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Snehal Khatavkar
Design researcher. Design strategist

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) is an organization that is working to promote solutions journalism, an approach to journalism that focuses on reporting on what is working to solve social problems, as well as what is not. SJN wishes to make solutions journalism an accepted practice in the news industry as well as find opportunities to generate revenue through solutions journalism. However, they are missing an important piece of the puzzle that weakens their theory of change. 

A systems analysis approach as well as a co-design workshop helped us identify alternative revenue opportunities and a renewed theory of change 

Helping solutions journalism deliver on its promise?

Time: 5 min  

Process

SJN produces solutions stories as a counter response

to negative news and biased media coverage

Solutions journalism seeks to provide a more balanced and hopeful view of the world by reporting on what is working to solve problems, as well as what is not. 

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) trains journalists to find tested solutions to real-world problems and write about them with rigorous research, working with university journalism programs to ensure new journalists learn this approach.

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) has been producing solutions stories for 10 years as a

counter to negative news and biased media coverage

Convince business leaders

Propagate solutions journalism 

Revenue through solutions journalism?
Identify value proposition

SJN's aims to foster widespread adoption of solutions journalism practice in the industry

By making a convincing case for solutions Journalism to business leaders in the news industry and partnering with stakeholder in the industry 

Entrenched power dynamics and traditional roles severely hamper SJN's success in its current efforts and strategies

Overcoming these barriers, solutions journalism will gain ground as a standard practice

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) aims to see an industry that uses solutions journalism as a tool to achieve stronger communities, greater equity, increased trust and loyalty, and depolarization of discourse. 

?

Having more solution stories existing in the world does not ensure resilient futures

SJN is overlooking a crucial aspect: the audience.

 


The desired impact SJN seeks can only be achieved through audiences taking action and driving real-world change 
 

While there is well researched evidence of anecdotal impacts of solutions journalism on audience , presently there is a dearth of evidence regarding how audiences engage with and  apply solutions journalism content in their
daily lives 

How might we help the audience bridge the gap between awareness and action?

A co-design workshop to 

Understand how audiences intend on using solutions content in their personal and professional lives

Testing hypothesis of repurposing solutions content outside of the news industry to generate more revenue 

Activate learnings from research and provide evidence for the organizations pitch 

The Vanguard conference is the manifestation of our journalism. Instead of readers going to our website and learning about solutions, we go around the city and we visit solutions. People leave it feeling. They told me that they fall in love with their work again. They feel reinvigorated by going and doing this

-Lucas Grindley, Next City

 

There are environmental groups that have been using our content. A person in Washington State wrote us about a pesticide issue. And they said, we're using your content at the governmental level to educate our members to then lobby 

-Naomi Starkman, Civil Eats 

Empowered audiences harness solutions content to drive impact in communities and professional practice

Despite disengaging from news, audiences showed signals of wanting to take action and using solutions content in thier daily lives. 

SJN is incorporating a co-design approach into its next Beacon cohort. A  cohort of publications (5-7) come together for 6 months of training and development will kick off with an in person co-design session asking the HMW question we proposed in our co-design workshop.

This update shows a change in the organisations leaderships thoughts and approach to utilising SoJo content

Impact 

In comparison to conventional news stories, solutions journalism currently lacks clearly defined actions for its audiences

Solutions journalism is competing traditional models of reporting news.

The   purpose of traditional news is well established as being the watchdog for citizens with well established evidences of actions available for citizens. 

However, solutions journalism currently does not have well established sctions available for citizens 

So that [our relationship with the audience] has changed dramatically. In the 80s and 90s, when I grew up in journalism, we just honestly didn't care. We really felt that we were trained and bathed in “Society of Professional Journalist Ethics,” and we would make news decisions for our audiences. We gave them what we thought we needed to give them. …But that dramatically shifted with democratization of on digital platforms. They started talking back to us… So now we really see it as a dialogue. I think we need to teach our journalists and our audience how to make that conversation productive. …And perhaps that's where we can do some healing for the trust issues that we have developed with our audience because of our old mindset

- Dr. Amanda Bright, University of Georgia

The traditional journalistic value system discouraged active engagement with audiences

Journalism as an industry is trained to disengage from their audience to maintain objectivity. However, this has led to lack of trust in the audience. 

Entrenched power dynamics and traditional roles severely hamper SJN's success in its current efforts and strategies

The news industry is struggling to adapt to the changing media landscape, and is being forced to innovate in order to survive.

Neighbourhood journalism residency to overcome misleading narratives

Content and context library

Removing rose colored glasses to view the world differently

Gesture Hat- journalists as community builders to help non-profits understand the community and its need and provide up to date information.

Additional ideas for repurposing solutions content 

Creating community
Creating affinity groups of readers facilitated by journalists
(e.g. happy hours for climate entrepreneurs to discuss climate solutions and its impact on their business/organisations; book clubs)

Educating students
Creating curricula to be deployed in classrooms or nontraditional learning settings
(e.g. youth development programs)

Innovating on different platforms
Creating audio products (e.g. podcasts featuring journalists going more into stories in more depth)

Project details 

Timeline 
14 weeks ( (August 2022 - December 2022)

Team members 
Avani Chaturvedi 

Claire 

Elizabeth
Sandhini Ghodeshwar 

Snehal Khatavkar 

Role
Design researcher |  Facilitator 

The quality and thoughtfulness of the students' work was impressive. They grappled with some of the hardest questions about the business of journalism and how to serve communities in meaningful ways. The insights and ideas they surfaced will contribute to the larger set of reflections around how SJN and the industry evolve and strategize to push media globally to be more solutions-focused.

Alec Saelens | SJN’s Director of Impact

Know more about the Co-design workshop here 

Reach out if you want to learn more about my work or simply have a chat over coffee

You seem interested!

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