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We Are Hearken

Champions of Curiosity Awards 2020: Best Participation by a Question-asker, Community Member, or Steward

The Champions of Curiosity Awards is Hearken’s annual celebration of community listening, community building, and needs-based service approaches that make the world a better place. Throughout this challenging year, Hearken’s partners pulled through and delivered innovative projects that best served their communities, and we wanted to honor the impressive work they did.

How we picked winners: Our team at Hearken evaluated submissions based on the use of a Hearken service or platform, the creativity of the approach, solution, or offering, and the potential for others to replicate or model it. The winners are Hearken partners who’ve exemplified a commitment to engagement as good business through community-building and listening.

Winner: KXLY’s “Her Recession”

What They Did:

We talked to KXLY 4 News Now’s News Director, Melissa Luck, who shared more insight about the newsroom’s reporting project, dedicated to shining a light on what some are calling the “She-cession,” and they are calling “Her Recession.”

Women — and, especially women of color — are disproportionately affected by the job losses and job changes in the COVID economy. They’re more likely to have jobs in the service industry, which has been severely devastated by the pandemic. Seeing that, KXLY dedicated themselves to sharing the statistics and the stories of women who are living this reality and also connecting them to solutions.

Not only is this a pandemic story and a local economy story, it fits exactly with what our mission has been for more than two years,” — Luck shared. “Through our work with the ASU/Knight Foundation Table Stakes Project, we created a super-targeted audience of women in their late 30’s, early 40’s: a woman with kids and other demographic-specific information that really represents our community. That’s who we think about every day when we select which stories to run, how to tell them and when/where to present them on TV and online. This project fits EXACTLY with that super-targeted audience.”

To get the project off the ground, KXLY’s team:

  • Turned their conference room board into a giant brainstorming session for story ideas.
  • Created a graphics package and new brand dedicated to Her Recession.
  • Launched a webpage with a Hearken embed, simply asking “How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your work and/or home life?”

And it paid off. They immediately heard heartfelt, heartbreaking stories of women who upended everything to deal with this economic crisis. Stories have included personal accounts of job loss, women closing businesses because they needed to be at home, and business leaders trying to make sense of the problem. To better serve their community, KXLY also highlighted job training programs and other ways women can get back on track.

KXLY’s Her Recession embed powered by Hearken.

Why We Picked Them:

KXLY has been very purposefully creating content that resonates with a persona they call ‘Chelsea,’ a busy mom living in Washington.d They have done an incredible job connecting to ‘Chelseas’ from their community to co-create audience-driven content.

These stories were especially resonant to Hearken as a women-led, women-run company because of the uneven impact of the pandemic-induced recession on women in America, including caretakers or parents. KXLY’s commitment to giving these women a platform to share their experiences in their own words is representative of the people-first approaches Hearken champions.

Key lessons:

  1. Trust the power of your audience: Strong, focused, people-centered reporting can be generated mostly through audience participation and engagement.
  2. Lean into your community: For KXLY’s Her Recession, both community leaders and members recognized their efforts and connected them with solutions.
  3. Share real stories: Her Recession profiled a powerful story that came in through a Hearken embed. A single mom with special needs twins had to leave her job to care for her girls, who were now home from school. Immediately the community stepped up with gift cards, money, support, and a JOB! Read more about it here.

Honorable Mentions:

Curious about what other impactful work is being done in this category?

Wisconsin Public Radio deserves a shoutout for work by their reporter Danielle Kaeding, who answered a WHYsconsin question from Traci McMorran. McMorran wondered why the Wisconsin Department of Corrections (DOC) is “secretive about our loved ones behind bars.” Read the resulting story: Inmates’ Loved Ones Fear They’re Being Left In The Dark As COVID-19 Spreads Behind Bars.

Our partners at the University of Alberta also displayed exemplary work in engaging their community members using our Switchboard community platform. Stewards Debbie Keehn and Chloe Chalmers consistently responded with empathy and care as they shepherd the Asks and Offers within their community. Their attention to community participation and consistent stewardship is a quintessential example of how to foster and manage community relationships across multiple stakeholders.

Read about other 2020 winners:

Want to become a Champion of Curiosity? We want that, too! Check out more about what we do and who we work with at wearehearken.com, follow us on Twitter @wearehearken, or sign up for our newsletter, The Hearkening.