Borderless Magazine shares where you can find and connect with community members in person
Borderless Magazine is a digital-native news outlet that reports on and with immigrants in the Chicago area. Community is at the center of everything we do. About half of our audience reads our stories in Spanish and 99% of our stories are reported, illustrated or photographed by people from immigrant communities.
In order to distribute our stories and connect with our audience, we spend a lot of time out in the community talking to people. Our audience — and their understandable misgivings about journalism and news outlets — means that oftentimes the typical digital best practices for reaching readers and growing our audience don’t work for us. And at the same time, changes in Twitter and Facebook in recent months have meant that social media networks are less reliable venues for story distribution and community engagement.
Every outreach event is meant to inspire genuine conversations and relationship building. And it’s our chance to break some of the cycles of parachute reporting and extractive journalism that communities endure regularly from journalists.
This year, we experimented with field canvassers as a way to deepen our connection to our Spanish-speaking community in Chicago. Over the years, we’ve also used listening sessions, tabling, horchata and tamale parties and happy hours to connect with our community members. Every outreach event is meant to inspire genuine conversations and relationship building. And it’s our chance to break some of the cycles of parachute reporting and extractive journalism that communities endure regularly from journalists.
When we talk to journalists about our offline engagement strategy, one of the most common questions we get is, “But where do you find people?”
The answer, of course, is everywhere!
If you’re looking for inspiration on where to start, our Borderless team came up with a list of fifty places where you can find and connect with community members offline. We hope it sparks your imagination for places in your own neighborhoods you could go to connect with your audience.
- Public libraries
- Elementary Schools
- High Schools
- Train stops
- Bus stops
- Places of worship (Our research this year found that many of our Spanish-language readers get their news from church newsletters!)
- Comedy open-mics
- Coffee shops
- Grocery stores
- Free stores and mutual aid groups
- Local politician’s offices
- Local chamber of commerce events
- Street fairs
- Farmers markets
- Flea markets
- Art and antique fairs
- Book readings
- Corner stores
- Running clubs
- Kids sports leagues
- Coworking spaces
- Dance parties
- Art gallery openings
- Social clubs (We joined one this year with a coworking space and it’s allowed us to make many new community connections!)
- Cultural or food festivals
- Book clubs
- House parties
- Bowling alleys
- Cultural museums
- Homeless shelters or tent cities
- Soup kitchens
- Food pantries
- Strip malls
- Fishing ponds and streams (Did you know that in Illinois we have a bullfrog hunting season?)
- Military veteran meetups
- DMVs and other government offices
- Lowrider clubs
- Front porches
- Community gardens
Once you have an idea of where you want to start, think about what your strategy will be for not only connecting genuinely with your community but creating a relationship that will last for years to come. You might explore what Borderless has done with field canvassers, take inspiration from the Listening Post Collective’s excellent playbook, or check out the work of Equally Informed Philly to start.
Have more ideas of where to connect with community members? Send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll include them in our guide to using field canvassers, which will be released in 2023.