In 2013, just one year after InfoAmazonia was founded, the DW Akademie held a meeting on journalism and innovation. It brought together professionals from Latin America and Germany. It was a fun-filled and, of course, inspiring week. Some friendships were born there, and I believe that none of us lost sight of those projects at that meeting.

A few months ago, I thought of this event when Steffen Leidel and Julia Wegner from DW Akademie and Benson Githaiga from the Aga Khan University Media Innovation Centre asked me to reflect on my experiences raising funds for journalism projects. I confessed to them that I had never done such a reflection, but it was precisely the memory of those conversations in Buenos Aires in 2013 that came to inspire me.

I thought mainly about the importance of looking at your project in the long term, of considering an idea at the beginning of a path that can be very difficult (not to say impossible) to know where it will lead.

Patience is key

As I consider this long journey, here are two of the first lessons I can share. First, be patient and be ready to recalculate the route! Follow your ambitions with determination, be faithful to the vision of your project, to its essence. But be flexible to absorb ideas and suggestions from your allies.

In 2013, when I was at the DW Akademie meeting in Buenos Aires, I treated my project very differently. I thought, together with my colleagues, especially journalists James Fahn and Juliana Mori, with whom I had conceptualised it from the beginning, that everything would be nothing more than a data visualisation platform and digital maps.

Today, ten years later, maps and data are still an essential part of what InfoAmazonia does. However, the project has matured into a non-profit organisation with many other activities. As a member associated with this institution, I can say that InfoAmazonia is much more aware of its mission.

Today, I notice that the original idea is still represented in the organisation’s core. But that the organisation itself does many things differently than we had imagined. Apart from data visualisation projects, we make documentaries, investigations, varied reporting, and plural alliances with civil society.

While your organisation must be ready to explore the paths your partners offer, this coherence in telling your story to a donor can be the key to success. This little story with a beginning, maybe some middle ground, but certainly an end to be reached helps a lot to understand the logic behind your ambitions. After all, why would you want to turn your ideas into something concrete? What is your contribution?

One thing that makes me very happy about InfoAmazonia is that (at least) in narrative terms, this is a very sustainable organisation! What I mean is once we were able to launch the first version of the project in 2012, other members joined the team, and among their capabilities is communicating the goals of InfoAmazonia and seeing partnership opportunities.

Pursuing partnerships

One of the people on the team that I am very proud to talk about is journalist Stefano Wrobleski. He joined the project as a reporter in 2015. Since then has embraced the narrative about the fundamental contributions that the organisation can make to society. Today as director of InfoAmazonia alongside co-founder Juliana Mori, he acts on the frontlines to establish new partnerships.

Stefano is also the Geojournalism Coordinator for Earth Journalism Network, working directly with another InfoAmazonia co-founder, James Fahn. In this role, he has become an articulator of a network of professionals worldwide who, like InfoAmazonia, believe in using geographic data as a powerful narrative tool to tell the tremendous environmental transformation we are going through these days. So he helps organisations such as InfoCongo and InfoNile to benefit from technology updates, training and other possible collaborations.

So, as contradictory as it may seem, upon reaching its tenth anniversary, InfoAmazonia is different: it has grown but still remains the same.

To better explain this contradiction – of being different and yet the same – I need to use a cliché, a cliché that, not by chance, has a lesson for us. Test the minimum viable product!

I can highly recommend this: try out different aspects of your ideas, like we try out bifurcations on a trail in a mountain or forest.

The main reason for testing is to allow yourself to mature. It doesn’t mean that your thoughts are not at the advanced stage or that the idea has not been thought through properly. On the contrary! It may be complete, but it just can’t find the conditions to execute at once.

So the model, the sketch, the script, the teaser, in short, what we can call the prototype, can be a good start for the realisation of innovation.

Back to the 2013 DW Akademie meeting in Buenos Aires. I was very touched by media innovators from East African countries who illustrated the spirit of leaving a mark, of building something to last with their ideas. During an afternoon of conversation, I shared a proposal on how to “find your voice” when doing grant writing.

My main point is that no one sits down to write proposals, only to seek money. There’s an idea, a vision, an important goal, the need for impact, and last but not least, the need for change.

Gustavo Faleiros is Pulitzer Center’s Environmental Investigations Editor and the co-founder of InfoAmazonia.

