear that the model no longer served the needs of our organization. With the decrease in our budget in 2013, and with it, the size of our staff, we decided that we needed one director, who would be committed to maintaining a strong culture of collective leadership, while allowing for more clear divisions of labor.

Mike’s focus will shift to primarily business strategy, financial management, and communications. Diana will direct the Digital Stewards program and the forthcoming AMP Camp, while freeing up more of her time to nurture her musician self – working part-time as an assistant to music producer and entrepreneur Waajeed, and producing music as Mother Cyborg. Diana was additionally recognized with AMP's 2013 Unicorn Appreciation Award.

1. AMP embraces our identity as a resource hub, shifts to a "sponsored projects" model

AMP logo
When it was founded in 2002, Allied Media Projects’ sole program was producing the annual Allied Media Conference. After AMP relocated from Ohio to Detroit, Michigan in 2007, we began seeding local initiatives such as the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Detroit Future Media, and Detroit Future Schools.

We are clarifying the role of AMP in 2014 – it is to continue seeding and cultivating projects emerging from the Allied Media Conference by offering support in the form of fiscal sponsorship, project planning and management, fundraising support, communications strategy, and other technical assistance. Our goal is to grow an alliance of media and technology projects working towards a more just, creative, and collaborative world. These "allied media projects" are autonomous and interdependent, working together to grow their own capacity and the capacity of our network as a whole.

As we enter 2014 we have a variety of sponsored projects to which we are providing a range of support services: Digital Stewards, Detroit Future Schools, the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, Co.Open, and Complex Movements. Our goal is to strengthen our support infrastructure for these projects, while adding additional projects. If you would like to know more about AMP’s support services for sponsored projects or would like to see if AMP is a good fit for your project, please contact us.

LET’S CONTINUE TO CREATE, CONNECT, AND TRANSFORM IN 2014!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Keep us going and growing: Sign-up to be an AMP sustainer!

COMMENT ON THIS POST ON AMPTALK »

Read next: