The general perception is that the news industry focuses on negative news because a journalist's job is to highlight the problems and catastrophes of the world and give a voice to the under trodden. It is thought that stories about positive innovations belong to the sphere of PR, communications, and the chaos of social media.
However, another approach to journalism exists. Perhaps the whole story cannot be told without shedding light on how to fix things. In fact, a whole movement around constructive journalism seeks to source and report on solutions, giving nuanced and intelligent analysis to debates about what is wrong with the world. The underlying assumption being that this approach will inspire readers and positively contribute to the development of featured "solutions."
Experimenting with Solutions Journalism
To test these assumptions and help create positive impact for organisations innovatively responding to problems, Sparknews, a social start-up based in Paris, has developed an international editorial operation: Impact Journalism Day, called IJD afterwards. IJD is a collaboration between 50+ prestigious newspapers in more than 40 countries. Every year, they come together to share stories of hope, change, and positive innovation.
To measure the impact IJD has on the 100 featured projects, Sparknews conducted an impact evaluation, asking all featured organisations to evaluate what changed after being covered in the world's most prestigious media. Did the heightened visibility contribute to their development?
Overwhelmingly, the response was yes, and four main benefits were identified.
1.The Media Magnifies the Visibility of these Organisations
The most obvious positive outcome is an increased visibility, as the publications' renown serves to boost the organization's credibility. Project leaders said that IJD had a positive impact on their project, citing increased visibility in 66% of cases. "The fact that such prestigious media wrote about us means a lot! We always mention it when we're asking for sponsorships or partnerships," says Maria Dermentzi from Code It Like a Girl, a Greek organization that teaches coding to women.
2. Readers Engage with Featured Projects
More than 55% of the project leaders were contacted by intrigued readers after IJD's publication and 57% of the project leaders recorded a major increase in online activity. Organisations can build on the media exposure to strengthen their communities. Lawrence Migliano, from Barefoot College, a non-governmental organization that has been teaching mothers and grandmothers in rural villages to become solar engineers for more than 40 years, told us "our Facebook page grew by over 20,000 likes in the two months following IJD."
3. Reporting on Solutions Leads to Lasting Business Partnerships
Readership engagement is not just about social media and likes: 39% of the projects that reported a need for connections developed new business opportunities thanks to IJD. "This international coverage enabled the company to reach major investors and industrial partners. Algopack signed big contracts worldwide with car manufacturers, phone companies, and food packaging firms," said Rémy Lucas, founder of Algopack, an industrial company that makes algae-based packaging material.
4. Featured Projects Receive Increased Funding
The assessment showed that 42% of the projects in need of more financing received donations and/or investments. One of these was Dar Si Hmad, a Moroccan project which saw an amazing increase in its media coverage from over 60 media outlets that did not participate in IJD. Dar Si Hmad also received unexpected funding, as Marouane Smaili recalls: "we were contacted by a South-African philanthropist (...), he came to visit our center and made a huge donation."
Moving Forward to 2016
2016 will be an interesting year. As the alliance moves to increase the number of partner media in its 4th year, the key word is digitalisation. More digital content, more digital readers, and more digital engagement is key to multiplying the impact of Impact Journalism Day. Join us on Twitter and Facebook to get more information!
Read our full Impact Evaluation.