Cortico will Advance “Local Voices Network” with $2 million from Knight Foundation

With $10 Million Raised to Date, Cortico is Building a Public
Conversation Network to Surface Under-Heard Community Voices and Build
Trust Between the Public and Media

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–lt;a href=”” target=”_blank”gt;#Communitieslt;/agt;–Cortico,
a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering constructive
public conversation in communities and the media, today announced it had
received an additional $2 million in funding from the The
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
as part of a new $300
million, five-year commitment that seeks to rebuild the future of local
. This is the second grant to Cortico from Knight Foundation,
with the first announced in September, 2017 for $900,000.

Working in cooperation with the MIT
Media Lab
, Cortico builds listening systems designed to surface a
community’s under-heard voices and channel their perspectives and
stories into the public dialogue. Through its first initiative, the Local
Voices Network (LVN)
, Cortico is building a network of recorded
in-person conversations in select regions across the United States,
offering community members, media and civic leaders a new window into
important local issues and perspectives. LVN is explorable through
web-based tools that will allow the community to tune into what’s most
relevant locally, and the media to tell stories that are more reflective
of life on the ground.

“With trust in the media near all-time lows, journalists need to
understand the voices of people who have gone unheard, help tell their
stories and develop a more sophisticated understanding of how digital
technologies are shaping public debate. Cortico is poised to provide a
new way for journalists and leaders to do just that through an
innovative platform that will help them listen to the public and be more
responsive to community concerns,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight
Foundation vice president for journalism.

“Nationally, the country is politically polarized and culturally
fragmented. Locally, people share a lived community experience, but too
many local voices go unheard as many newsrooms are losing the pulse of
communities they can no longer afford to cover as deeply,” said Deb Roy,
Co-Founder and Chairman of Cortico. “We are excited to receive this
additional funding, as it will enable LVN to continue to create new
local spaces for constructive public conversation that builds
understanding among people across boundaries and trust between the
public and the media.”

Through LVN, conversations are organized and led by volunteer hosts from
the community who have experience in group facilitation and who, as a
group, reflect the diversity of the area. Each conversation takes place
around a “Digital Hearth” that records the discussion and enables hosts
to play speech highlights from other groups in order to cross-pollinate
voices and perspectives across community boundaries. The recordings are
transcribed to make them machine readable, then analyzed with AI-based
tools that enable users to explore conversations.

LVN is deploying in select communities over the course of the next year,
with the long-term goal of rolling out into every state. Roll outs are
currently underway in the following communities:

  1. Madison, Wisconsin: Through a partnership with the Madison
    Public Library, nearly 70 LVN-trained hosts are starting to organize
    and guide small-group conversations throughout Madison, with more
    conversations happening each week. Several Madison media outlets,
    including the Cap Times and the Capital City Hues, are expected to
    employ LVN conversation content in their local reporting.
  2. The Bronx, New York: The New York Public Library is partnering
    with Cortico to establish LVN hubs at three neighborhood library
    branches in the Bronx in Spring 2019.
  3. Birmingham, Alabama: In late Spring 2019 LVN will launch in
    Birmingham with Alabama Media Group’s news organization For, Cortico will combine LVN with local Twitter and talk radio
    conversation, with the goal of fueling stories that are more inclusive
    of local voices and reflective of life on the ground in Birmingham

Cortico was founded by Chairman Deb Roy, Director of the Laboratory
for Social Machines
(LSM) at the MIT Media Lab, Cortico President
Eugene Yi, Deployment Strategist at LSM, and Russell Stevens, Deployment
Lead at LSM. Cortico’s development team brings experience in using
machine learning to understand and map media, while its deployment team
includes experts in data journalism, local news, and community
organizing. Advisors and supporters include Sir
Tim Berners-Lee
, inventor of the World Wide Web; Reid
of Greylock Partners and founder of LinkedIn; Joi
, Director of the MIT Media Lab and a Knight Foundation board
member; Ali
of YCombinator; and Craig
of Craig Newmark Philanthropies and founder of Craigslist.

Since its launch in 2016, Cortico has raised approximately $10 million
from foundations and individuals who seek to bring technology and human
power together to improve civic life. To date, in addition to Knight
Foundation, Cortico funding sources include Reid Hoffman, Craig Newmark
Philanthropies and Ali Rowghani.

About Cortico

is a nonprofit organization with the mission of fostering constructive
public conversation in communities and the media that improves our
understanding of one another. Working in cooperation with the Laboratory
for Social Machines
at the MIT
Media Lab
, Cortico builds listening systems designed to surface a
community’s under-heard voices and channel their perspectives and
stories into the public dialogue.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

is a national foundation with strong local roots. We
invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where
brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal
is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are
essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit


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