COVID-19 / Digital access / Philadelphia / Technology

Technically Not Tech: Media Mobilizing Project closes grant, looks forward

In 2007, MMP was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Knight News Foundation. With that money, the media organization has been helping other organizations use journalism to further their cause.

Media Mobilizing Project founding member Todd Wolfson is interested in the role that media and communications can play in helping build movements to end poverty.

He hasn’t been the only one. In 2007, MMP was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Knight News Foundation. With that money, the media organization has been helping other organizations use journalism to further their cause.

Since then, Wolfson and his team have helped create a network of 10 groups, like the Philadelphia Student Union, Pennsylvania Head Start Association, Casino-Free Philadelphia, Taxi Workers Alliance of PA and other service sector unions.

MMP’s aim is straight forward enough: teach the basics of new media concepts in order to help those groups get the good word out.
The grant helped MMP maintain a staff, create six six-week workshops to train organization leaders in Web, video and basic computer skills and purchase equipment and computers for each group’s respective community.

Now, Media Mobilizing is shifting gears.
Since its grant ended in March, it is trying to develop a business plan to generate revenue by creating video for nonprofits not in its current network. It’s also working with other groups, like the Philadelphia Department of Technology, to see what kind of opportunities can come through collaboration.

The future of Media Mobilzing seems uncertain, but strong. The organization just moved into a new office in West Philadelphia, and it seems that Wolfson has learned more than a media mogul about the future of journalism.

Still, Wolfson would probably be the first to tell you that sometimes, things just aren’t as they seem.

Rewind to 2005 when the city first unveiled its Wireless Philadelphia plan, when it hoped to provide Internet for every city resident.

It was a perfect opportunity for Media Mobilizing. Wolfson said that several aspects of its original grant application made reference to the possibilities that a wireless network could provide for a project like MMP.

Which is exactly why when Wireless Philadelphia began folding in 2008, it was a serious detriment to MMP, Wolfson says. So he took action.

“We were so excited about the technology and what it was promising. When the hopes and expectations didn’t come through and no one was holding Earthlink, the city and Wireless Philadelphia to account, we felt we needed to,” he says.

Wolfson helps organize the Philadelphia Digital Justice Coalition, a group of 30 organizations that put pressure on the city to save the Wireless Philadelphia and is currently helping shape Philadelphia’s Department of Technology’s $100 million Digital Philadelphia vision, which we reported on in May.

“We’re trying to think how the broadband stimulus package could be a part of this plan and how we need to marshall it in, in [Philadelphia Chief Information Officer Allan Frank]’s terms, to create an information technology economy,” Wolfson says.

“But also, we need to think about digital human capital: how to make sure that all of Philadelphia has the skill sets to utilize and take advantage of the Internet.”

Wolfson thinks that 50 percent of the city’s population isn’t online, but says that the research is incomplete, and he hopes that the Department of Technology will compile a study to have a better idea.

“We have no idea what the digital divide in the city looks like,” he says. It’s something that Wolfson has devoted himself to fixing for the past 5 years.

“Watching a bunch of students in high school doing interviews with taxi drivers suffering because of a [limitation the Philadelphia Parking Authority has maintained], and watching the students grow by doing the research and journalism to understand this story is really beautiful,” he says.

Every Monday, Technically Not Tech will feature people, projects, and businesses that are involved with Philly�s tech scene, but aren�t necessarily technology focused. See others here.

Companies: City of Philadelphia / Media Mobilizing Project / Office of Information Technology
Series: Wireless Philadelphia

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