A mission worth joining

When we look across the field of social enterprises in Austin, we could pick out any number of organizations doing amazing work. From improving educational outcomes to aiding Austin’s homeless population, our community of nonprofits and social entrepreneurs are striving to make Central Texas a better place to live, work and play for everyone.

Yet, both here and around the country, we too often see social enterprises struggling to expand their impact. Their work changes lives, but it could change more – it could reach more. We founded Notley Ventures to help these organizations scale their successful ideas and programs, using what we learned as entrepreneurs to help social enterprises expand their reach. 

The Notley Fund’s support for the Capital of Texas Media Foundation is just the latest example of this mission, and we encourage you to help support it. 

On its own, the Austin Monitor has become an invaluable, nonprofit source of in-depth local government news. On its own, Glasshouse Policy has created an array of innovative programs to help educate and engage with a broader cross-section of Austin’s population. We believe the merger of these two entities creates a whole greater than its parts, opening the possibility for new programs that will inform and involve more and more of our neighbors.

We’re especially excited, though, about the third part of the CoTMF mission – a research organization that will begin to deliver the data and analysis we all need to make sound decisions about the future of Central Texas. Austin is one of the largest cities in the county without a think tank dedicated to studying its equitable and sustainable growth. It’s long past time to fill that void.

By combining a locally based nonprofit news outlet, an innovative community engagement program and an authoritative research organization, CoTMF will amplify the reach and impact of each individual initiative. More importantly, it will deliver the critical information and analysis that will help amplify the work of Austin’s tremendous social enterprises, as well.

That’s precisely what we hope to achieve at Notley. We hope you will join us in building the type of news, engagement and research organization Austin needs and deserves.

Thank you,

Dan & Lisa Graham
Co-founders, Notley

A new chapter at CoTMF – Inform, Educate, Engage

It began, as so many ideas do, over pizza and beer.

Two years ago, founding Austin Monitor publisher Mike Kanin and I were hanging out at Pinthouse Pizza when we started brainstorming the idea of a new Austin think tank.

Back then, as the economy reporter for the Austin American-Statesman, I kept bumping into the limits of the data available to describe trends shaping Central Texas. Mike cringed at how often local policy makers made policy based on scant evidence. A metro-focused think tank might help fill those holes.

So, we bounced the idea around, and we got a warm reception, but for a variety of reasons we never quite got it off the ground. 

It’s off the ground now, and we need your help to take it higher.

Thanks to the foresight and support of our board, Dan and Lisa Graham, Notley Ventures and Glasshouse Policy founders Tom Visco and Francisco Enriquez, the Capital of Texas Media Foundation has evolved to a new model with three key emphases:

  • The Austin Monitor, which provides Austin’s most in-depth coverage of local politics

  • Glasshouse Policy, which develops innovative community engagement initiatives that draw more people into civic life

  • The new think tank, which will deliver the research and analysis policy makers and citizens need to make informed decisions

I’m excited about what we’ve started and proud to be leading this effort. But we need your financial support if we hope to fulfill the needs of such a rapidly growing city. So, to build a wider foundation of community support, we’re raising $10,000 in this month-long online fund-raising campaign.

Over the next four weeks, we’ll provide more details about each of three main initiatives and let some of our supporters share why they believe this model can reinvigorate civic life in our community.

With your support, we can build the kind of news, outreach and research organization Austin needs and deserves – one that informs, educates and engages with an ever-broadening array of Central Texas residents.

Thank you.
Dan Zehr
Executive director, CoTMF
Publisher, the Austin Monitor

Capital of Texas Media Foundation merges with Glasshouse Policy; will launch new, Austin-focused research organization

AUSTIN, Texas (June 20, 2019) — The Capital of Texas Media Foundation (COTMF) and Glasshouse Policy on Thursday announced they have  merged to form a news, community engagement and research organization that will deliver comprehensive coverage and analysis of Austin’s politics, development and economy.

The nonprofit organization, which will operate under the COTMF umbrella, will continue to provide leading news coverage of Austin and Travis County government through the Austin Monitor. The combination of that in-depth reporting with Glasshouse’s innovative community engagement initiatives at the state and local levels will inform and connect more Austin residents with the policy and civic conversations that influence their lives.

COTMF will also launch of a new, independent research organization. The metro-focused think tank will be dedicated to deciphering the mix of complex factors that shape Austin’s growth and how they affect equity and opportunity for Central Texas residents.

Veteran Austin journalist Dan Zehr will oversee the entities as executive director of the foundation and publisher of the Monitor.

“Like too many U.S. cities, Austin has seen its local newsrooms shrink and many of its citizens give up on civic participation,” Zehr said. “With this combination, COTMF will bolster its in-depth news coverage and draw residents back into the policy discussions that affect their lives.”

The research organization will strengthen COTMF’s existing efforts with the types of independent, nonpartisan research that policymakers and voters need to make informed decisions. Through Notley Ventures, Dan and Lisa Graham provided initial financial support for the combination and the new research arm.

"Austin is one of the largest cities in the country without a think tank dedicated to understanding its own growth and development," said Dan Graham, founder of Notley and a board member at COTMF. "Lisa and I believe that the combination of local nonprofit journalism, proactive citizen engagement and this new research organization is imperative for equitable and sustainable growth."

COTMF has launched a capital campaign to fund and staff the think tank, expand the Austin Monitor’s news coverage and develop new models of community engagement. Elizabeth Pagano will continue to lead news coverage as editor of the Austin Monitor, and Kasey Corpus will oversee Glasshouse Policy’s engagement initiatives. The foundation expects to hire a research director by the second quarter of 2020.

“This combination will complement the Austin Monitor's indispensable coverage of Austin," said Matt Esber, attorney and the chair of COTMF. "These new initiatives will bring more people into the public sphere and deliver the depth of news and analysis that Austin's citizens and elected officials need."

The combined operations will also bring together most of the existing COTMF and Glasshouse boards. In addition to Esber and Graham, the board will include: Ashley Amini, Dan Austin, Andy Brown, Ambassador Lyndon Olson, Grace Renbarger, Alexander Schoenbaum and Irfan Syed. Founding Austin Monitor publisher Mike Kanin and Francisco Enriquez, who co-founded Glasshouse Policy with Thomas Visco, will serve on the COTMF board as well.

"This combination represents an exciting evolution of the Austin Monitor and its mission,” said Kanin, who is now publisher of the Texas Observer. “As local journalism continues to deteriorate across the country, this sort of innovation is just the sort of thing that's needed."

“Tom and I founded Glasshouse Policy to better bridge the gap between citizens and policymakers and create a more engaged citizenry and a more responsive government,” Enriquez said. “Through our efforts, we've managed to develop successful public policy proposals across Texas, at both the state and local levels. With the Austin Monitor, Glasshouse Policy will be further amplified and its purview expanded.”

Mozilla Awards $241,000 to Explore the Intersection of Gigabit Technology and Civics, Robotics, Farming, and More

We are pleased to be among the projects awarded by Mozilla for our Digital Mock City Council: An online, open-source, digital budget debate platform and curriculum designed for middle and high school students to explore civic challenges and priorities.

You can read more about our project and others here:


The Austin Monitor and GivingCity Austin Team Up Under the Capital of Texas Media Foundation

The Capital of Texas Media Foundation is excited to announce that it will partner with GivingCity Austin, a news and features site covering local philanthropy, this fall. The move brings GivingCity together with CoTMF’s other publication, the Austin Monitor, a news site that covers items of local import to the Austin region.

While the editorial sides of the two local news sites will continue to operate independently, CoTMF believes that sharing organizational functions will allow CoTMF and each site to expand their mission to build a more informed and engaged public.

“We’re excited about how GivingCity Austin will extend our ability to engage more central Texans,” says CoTMF CEO Mike Kanin. “We believe that GivingCity is an excellent addition to our mission of engagement and education.”

“There’s nothing else like this combination of coverage of the civic sector and the nonprofit sector,” says GivingCity founder, Monica Maldonado Williams, “We think between the two organizations, more Central Texans will have the news and information they need to get more involved in the community.”

As the City of Austin continues to see itself grow in extraordinary ways, CoTMF believes that said growth necessitates a more active and engaged batch of citizens--one that is better equipped to make strong civic decisions than the mere fraction of those who take part in local elections here.