The European Journalism Centre (EJC) has launched a new grant and mentorship scheme to fast-track solutions journalism in Europe, in partnership with the Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) and funded with £3m ($4m, €3.6m) from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The Solutions Journalism Accelerator (SJA) will make £2.1m ($2.8m, €2.5m) of grant funding available to European media organisations that are based, or have significant reach in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. The rest of the money is allocated to paying for mentoring, coaching and resources.
Solutions journalism, often described as rigorous reporting on responses to societal problems, is seen by the EJC as a way to address critical issues that media organisations are facing today, many of which have been compounded by the coronavirus pandemic. They include mistrustful and disengaged audiences, problem-focused reporting, a lack of impact tracking, and changing revenue opportunities.
The accelerator will make available up to £109k ($143k, €130k) of funding to 18 media organisations or consortiums. Half will be chosen as part of this first cohort and the rest selected during a second call for applications, which will be launched in 2023. The three-year programme comes with the condition of delivering long-term, solutions-focused development journalism projects, with a 12-month reporting period.
During the accelerator, grantees will have access to mentors and coaches assigned on the basis of the scope of the team's project and its objectives. This will help develop skills, knowledge and confidence within teams, as well as implementing a solutions journalism approach to their stories.
Each grantee will also be matched with a dedicated mentor, or mentors, for up to 12 months, providing monthly hands-on expertise, resources and advice to key representatives of the project team.
Applicants must submit a budget as part of their application and meet the eligibility criteria and conditions of the Grant (as described in the Call for Applications document). Successful applicants will be shortlisted by an independent jury who will choose projects and teams that best match a number of selection criteria.
"Solutions journalism can, among other impactful outcomes, help media organisations meet the real needs of their communities, which is key to their financial sustainability and wider resilience," says Kathryn Geels, director of grants programmes, EJC, in an email to Journalism.co.uk.
Since 2013, the EJC has financially supported more than 200 journalism projects which report on global challenges, as well as other funding programmes like the Engaged Journalism Accelerator and IJ4EU.
However, simply throwing funding alone at a given issue is not going to solve it. Media organisations and journalists benefit more from grant funding in the long term when they have access to dedicated, relevant mentoring and coaching too.
"Another important part is to enable media organisations to determine their own goals and metrics for monitoring their progress towards meeting those goals - but giving them a framework that helps set them up for success. That’s a strength of the EJC that we’re continuing to develop and implement across all of our work," says Geels.
Fertile ground for solutions journalism in Europe?
Partners SJN also have a wealth of experience in this field, such as its Lede Fellowship now in its third year, which has a similar funding-plus-mentorship model for news organisations in the US and abroad.
The US is often seen as a trailblazer for innovative forms of journalism and when it comes to solutions journalism, there is a real audience appetite for this style of reporting. By contrast, solutions journalism is still largely a nascent idea throughout Europe. As a starting point for the accelerator, France, Germany and the UK were selected as 'target donor' countries because of their contributions to development aid, and as a result, were deemed to have significant potential for developing solutions journalism.
"The difference in Europe is that we are not one country with one network of practitioners or one handful of the same associations or where a majority of news organisations publish English language-first stories," explains Geels.
"Different countries in Europe see differing trends in relation to how media is paid for, produced, owned and consumed, so it would be ignorant for us to think that new or different approaches to journalism would be embraced, implemented or consumed in the same ways or at the same speed across these different countries, or by these different audiences.
"Having said that, many news organisations in Europe are experimenting with, and applying, solutions journalism in some way, but perhaps many are still doing so as a ‘side project’ or ‘add on’ as opposed to embedding it across much of or all of their content.
"In light of this, there is so much opportunity for media organisations in Europe to benefit from the Solutions Journalism Accelerator. Not only through the grant funding but also through participating in the mentorship programme, Ambassador Network and learning from and applying the resources that will be produced in a tangible way in their own organisations or practices."
The deadline to apply is 6 May 2022.
Join us on May 24 as we return to live venues for our digital journalism conference Newsrewired
Clarification: this piece was updated on 31 March to provide more information on the Accelerator
Free daily newsletter
- Covering elections: how to not let politicians steal the narrative
- The Bristol Cable targets £60k of funding in new membership drive
- Solutions journalism superstars: media mentor and trainer, Swati Sanyal Tarafdar
- Solutions journalism superstars: Innocent Eteng, managing editor, Prime Progress
- Solutions journalism superstars: Assunta Corbo, editor-in-chief, News48