Good Place Akron

Civic Commons

Civic Commons and ideastream join forces with Knight Foundation support

Expanded program will allow more Ohio citizens to shape community issues

Written By: Mike Shafarenko

Aided by multiple media, more Ohio residents will be able to meaningfully take part in community decision-making as tech startup Civic Commons becomes a program of ideastream. 

The effort is supported by $600,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Since its establishment in 2010 by the Fund for Our Economic Future, Civic Commons has worked with 15 large organizations to involve the public in important community issues. Through activities on the ground and online tools, citizens have been able to weigh in on issues from raising taxes to fund schools to urban redevelopment in blighted areas. Kent State University, for example, hired Civic Commons to engage students and faculty in creating a strategic plan that covers eight campuses and 40,000 students.

Civic Commons will now expand on this model as a program of ideastream, a multiple media public service organization that applies the power of media to strengthen communities through education and public service.  With ideastream, Civic Commons will continue to work with educational, cultural and civic organizations to foster community engagement. 

“Civic Commons will also support the community engagement efforts of ideastream including WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN and WCLV 104.9,” said Jerry Wareham, president and CEO of ideastream. Civic Commons will be able to raise its profile, attract more community-based organizations as clients and identify ways to involve the government and other civic institutions.

“In a short time, Civic Commons has shown the potential for strengthening the way institutions engage with the community,” said Jennifer Thomas, Akron program director for Knight Foundation. “When Civic Commons joins ideastream, it means a more vibrant community where participation and engagement are integrated in future planning.”

“The benefits of aligning with ideastream are many,” said Brad Whitehead, president of the Fund for Our Economic Future and a director of Civic Commons, Inc. 

“It allows even more comprehensive and complementary community engagement programs and services,” added Brian Frederick, president and CEO of the Community Foundation of Lorain County and chair of the board of Civic Commons, Inc.  

Through the funding, Civic Commons also will work to refine its services and business practices to better meet customer needs. This includes updating its subscription levels for clients, as low as $2,500 per year, and customizable services like social media integration and improved impact measurement tools.

Knight Foundation supported the initial launch of Civic Commons, with the goal of providing new ways for citizens to shape local issues. The current funding is an extension of those efforts, enabling Civic Commons to build a more sustainable future.

Civic Commons will relocate to the Idea Center® at PlayhouseSquare, home of ideastream.  Mike Shafarenko, who developed the initial concept for Civic Commons and who has been leading the program since February 2011, will continue to do so as director of Civic Commons at ideastream.

Civic Commons

About Civic Commons

The Civic Commons is a civic engagement utility and consultancy serving community leaders, institutions and the growing desire of citizens to be engaged and empowered on key civic decisions. The Civic Commons is an online environment combining the best and most effective aspects of social networking and social media. Its mission is to build conversations and connections that have the power to become informed, productive and collective civic action. The Civic Commons is funded primarily by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Fund for Our Economic Future.


About ideastream

ideastream is a multiple media public service organization with a mission to strengthen our communities. It includes WVIZ/PBS; 90.3 WCPN; WCLV Classical 104.9; interactive video distance learning; professional development for teachers; management of The Ohio Channel, a statewide service of public broadcasters; management of The Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau, a statewide service of public broadcasters; and now, Civic Commons.   


Knight FoundationAbout the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. The foundation believes that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


If you have any story ideas, questions, or comments you can contact: