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Looking back at 2015 - the best of

The year 2015 has been a roller coaster for the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme grantees and team.

We have awarded more than one million euros divided across thirty-three innovative development journalism projects.

For the first time, next to our two regular calls, we ran a special call for publishers with the aim to support long-term global development reporting. From 2016 onwards, our grantees - Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), De Correspondent (the Netherlands), SPIEGEL ONLINE (Germany) and WeltN24 (Germany) - will dedicate one year to in-depth coverage of issues linked to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Stay tuned, as everything will be freely accessible to the public.

The good news is - in 2016 we have two calls for applications and we are already accepting proposals for reporting grants from freelance journalists and media organisations! You can pitch us your stories by 2nd of March 2016!

But let’s not dismiss 2015 just yet!

It was an incredible year in which our journalism community grew bigger and stronger reaching 150+ members! There have been some amazing prizes our grantees won. See them all here.

And most important, we’ve seen incredible stories come to life, powerful, beautiful and compelling journalism. Let’s take a look!

Graphic Memories - by Marc Ellison

This powerful multimedia uses an innovative graphic novel format to tell the reintegration challenges of four Ugandan women, former child soldiers of the Lord's Resistance Army: Christine, Grace, Jacinta and Mary. Marc Ellison worked with the local graphic artist Chris Mafigiri to best depict and convey the cruel reality faced by these women without being sensational. Don’t miss out also on the interview we did with Marc about his findings and unique story format.

© Chris Mafigiri / Marc Ellison

FOOD4 - by Emanuele Bompan

This ambitious project on food security in seven countries, covers topics from nutrient-rich food in Egyptian schools to environment friendly agricultural systems in Mozambique. For the project Italian journalist and geographer Emanuele Bompan worked hand in hand with a strong team of photographers and experts of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. The result: a multimedia package and several successful large-scale public exhibitions. What Food4 can teach us you can read in the interview we did with Emanuele.

Investment Arbitration and Development - by Frank Mulder

This investigative journalism project, by freelance Dutch journalist Frank Mulder and One World journalist Eva Schram, looked into the so-called dispute settlement mechanism, through which investors can sue governments for decisions and policies that harm their investments. The project had as main goal to make the closed world of arbitration mechanisms more transparent. The result? A database with all known investment protection disputes (cca 650 cases in the last two decades), a map identifying the different actors in the field of investment protection and a longread that shed light on cases filed under the Dutch Bilateral Investment Treaties, treaties known for their strong investment protection.

Ecocide - by Le Monde

In 2014, the French newspaper Le Monde sent several of their reporters and photographers to investigate the criminal activity of ecocide - a deliberate, planned large-scale destruction of wildlife and flora. They found that, despite the devastating impact on environment and society, the crimes of ecocide are not widely recognised and current French and European legislation consists of legal loopholes. The team - led by Marie-Béatrice Baudet, senior reporter at Le Monde, Serge Michel, editor in chief of Le Monde Afrique, legal expert Laurent Neyret and Le Monde’s (now former) editor-in-chief Gilles van Kote - decided to make a bold move. Rather than simply investigating and publishing the stories, they worked together with lawyers and also released a book written by and for legal experts. Why did the team choose for this two-step strategy? Gilles van Kote explains this legal twist in an interview.

© Samuel Bollendorff for Le Monde

E-waste Republic - by Jacopo Ottaviani

This immersive, constructive, data-driven storytelling project by Italian freelance journalist Jacopo Ottaviani immerses the readers into the daily life of Agbogbloshie, one of the biggest dump of electronic waste in Africa and home to 40,000 people. The project not only depicts the electronic waste problem, but also looks into concrete solutions that reduce e-waste. The E-waste Republic project earned its author the prestigious Lorenzo Natali Media Prize for outstanding reporting on development. The jury found that ‘The piece has the potential to be empowering because it will make European viewers think about what they do with their waste. It portrays a good mix of issues including environment, health and development.”

Africa Goes Green - by Benoit Cros

A project on the rise of renewable energies in Africa and the creativity of the African continent to build renewable energy projects. Our grantee Benoit Cros travelled through Cape Verde, Burkina Faso, Mauritius and Uganda to showcase the diversity of energy types and financing alternatives and how these can impact on job creation and development. You can read the multimedia project in French and Spanish on L’Express and Eldiario.

Fish for Cheap - by Stefano Liberti

This multimedia story by award-winning Italian freelance journalist and filmmaker Stefano Liberti unveiled how subsidised foreign vessels plunder West African waters depleting them of a valuable resource for the local community - its fish. The project shed light on how the Senegalese community is affected by the fishing agreements signed between the European Union and the local authorities. We asked Stefano Liberti about his views on the issue. Read his reflections in this interview and of course read the full story on Internazionale, Courrier International and El País.

The Formidable Queen Mothers of Ghana - by Veronique Mistiaen

Have you heard about Queen Mothers? If not, make sure to see this beautiful and positive story about women leaders in Africa. Veronique Mistiaen and her team spent a few weeks in Ghana to bring you powerful stories of women empowerment. Read the long form story in the Telegraph and also take a look at the multimedia webdoc they developed.

© Nyani Quarmyne

Small is Powerful - by Joan Bardeletti

A splendid multimedia production by freelance journalist Joan Bardeletti about the impact of local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) on Africa's development. Did you know that there are as many as three millions SMEs across Africa? Well, you’re in the right place to discover some truths and stereotypes about Africa’s SMEs and this project has the capacity to let you explore this through complementary channels: a web based multimedia "serious game", press publications, a touring exhibit and more. Give it a try, it’s available in both English and French and you can get to experience what it’s like to be a SME CEO in Africa.

Medicamentalia - by Eva Belmonte and Civio Foundation

This journalistic investigation into access to medicines around the world analyses and compares the prices of drugs used in the treatment of the most common diseases. The focus of the story is mostly on low-income countries and diseases with the greatest impact in these areas, such as tuberculosis, malaria, hepatitis, dengue, HIV, cancer, and respiratory diseases. Eva Belmonte and her team at Civio created a useful information repository that to can be used by other researchers and activists. Stay tuned as the team will continue with the project in a second stage of Medicamentalia II - looking into the complex issue of vaccine prices and how they affect the prevalence of specific illnesses in the developing world.

Building Urban Resilience - by Lasse Wamsler, Sven Johannesen, Sune Gudmundsson

This multimedia project focuses on two African megacities - Lagos in Nigeria and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania - to showcase two contexts that deal with building urban resilience against climate change in radically different ways. Our three grantees, Lasse, Sven and Sune, invite you to find out how cities in developing countries prepare for some inevitable changes in the upcoming decade. Their beautiful production brought Danish newspaper Politiken a European Newspaper Award, in the category “Multimedia Storytelling”. You can read the story in Al Jazeera, Mo*, Politiken and El Pais. We’ve interviewed Sven and Sune and asked them to share their insights from the project’s “making of”, see what they had to say. Also, stay tuned, as this year Sven, Sune and Lasse are working on another interesting project called Smart Slums about how crowdsourced data improves lives in slums.

© Daniel Hayduk

Breaking Menstrual Taboos - by Dirk Gilson

Freelance german journalist Dirk Gilson took on a great deal of a challenge when he went to report from the field in Nepal, Kenya and India about taboos surrounding menstruation in developing countries. But the result makes us proud: beautiful, compelling and touching journalism that sheds light on the struggles that girls and women in these countries face during their period - which sometimes can even mean being banished from their own homes during menstruation days. The findings of his project are available in English and German, in the form of two TV documentaries, two radio features and a web documentary.

Ndirande Slum – Engines Behind the Development Goals - by Ralf Bodelier

A project challenging the views that slums are an obstacle to development, this multimedia web documentary aims to show instead the strengths of the people of the Ndirande slum in Malawi by giving the main role to a dozen slum inhabitants as well as their initiatives. Dutch journalist Ralf Bodelier, the author of the web doc, wanted to allow the audience to explore Ndirande through the eyes of the inhabitants in their daily life, when they are busy nursing and meeting, hammering and forging, studying and accounting.

Future Cities - by Stephanie Bakker and Yvonne Brandwijk

In this fascinating multimedia project, the Dutch photographer Yvonne Brandwijk and journalist Stephanie Bakker travel to the next generation of cities rising in the developing world. They explore cities behind the obvious: from the upcoming Silicon Valley of South America (Medellin, Colombia) to the next African fashion city (Kinshasa, Democratic Republic Congo). By constantly choosing a surprising angle, they give their audience a new impression of a place they did not know or had different perceptions of. Experience their lively web doc in de Volkskrant (in Dutch) and read the interview we did with Stephanie to find out what’s next for the project.

© Yvonne Brandwijk

Mafia in Africa - by Stefano Gurciullo, Cecilia Anesi, Giulio Rubino & team

Working on the crossroads between investigative and data journalism, the international team behind the project uncovered for the first time the actual scope of the mafia’s economic power on the African continent. The team researched the mafia’s activities in thirteen different countries and found that important members of the mafia, so-called “capos”, engage in money laundering activities and invest in land, mines or farms in South Africa, Kenya, Namibia and other countries. The same people also establish useful associations with relevant politicians and thus fuel the dynamics of corrupted regimes and unstable markets. The stories were published in CORRECT!V, L’Espresso, Il Fatto Quotidiano and Mail & Guardian among others. Find out more about the investigation in the interview we did with our grantee Stefano Gurciullo.

Follow the Money 2 - by Emanuele Bompan

In this newsgame, Italian freelance journalist Emanuele Bompan continues the debate he started with the Follow the Money project on how Italian development aid is spent. Using gaming techniques, he asked the reader: “If you were in power, how would you use the funds for development?” With the objective of triggering citizens’ interest in a complex topic like development cooperation, Emanuele pushes the boundaries of traditional reporting by engaging fresh and creative journalistic approaches in order to bring global development issues closer to a broader public. We interviewed Emanuele and asked him in what ways newsgames can engage the audience in the complexity of global development topics.

The People Behind the Seawall - by Cynthia Boll

What’s life like when you are forced to live in constant fear of water? This multimedia “lifebook” is a photographic account that shows the urgency to protect the city of (North) Jakarta against impending floods. The team headed by Dutch documentary photographer Cynthia Boll describes the daily life of four people living in Indonesia’s capital city. Through stories of residents and a social media campaign, the team brings land subsidence and climate change closer to the audience. In an interview, Cynthia explains the project in more detail.

© Cynthia Boll

Fighting Maternal Deaths with Faith - by Maeva Bambuck and Sedika Mojadidi

A fascinating and positive story about contraception and women’s health that depicts in an innovative manner men and their actions of support towards implementing changes in reproductive health, all this in a conservative and patriarchal system led by religious leaders in a community of Afghanistan. Journalists Maeva Bambuck and Sedika Mojadidi follow one imam and his wife near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan, as they train and dispense contraception to their community. How do they operate in a society plagued by poverty, cultural restrictions and limited access to health care? Find out in this story published by the Guardian.

Green Energy for the Giant of Africa - by Damon van der Linde

In his web documentary about renewable energy in Nigeria, journalist Damon van der Linde went from Abuja, Nigeria's capital, to the oil-rich Delta region, as well as to the North of the country to look at energy justice in Nigeria. The paradox? Nigeria, which is going through an energy crisis within the country, is the largest energy exporter in Africa. The project covered a wide geographic area showing the different impacts of lacking access to energy, as well as possible solutions. The story comes in the shape of a radio series as well as a web documentary and video in English, Spanish and French.

