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Snehal Khatavkar
Design researcher. Design strategist

Establishing a dialogue between changemakers and journalists to enable audiences in using solutions content to envision and create a more equitable and sustainable world

Helping solutions journalism deliver on its promise

Time: 5 min  

Design process
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Design research | Design strategy for social interventions 

Widespread adoption of solutions reporting alone
does not guarantee that people in all communities can envision and create a more equitable and sustainable world 

CHALLENGE 

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) is a nonprofit leading a global shift in journalism by reporting on what the news misses most often:
how people are trying to solve problems and what we can learn from their successes or failures

For 10 years, SJN is training journalists to create more solutions content in the industry and have developed a solutions tracker consisting of 15,300 stories documenting whats working

Founded by journalists, SJN's theory of change is that practice of more solutions journalism leads to a more sustainable world

SJN aims to champion the spread of solutions reporting in the news industry in the hopes that availability of more solutions content will lead to a more equitable and sustainable world

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 

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

Project details 

Timeline 
14 weeks ( (August 2022 - December 2022)

Team members 
Avani Chaturvedi 

Claire 

Elizabeth
Sandhini Ghodeshwar 

Snehal Khatavkar 

Role
Design researcher |  Facilitator 

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!

Producing solutions content is a slow process that looses value when its impact is measured by the same metric as problems reporting. 

OPPORTUNITY 

Problems shout solutions whisper! 
Producing problems reporting is fast and can successfully deliver 'viral news' the impact of which is measured by click rates and social media likes. 
However, Solutions build over time and looses value when the metric to measure its impact on audiences is social media shares and likes. 

There is an opportunity to deliver solutions content outside of the news industry, where the impact of the content is valued 

According to Reuters 36% American's say that news has a negative effect on their mood. Research shows. solutions stories makes readers feel motivated and happy [2] 
We heard from our interviews, changemakers like civic 
activists, entrepreneurs, urban planners are using solutions stories to affect change in their communities  
 

There is an opportunity to identify niche target audiences that can utilize the positive effects of solutions content and provide evidence of tangible impact in society as opposed to just anecdotal evidence 

Even though audiences disengage from consuming problems focused news, changemakers derive value from solutions content to drive impact in their communities 

“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 

The new funding models like memberships, subscriptions, contributions from readers are dependent on reader engagement. Events and webinars also add to revenue generation for organizations that are more suitable for the slow production cycle of solutions journalism  

New funding models are dependent on reader revenue 

PROPOSED STRATEGY 

Repurpose solutions content for other industries outside of the news system, leveraging the effects of
solutions content 

Establish a dialogue between journalists, changemakers and newsrooms and provide more scaffolding for changemakers to make tangible impact in society 

Granular theory of change 

ACTIVATING STRATEGY 

But, accepting solutions reporting is a slow systemic change against conventional problems reporting 
Conventional funding models in the news industry support the production of problems reporting, while power dynamics discourage the production of solutions journalism 

BARRIERS 

Business models for niche publications are built on advertising revenue
The news industry is loosing advertising revenue to aggregators like Facebook and google forcing niche publications to seek support from philanthropists and third party donations. These funding can behold newsrooms to the demands of the funders and limit editorial independence

Editors and publishers are the key stakeholders holding the power in the system to greenlight the publishing solutions stories. However, their mental models and  bias towards the new makes it difficult to convince editors the impact of solutions journalism

Editors and publishers are also motivated by revenue opportunities to favor publishing a particular story 

TESTING THIS HYPOTHESIS 

We organized a workshop hosted at ID with a few dozen local social advocacy and business leaders from organizations including Public Narrative, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Argonne National Laboratory. The goal: discover community members’ ideal vision of journalism and how those ideals might be incorporated into a network of newsrooms and reporters practicing solutions journalism. 

The SJNs theory of change neglects the post-distribution phase of solutions content, including how the content is read, understood, and its impact on the audience

Traditional journalistic values of maintaining objectivity have discouraged journalists to think about how audiences
engage with news 

The traditional purpose of news of being a watchdog for citizens, has led to training journalists to write stories by maintaining absolute objectivity to deliver balanced views. However, this focus on objectivity has discouraged journalists from considering how audiences engage with news, and how their own biases and assumptions may affect the way they report on the news 

This becomes a leading factor audiences to disengage from all types of news which ultimately impact readership and consumption of news at large. 

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

OUTCOMES FROM THE WORKSHOP 

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