Reflecting on GunCrisis.org in 2013

The Gun Crisis Reporting Project was recently nominated to apply for participation in an important social innovations program. Our responses to their questions serve also as a quick glance at our organizational status as we move towardd the end of 2013. Here’s an abbreviated look at our application:

One sentence description of the innovative idea:
We are building a hub to help citizens understand the epidemic of homicide by gunfire in Philadelphia, to evaluate and illuminate effective interventions, and to create opportunities to participate in gun violence reduction.

Pizza Delivery Man Shot

Police gather at the scene after a pizza delivery man was shot recently in the Overbrook section of West Philadelphia. Photographs for the Gun Crisis Reporting Project by Joseph Kaczmarek.

Describe the problem you are trying to solve:
Philadelphia has the highest rate of homicide per capita among large American cities. In 2012, 85 percent of the people murdered in Philadelphia were killed with guns.

Describe existing barriers and how your idea might address them:
Politicians still get elected by promising more police and prisons, while mass incarceration has failed to make us safer. Public health intervention works well when employing citizens returning from incarceration, but that’s difficult for politicians to support when so many other people are out of work. Mainstream media reporting on urban violence rarely addresses causes, solutions or the impediments.

Describe your idea, and how it aims to solve the above need:
We report on every shooting incident, most of which go otherwise uncovered in the local media. We report on the groups and individuals working to stem gun violence, and quantify the impact of programs. And we point readers toward opportunities to participate, to give, or to find help as needed.

How is your idea is innovative: How is your solution different? Who are your competitors, and how does your idea differentiate you from them?
We are the only solutions-oriented gun violence reporting program in Philadelphia. We are aware of nothing quite like us anywhere.

What is your goal: What are you trying to achieve?
We want to put ourselves out of business by eliminating gun violence. Innovations in public health and criminology have led to double-digit reductions in other cities and in corners of our own — in as little time as one year. We want to learn how to sustain, scale and replicate successful programs to the greatest extent possible.

What is your story: Tell us your “eureka” moment
Two of us attended a conference of youth violence reporting in 2011, organized by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at Columbia University, and hosted by WHYY in Philadelphia. We learned that violence can be treated as a contagious disease, and disrupted with public health intervention tactics, as we have seen employed to address smoking, drunk-driving, un-safe sex and many other behaviors.

What is your target market: What sector are you operating within, and who are you trying to help?
We want citizens to feel hope. We want voters to demand action. We want philanthropists to lend support. We want politicians to feel the heat. And we want shooters to stop shooting.

What is the potential impact: How does your solution make a difference?
We have evidence that decision-makers in city hall follow our reporting. After just a few months, were were invited to lead a roundtable at city council. The city has employed some of the tactics we have illuminated, and some of the experts we suggested. And homicides are down by an unprecedented 25 percent this year. We attribute most of the success to those in the field, including public health intervention workers and police. But we think we moved the needle. We have also partnered with numerous national and international news programs who came to cover (gun violence in) Philadelphia, and drove them to focus on solutions.

What is your potential to scale: Could your idea work in other regions or markets? If so, where?
We have already been contacted by leaders in other cities about replicating our program. We need only the resources.

What start-up assistance do you think you need?
We have a team of highly-accomplished multimedia journalists and have personally bootstrapped the program to date, but we can’t sustain it forever. We need money to keep operating. And we need a business team to develop a sustainable business plan.

Do you have ideas for measuring your impact? What would you measure?
We look at crime data, chronologically and vs. similar cities, to assess progress. We would like to comprehensively examine correlations with media reporting as well.

If you are a team, explain the expertise you each hold, why this partnership would be successful, and how you will collaborate?
We have an advanced team with expertise in multimedia reporting and editing, deep local knowledge, social media community development, and expertise in our specific field. We do fine work and have already accumulated numerous awards. Now, we need equally powerful business support.

What additional talent or support do you see your idea needing?
We could use developers, data-visualization journalists, cartographers and much more. But we need fundraisers and business planners most urgently.

•••

To our readers: We will keep our fingers crossed until we find out if we have been selected to participate, but there is no need for you to wait:

If you want to get involved in gun violence reduction in Philadelphia, please consider volunteering your time or making a donation to one of the organizations listed under our Network tab at the top of this site. If you would like us to add your group to our list, please email us at info@guncrisis.org.

Please share your ideas to stop the shooting in our community by using the #phillypeaceplan hash tag when communicating on social media: http://guncrisis.org/phillypeaceplan/

The Gun Crisis Reporting Project is an award-winning, independent, nonprofit journalism community striving to illuminate the epidemic of homicide by gunfire in Philadelphia — and to find solutions.

But we need your help. Click to see how your tax-deductible contribution can support our volunteer staff.

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