Networked News Lab

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Networked News Lab

Kenya
Budget: 
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

It tests an approach to media development that stimulates local innovation rather than importing Western models.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

In Kenya and Ethiopia, developers of information and communication technology have designed a host of crowd-sourcing platforms, data visualisation tools, mobile phone polling software and other new media applications. Yet mainstream media houses have not embraced these emerging technologies for news production - to the great frustration of organizations at the helm of ICT innovation such as Ushahidi, Sodnet and Twaweza. Media houses in Ethiopia and Kenya, however, are eager to adopt new technologies, but they are resource scarce and risk adverse and lack the urgency to change of their northern counterparts who are losing their audiences to on-line sources. Furthermore, media houses have professional journalistic concerns about new media: for example, with the process of verification of information. Opening mass media to other sectors of society requires a paradigmatic shift in how journalists understand their role. This project proposes to address these issues.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In an approach to research accepted in other fields but still unconventional in the field of communication, I intend to work with journalists in Ethiopia and Kenya as co-researchers in a process of learning-by-doing. I plan to convene a small group of accomplished journalists in each country. Each group, comprised of about four or five journalists, shall represent a range of mediums and media houses. We will then test what we can do in the new communication landscape: accessing new sources of information, connecting with people who could not be reached before, using crowd-sourcing, social media, innovative survey techniques and citizen journalism, etc. (and, of course, still going out to speak with people in person). We are at a historic juncture. New technologies have put journalistic models in question, and it is still unclear whether mainstream journalism will emerge any more pluralistic or democratic than it is today. This project aims to involve journalists in Kenya and Ethiopia in finding an answer to this question by exploring new standards of journalistic conduct. The research thus recognises that journalists are political actors – not just by virtue of what they print, post or broadcast – but in their capacity to re-imagine their profession.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A group or four to six accomplished journalists will be convened in each country, representing a range of mediums and media houses. These journalists (the members of the Networked New Lab) will test what can be done in the new communication landscape: accessing new sources of information, connecting with people who could not be reached before, using crowd-sourcing, social media, innovative survey techniques and citizen journalism, etc. (and, of course, still going out to speak with people in person). The journalists will routinely receive a representative or expert in a new technological resource. In Kenya, for example, the group might receive Map Kibera, a crowd-sourced community-mapping project. In Ethiopia, the journalists might meet with someone from AidInfo, an organization which has convinced international donors to release data on aid flows in a detailed and standardized fashion. Where appropriate, these meetings may involve a field visit. After hearing from the guest, the journalists will discuss the challenges and possibilities of working with this resource. At these gatherings, the facilitator will draw from participatory methods and a tradition of pedagogy associated with Paulo Freire. Working independently within their own media house, each journalist will then put their ideas into practice on at least one feature story. At the subsequent meeting, the journalists will share their reflections on the experience of using a particular technology. In this iterative process of action and reflection, the journalists will be encouraged re-imagine their profession.
Sustainability

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

This is not a commercial project and so there are no competitors. Only a few organizations are working to promote the use of new communication technologies by mainstream media, and most of these are focused on the technological platforms. This project is unique because it instead places an emphasis on the need for new standards of journalistic ethics and professionalism in order to make the technologies useful.
About You
Organization:
London School of Economics
About You
First Name

Nicholas

Last Name

Benequista

Twitter URL

@benequista

Facebook URL
About Your Organization
Organization Name

London School of Economics

Organization Country
Country where this project is creating social impact

, NA

How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

Innovation
Select the stage that best applies to your solution

Idea (you're poised to launch)

How long have you been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Social Impact
FOUNDING STORY: We want to hear about your “Aha!” moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution’s potential to change the world.

I am a highly skilled journalist, with seven years of experience covering breaking news stories and producing investigative articles. In Mexico, I was Bureau Chief for Bloomberg News, managing a team of journalists and contributing to strategic decisions about coverage of the region. Whilst based as a freelance correspondent in Addis Ababa for nearly two years, I specialized in coverage of international development issues. My project is largely inspired by what I learned from Ethiopian journalist friends.
Most recently, I was a Research and Communications Officer on the Participation, Power and Social Change Team at the Institute of Development Studies. During my time there, I primarily worked on a 10-year global research project - the Development Research Centre on Citizenship, Participation and Accountability - that integrated activities for policy influence and social change from the local level to the global. During the project, I worked closely with one of the world's leading scholars in the Freirean tradition, John Gaventa, and I have taken many ideas from him on how to facilitate the kind deep and profound reflection that can lead people to change.

Specify both the depth and scale of your solution’s social impact to date

My project has yet to begin, but the participatory methodologies from which it will draw have proven to be effective throughout the world. No one has yet tried to apply them with journalists.

What is your projected impact within the next 1-5 years? Is your idea replicable? If so, how?

The project aims to have an impact on several non-academic groups, including private firms, civil society organizations and governmental agencies.
First and foremost, it will have a direct impact on the policies and practices of major media houses in Kenya and Ethiopia. These might include the Nation Group, Standard Group, Royal Media Group and the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation in Kenya; and the Reporter, Awramba Times, Sheger FM and Ethiopian Television in Ethiopia.
The project will also aim to influence ICT developers and policy makers in the field of international development. By documenting and promoting a new model for media development, this project could have far-reaching implications.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and mark growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Within six months we will have strengthened the ability of journalists to use innovative forms of reporting

Six-Month Tasks
Task 1

Co-produce knowledge on how the profession of journalism is being changed by communication technologies

Task 2

Facilitate a network of journalists and developers of information and communciation technologies

Task 3

Use communication technologies to produce news stories that serve a public service function

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Within 12 months we will have changed the way that media development is done

12-Month Tasks
Task 1

Demonstrate to editors and media house managers that new communication technologies can improve journalism

Task 2

Synthesize what we have learned about new forms of journalism and about capacity building through co-production of knowledge

Task 3

Communicate our model widely, including to ICT developers, media policy makers and international development organizations

How many people have been impacted by your project?

How many people could be impacted by your project in the next three years?

101‐1000

Sustainability
Explain how your company, program, service or product is structured

Non-profit

What barriers have hindered the success of your project to date? How do you plan to overcome these and other challenges as you grow your solution?

This project is the culmination of several years of preparation. The greatest hindrance so far has been the availability of financial support, but I am addressing that through aggressive fund raising efforts.

How do you see the information-technology and media sectors shifting over the next decade? How will your solution adapt to and/or drive that changing environment?

New technologies will continue to appear, but it is still unclear whether mainstream journalism will emerge any more pluralistic or democratic than it is today. This project aims to involve journalists in Kenya and Ethiopia in finding an answer to this question by exploring new standards of journalistic conduct.

Failure is not always an option. If your solution fails to gain traction in the next two years, what other applications of the idea could you explore?

If I fail to carry out this project under the guise of an action research PhD, I will consider founding an NGO and carrying out the work purely as an international development project.

Expand on your selections, explaining how you will sustain funding

I have already secured funding from non-governmental organizations working in Kenya and Ethiopia and I hope also to receive foundation funding. Once our model has proven successful, I anticipate that international donors will also be interested in supporting a continuation of the project.

Tell us about your partnerships

The project is already partnered with Twaweza East Africa, a ten-year citizen-centred initiative focusing on large-scale change in East Africa. Among its objectives, Twaweza strives to deepen media quality by, among other things, availing resources and connections that allow media houses to more effectively use evidence and data. Twaweza is offering financial and in-kind support.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section?

The project would only require two research assistants.

Changemakers is a collaborative and supportive space. Please specify any community resources you would need to grow and sustain your initiative. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas.

Specify any resources you might offer to support other initiatives. Select all that apply

Research or information, Collaboration or networking, Innovation or ideas.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren’t specified within the list
Summary
Define your company, program, service or product in 1-2 short sentences

This project will create a forum where technological innovations can be explored, assessed and adapted by leading journalists.