Connecting Africa - by Jeronimo Giorgi and Angelo Attanasio

An award winning scrollytelling project showing how Africa's new generation is democratising access to technology. Developed by a team of two freelance journalists, Jeronimo Giorgi and Angelo Attanasio, the project is a series of three in-depth articles that reflect on: solar energy in Kenya and Tanzania; mobile networks in Ghana and Kenya; and internet reach in South Africa and Namibia. Connecting Africa and the team were awarded with several prizes, including the prestigious Prize for Digital Journalism of the King of Spain.

© Jeronimo Giorgi / Angelo Attanasio

Kivu: Microcredits Adrift - by Hervé Verloes

How could the establishment of women-led projects bring about positive changes in North and South Kivu? This is what the authors of this project, Hervé Verloes together with video journalist Pacom Bagula and developer Nicolas Kayser-Bril set out to explore. The result? A multimedia longform on women entrepreneurs in eastern DRC published by TV5 Monde and El Pais.

The Water Fund: Spain Supplies Latin America - by Jesús Escudero and team

A data-driven and cross-border enquiry investigation into the biggest cooperation programme in Spain - the Water Fund: Spain Supplies Latin America. Led by Jesús Escudero, the team analysed 1.490 public contracts totaling 500 million dollars. The team anticipated the Water Fund’s evaluation by the Spanish Cooperation Agency and presented a neutral investigation of the data alongside with human stories. More about how to discover stories behind numbers read in the interview we did with Jesus Escudero.

China’s Train to African Development - by Xavier mas de Xaxas

This project takes on a tough job of comparing the Chinese and Western approaches to development in Africa. How? By examining the new development corridor China is building between Mombasa, Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali and Juba – a $13.5 billion project linking these cities with a railway which should be effective in 2018. As China builds infrastructures and grabs land and mineral resources, its rising dominance in development issues seems not to be attached, unlike Western aid, to values such as human rights and democracy. One of the conclusions of the project led by Xavier Mas de Xaxàs is that the train won't be doing enough to enhance Eastern Africa performance in reaching the development goals.

© La Vanguardia / Poldo Pomés

Agritools - by Elisabetta Demartis

Agritools is the result of the committed and passionate work done by the Italian journalist and researcher Elisabetta Demartis, videomaker Sandro Bozzolo and two web developers. It is an online platform that displays the stories of innovative projects that take advantage of cheap Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) like simple mobile phones to improve agriculture, fisheries and livestock in Africa. Agritools is a meeting point for people working in these sectors, giving visibility to their initiatives and building connections between them. To find out why Agritools is a great example of an in-depth journalistic project that wants to do more than only report and inform, read the interview we did with Elisabetta. The team will continue with the project in a second stage of Agritools by looking into how local projects are using ICTs to create innovative solutions and find an alternative way to strength the agriculture and the local development.

Invisible Killer - by Tomaso Clavarino

This visually attractive multimedia scrollytelling allows the audience to take a journey into tuberculosis and its deadliest declinations while highlighting how the virus is tightly linked with poverty and precarious living conditions. Did you know that someone suffering from multidrug-resistant tuberculosis needs to take as many as 14,600 pills in two years? - that’s about as tall as a 30-story building. The story, by Tomaso Clavarino and designed by Isacco Chiaf, has been widely published and appeared in Newsweek, Internazionale, El Pais, and MO* magazine.

Fueling the War - by Alberto Rojas and Raquel Villaécija

Beyond analysing the dirty interests involved in a never-ending conflict, this project explores sides of the conflict in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) that are often ignored in the media. Through data journalism methods, Raquel Villaécija and Alberto Rojas reveal a surprising mix of aspects of a profitable war like blood minerals or prostitution. The journalists shed light amongst others on the amount of money spent by NGOs on security, logistics, salaries and consultancy services versus the amounts invested by NGOs in projects on the ground.

© Alberto Rojas / Raquel Villaécija

Keep an eye on what’s coming next, as this year has already seen the release of some extraordinary projects: UNCUT, a World Without Chocolate, Can Tourism 'Save' Haiti?, Bolivia’s Everyday Water War.

This article was written by Diana Lungu, project manager at the European Journalism Centre where she leads the Innovation in Development Reporting Grant Programme.

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