Impact Report Card: Increasing transparency between consumers and businesses

A News Foundry Philadelphia Team Profile

Julie Hancher’s Green Philly Blog, online for a decade, is an environmental news outlet in Philadelphia. Hancher came to News Foundry in order to turn her passion for green reporting into a business. Her Impact Report Card team included journalist Rich Klein, Mark Macdonald, founder of GAZET, and Alex Clark, founder of PressPatron.

Julie Hancher

Hancher arrived at News Foundry with the concept of a web browser plug-in to increase transparency between customers and companies. She wanted journalists to be able to hover over a company and see its environmental report card.

The initial goal was to help local, small businesses compete with big box stores. “We were making assumptions that small businesses have more local business ties and values, and about how they were communicating it,” said Hancher.

The team went out on the streets, interviewing people and business owners in downtown Philadelphia. They also used an Instagram poll that yielded 158 responses.

They discovered that the values the small businesses had were not the same as they’d assumed. Sourcing and selling environmentally sustainable products can take a back seat to simply being part of the community as a local retailer. Shop owners and consumers alike look for quality, affordable products that support the community.

After research, the Impact Report Card team decided that its audience is consumers, not journalists and businesses, as was initially assumed. Hancher said the reason for the shift is the News Foundry methodology. “So many businesses focus on solutions and opinions that they don’t survey customers and think about problems in an analytical way.”

Team Impact Report Card at News Foundry

At the conclusion of the weekend, Impact Report Card devised two follow up experiments. One was to create a single web page with GreenPhilly’s pick of ethical shopping alternatives, and measure traffic to gauge interest. If successful, the team could develop a second project, a browser extension that would display a company’s ethics as a pop up on the page.

The Monday after News Foundry, Hancher headed over to a local healthy fast food chain and polled people to see how they consume local media, if they were members and subscribers to Green Philly, and why. “It was a fun, surprising and informative process. Next, we’re tackling what local businesses may want as far as a tool to help them create trust and transparency with customers,” said Hancher. “We’re surveying small and local businesses to identify problems and gaps in values, marketing and getting more customers. I’m pretty excited to see where this project goes and how it continues to evolve.” Hancher, who loved the opportunity to network with “an incredible mix of entrepreneurs, journalists, and tech-focused people,” has implemented her team member Alex Clark’s platform PressPatron on GreenPhilly.

Prototype for Impact Report Card pop-up

Curious to know more, check out the 3-minute video recap of the News Foundry workshop in Philadelphia below, or read more:

3-minute video recap of the News Foundry workshop in Philadelphia

Sue Spolan is a freelance writer and CEO of Cohegent LLC, a marketing consultancy. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

Sue’s work was generously supported by News Foundry’s “knowledge mobilizers” the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford and WordPress.com.

News Foundry was made possible through with support of the Facebook Journalism Project, Google News Initiative, Fourth Estate Public Benefit Corp., Journalism Entrepreneurship Training Co., and Lenfest Institute for Journalism.