About the Author

Author ProfileGustavo Faleiros
Gustavo Faleiros is Pulitzer Center’s Environmental Investigations Editor and the co-founder of InfoAmazonia.

Similar articles

Media Innovation Centre partners with Mozilla to launch Pocket

The partnership will also ensure that local content is curated and distributed to better optimize the product and meet the needs of Kenyan online users.

Six tips journalists need to know when covering elections

Reporting on elections is, for many journalists, an opportunity to establish themselves as reliable political reporters. But the task comes with certain risks, particularly in the East African sub-region.

Stakeholders are now calling for concerted efforts, better planning and preparations for journalists before they are sent out on the field to cover Kenya’s high-stakes August 9 General Elections.

The perils of political reporting in East Africa

East Africa’s media grapples with a myriad of challenges whenever general elections approach. Not only do editors struggle with balancing the competing political interests, at times at the altar of professionalism, but individual journalists pay dearly, many suffering attacks in the course of their duties.

Enact policies that guarantee education for all

As Form One students settle into a new life in secondary school, this has also been a period of reflection. We have read tear-jerking and heart-warming stories of determined students who overcame many odds to get an education and how well-wishers came together in their aid.

Optimism in Tanzania’s media industry after a dark period

There is renewed optimism in the Tanzanian media space following the ascension to power of President Samia Suluhu whose regime is keen to relax some of the laws deemed punitive to journalists and media houses

RSF 2022 Press Freedom Index: A mixed bag for East Africa

Uganda fell behind, whereas Kenya improved its press freedom ranking in the Reporters Without Borders 2022 Press Freedom Index. And after years of media freedom decline, Tanzania appears to be on the right track. But overall, media freedom activists say there is still work to be done.

Good journalism does not come cheap

A free and independent press is the cornerstone of any democracy and the foundation of economic success, mostly because through our free press, we’re able to hold the leadership to account.

Opinion: Rethinking media houses revenue streams in the Digital era

To align with the changing times and stay relevant in the business, media houses are challenged to rethink their strategy and to adopt and understand obstacles and challenges they face towards rethinking and exploring alternative sources of revenue and on developing the digital strategy.

Hamasa Media Group: Tanzanian innovators with a solution to organisation management

A team of young, Tanzanian tech-savvy communication professionals is dreaming big. It seeks to usher a new dawn in media business management in Tanzania by optimising employee output and offering consultancy to media businesses on how they can operate with a minimal budget but still attain their goals.

The legal challenges facing East Africa’s bloggers and influencers 

Bloggers and influencers have become an integral component of information sourcing across East Africa. The public uses blogs, privately run websites and social networks to crowdsource information from social networks, which they then publish and distribute. But it’s not all rosy for this group of content makers.

Afyatoon: How two medics are transforming lives through story-telling

The chances of meeting a medical graduate practising journalism are usually very slim, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa. But two Tanzanian physicians have broken away from that norm by inventing a start-up called Afyatoon. It uses visual art technology to tell compelling medical stories. They narrate to the EAST Site their experience and share their vision for the future.

Five astounding findings from the MCK state of Kenya’s Media Survey

Did you know that in 2021 Kenyans watched less TV and spent more time on social media? Or that some Kenyans rely on family, friends, or even social media icons and bloggers as a source of news and information? These are some of the conclusions highlighted in the 2021 State of the Media Survey conducted by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).

Uganda’s media strives to reinvent itself post Covid-19

The effects of the Covid pandemic continue to change the world in ways we had not imagined possible. The media is going through a painful transformation to keep up with changing production, distribution and consumption habits. In East Africa, Uganda’s Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) recently hosted a panel discussion on Media Viability comprising experienced journalists from Television, Radio, Print and Online/Digital media to address lessons learned from the pandemic. East Site’s Moses Mutente attended the panel and compiled this article.

Opinion: Africa must revamp journalism education to include media ownership

In this commentary, Uganda-based journalist Caleb Okereke shares deep personal insights into why media schools in East Africa must rethink their curriculum. He stresses the need for trainers to begin teaching media ownership to better equip journalism students for the dynamic and cutthroat job market by taking us through his journey as a journalism student and media owner.

Dwindling trust in media raises concerns ahead of Kenya’s General Election

For the second year running, a survey commissioned by the Media Council of Kenya shows that the trust level in Kenyan media has nosedived, raising fundamental questions on how media will play its watchdog role more so with landmark elections set for August 9. EAST Site writer Isaac Swila explores.

