Scaling Up: Profile of KUOW's RadioActive Youth Media

May 21, 2012 in GPRX Blog by Jones Franzel

Last year, KUOW realized they had a problem: Their youth radio summer program, Weekday High, was so successful that students wanted to stay involved…even after summer ended. Co-Directors Jenny Asarnow and Nathan Friend took on the challenge of making their program year round with care, thought and planning. We had to ask: How'd you do it?

Jenny and Nathan kindly shared a bit about the program, tips for scaling up and plans for the future. Be sure to listen to the great work coming out of RadioActive Youth Media (some of which is featured at the end of this post), and to find them on a social media network near you.

GPRX: Please give us a little bit o' background: How did RadioActive get started?

Jenny Asarnow and Nathan Friend: A long long time ago (ok, in 2004) a talk show host at KUOW, Steve Scher, took on a few high school students for a summer – youth who listened to public radio and wanted to learn how to make it. It went so well, it became a program called Weekday High (named after Steve’s talk show Weekday) and kept going every summer. It’s a six week program. The first three weeks are a boot camp where students learn how to do everything they need to do to make a radio show. The second three weeks they produce a daily (!) podcast.
The problem was, every year there were students who wanted to stay involved, but there was nothing for them to stay involved in. So, this year, KUOW supported us in extending the program beyond the summer. The idea is to reach more youth (with after school workshops at community organizations) and provide an avenue for advanced youth to continue producing radio (with our fabulous monthly podcast We’re now in the pilot phase of a year-round program. And we got a new name! The summer 2011 producers called their podcast RadioActive, and after the summer they voted to make RadioActive the name of the entire program.

GPRX: The program has just transitioned from a summers-only format to a year round endeavor; what are four pieces of advice you'd give to folks who want to scale up their radio programs?
JA and NF:

1. Make sure the desire to scale up the program is coming from the youth you work with. We all want better programs with more reach, but at the end of the day this is about the youth we serve, and any changes in your program should reflect their needs.

2. Have a few clear goals laid out. Don’t over-commit or overstretch yourself when you’re deciding on how to scale up the program. Keep your eyes and energy on a small number of key changes. This will keep you (and your resources) from burning out. You can always do more… later.

3. Bring in key stakeholders and keep them involved. Find the people inside and outside your organization who can help you be successful and give them a sense of ownership over your process. This gets institutional support for your changes and gives you good ideas for how to be successful moving forward.

4. Celebrate your successes! It’s OK to get frustrated, to fail, and to change your mind, but don’t forget to also be vocal when you succeed. Let your stakeholders know when things go well. Have parties with your youth when they produce great radio. Get the word out to your colleagues. Celebrate the important work you do!

GPRX: Where would you like to see Radio Active go in the future?

JA and NF: We’re excited to get through an entire year of RadioActive goodness! That means continuing our summer program, holding after-school workshops, and holding weekly drop-in sessions where advanced producers gain skills and produce our monthly podcast. We’re excited to try dropping in to school classrooms for short “teaser” workshops that expose a wider group of young people to public radio storytelling. Down the road we’d like to find more paid leadership opportunities for our advanced youth producers.

GPRX: Anything else you'd like to add?

JA and NF: Fan us on FB!

Subscribe to our podcast!

Sample RadioActive stories on PRX: