Community-driven culture hub


How Hearken worked with the Colorado Media Project to bolster arts and culture coverage across the state

January 2020.


12 min.

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The challenge

Partner with news outlets and arts and culture organizations across Colorado to understand how residents are already engaging with arts and culture, and learn how their information needs could be better met. Build upon the qualitative insights collected from nearly 50 arts and culture funders, entrepreneurs, practitioners and patrons to collaborate with stakeholders and design community-driven solutions.

The outcome

Arts funders need critical coverage and conversation around what’s happening locally to help demonstrate Colorado’s impact on a broader scale. They also need help learning about lesser-known artists, collaborative opportunities, and ways to share resources..

Project timeline

After developing a collaborative community listening diagnostic plan, we trained members of news outlets and arts and culture organizations to collect qualitative insights on how Coloradans engage with local arts and culture. We analyzed those insights to reveal three key areas of growth for better information-sharing around arts and culture. We then hosted a community design workshop to partner with arts and culture funders, practitioners and patrons to design solutions that would address the existing core challenges.

Diagnostic listening
  • Collaborative community listening diagnostic project design
  • On-site dacilitation and training for 40 members of news outlets and arts and culture organizations
  • Ongoing project management and weekly project team progress reports
  • 46 community listening sessions conducted by 19 interviewers
  • Analyze collected qualitative data and produce insights report demonstrating three unique challenges in creating more meaningful arts and culture coverage
Community design
  • Planning outreach strategy and facilitating design for the Colorado Arts and Culture Community Design Challenge, bringing together arts and culture stakeholders, including journalists
  • Provide 30 participants with background information from the listening diagnostic, as well as a framework to collaborative work through three design challenges
  • Collect five proposed community-driven solutions to be considered by news outlets and arts and culture organizations to improve arts and culture community-building, and information- and resource-sharing
  • Present final insights and recommendations from both the listening diagnostic and community design to about 150 arts and culture stakeholders at History Colorado
While the local arts and culture movement is flourishing across a quickly-growing Colorado, many residents feel that information and opportunities to connect to their communities’ arts scenes are not accessible or equitable.

The significant decrease of in-depth arts and culture journalism from struggling traditional news organizations, paired with a heavy reliance for arts information-sharing on social media, created an ecosystem that has led to arts and culture supporters feeling a sense of information overload without the context that they crave to help them better connect with local artists and their fellow arts enthusiasts.

With support from the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation and Gates Family Foundation, Colorado Media Project partnered with Rocky Mountain Public Media and Colorado Public Radio to better understand how Coloradans, especially those from marginalized or underrepresented communities, want to learn about and engage with arts and culture.

Engagement goals

  • Create and manage a collaborative community listening diagnostic by training news outlets and arts and culture organizations on the process of empathetic listening that gleans tangible insights.
  • Individually connect with arts and culture funders, entrepreneurs, practitioners and patrons from across Colorado to better understand their challenges and core needs.
  • Build a community of bought-in individuals who are invested in developing solutions to more effectively provide the information, resources and opportunities for connection around local arts and culture.
  • Facilitate the collaborative community design of new products and/or services.
  • Report out tangible insights to begin adopting proposed community-driven solutions.


“The Hearken Team has a fantastic way of listening to our needs and desired outcomes and shepherding us through engagement processes that deliver results. They care deeply about our community and are aligned with our mission and vision. They are fantastic partners!”

Julie Jackson, Vice President of Culture Content, Rocky Mountain PBS

Key insights

  • There’s a need to raise local artist representation, awareness and accessibility.
  • There’s a desire to shift from “information overload” related to arts and culture to critical conversation.
  • Arts patrons want to feel more connected to the arts and culture community, learn about lesser-known artists and uncover deeper storytelling.
  • Artists need to be connected with more shared resources and funding so they can make their art a life-sustaining career.
  • Arts entrepreneurs who work in collaboration with the arts and culture community need to build strong networks of collaborative partners and raise the critical status of the arts.
  • Arts funders need critical coverage and conversation around what’s happening locally to help demonstrate Colorado’s impact on a broader scale.
  • Arts funders need help learning about lesser-known artists, collaborative opportunities, and ways to share resources.


The results (so far)

After presenting our findings to stakeholders, the collaboration partner organizations are taking action on the insights we uncovered together:


  • Rocky Mountain Public Media is relying on the qualitative research and proposed solutions collected through Hearken to inform their new digital product and community-driven service, Culture Hub.
  • Colorado Public Radio plans to hire a news editor overseeing arts coverage.
  • Denverite plans to add an arts reporting fellow.

“Hearken helped our partners put the community at the center when developing media projects (…) They reminded our local news organizations that they already know how to interview people for stories, but only rarely talk to them about what kinds of stories they’d like to see.”

Nancy Watzman, Founding Director, Colorado Media Project

Number of interviewees


Interview locations


of interviewees were from marginalized or underrepresented communities

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