Opinion: Media needs credibility to survive the pandemic and digital transformation

Legacy media is currently caught between a rock and a hard place — the Covid pandemic and the rise and proliferation of social media has hit revenues hard. Some say this could signal the end of news as we used to know it. However, Ugandan decorated journalist Ernest Bazanye believes the industry will survive and thrive, but not without a fight.

Opinion: We should all be concerned about the future of media

Free media is often described as the fourth estate, the gatekeeper, the whistleblower, and many more. American singer Jim Morrison once said, “whoever controls the media, controls the mind.” No wonder governments worldwide try hard to control the press. But the media itself, particularly in Uganda, faces a severe identity crisis that requires urgent action, writes guest commentator Jimmy Spire Ssentongo.

Invest in journalists’ verification skills to help curb disinformation, expert Redondo advises

World over, disinformation is a virus that continues to permeate newsrooms giving media managers and journalists a headache on how to deal with it. Dr. Myriam Redondo,  a newsroom trainer in digital verification and associate professor in International Relations (PhD) explains how to tackle the virus in an engagement with EAST Site writer Isaac Swila.

Media faulted over its coverage of people living with disabilities 

According to the World Health Organisation there are between 60-80million people with disabilities in Africa and over 1 billion in the world, many of whom live under deplorable conditions owing to societal myths.

How Kenyan journalists are preparing for the 2022 General Election 

Kenyan voters will go to the polls on August 7, 2022, to elect new leaders. As expected, the media is burning the midnight oil, trying to develop strategies to cover the polls. But how prepared are they?

Tanzania: Striving for women digital inclusion

Tanzania has a massive digital gender gap. As a result, it is unlikely to hear stories about successful Tanzanian women, either in leadership or the media.

Three reasons why a Human Centred Design is necessary for innovation

Ultimately, HCD is a toolbox containing multiple tools you can pick out, show your team how to use them, and ensure it becomes best practice

Meet the Tanzanian journalist passionate about the right to clean water and sanitation

Mohammed Hammie is not your typical reporter. In 2019, the young Tanzanian swapped from being a regular journalist to media for community empowerment and has since specialised in telling stories about the human right to access clean drinking water, particularly in rural areas.

Kenya’s Media Council defends move seeking journalists quit before vying for election

According to the MCK Chief Executive Officer, David Omwoyo, journalists eyeing political posts should be subjected to the same rules that apply to civil servants. That is to leave office six months to elections. But that’s not the only requirement.

AKU students media research spotlights hits and misses of Kenya’s media

The theses dwelt on thematic areas in Kenya’s media landscape, from solutions journalism, content analysis of the coverage of Covid-19 as well as data smog in the newsrooms, which  the findings show is having a devastating effect on print journalists.

Media Viability Study East Africa: Five interesting findings you should know

The study calls for solutions to structural, political, and societal conditions that jeopardize the future of media as a viable business and a source of high-quality journalism in East Africa

Covid-19: Kenyan journalists go behind the story

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has altered our lives in unimaginable ways. Economies are bleeding. It has disrupted learning; millions have lost their jobs, while many others contend with reduced salaries. Yet, amidst the chaos and disruption, journalists – also hugely affected – have remained steadfast to their cause to tell stories of the pandemic. Some of them narrated their experiences to EAST site’s writer Isaac Swila.

OPINION: Modern journalism faces an existential threat

The Covid-19 pandemic and the technological shifts have caused severe consequences to today’s press. However, Prof George Nyabuga says the writing has long been on the wall, yet many chose to bury their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich.

East Africa’s media powerhouses use convergence in business to stay afloat 

Ever since 170 journalists from Kenya’s Standard Group were made redundant in 2020, media experts argue that convergence of business processes in the media industry is an inevitable and necessary step. The term convergence has dominated media houses for years. But what does it mean and why is it crucial for the future of journalism in the region?

The changing face of Kenyan newsrooms – a case of Standard Media Group

The digital and social media experience has disrupted the media industry in unprecedented ways. Gone are the days when media houses could solely rely on revenues generated from the sale of content, for example, newspapers. Kenya’s Standard Media Group understood the need to adapt to the ‘new digital newsroom’ and embarked on a three-year- restructuring programme, but the change is not without challenges as Peter Oduor found out