In May, IJNet Arabic launched a virtual mentoring center, choosing eight entrepreneurial journalists in the MENA region in need of financial and digital advice to get their startups off the ground. Throughout the process, the mentees will be sharing lessons learned and tips with IJNet readers.
I recently launched the Independent Journalism Institute, which is a website meant to initiate workshops and trainings for journalists and offer resources to defend journalists’ rights in Egypt.
While developing IJI, I received counseling and advice from the International Journalists’ Network. Through this program, I’ve learned innovative methods to fund community projects. Since not everyone forming a new organization has a mentor, here’s my advice for future media entrepreneurs:
Think outside the box
“Be different” is the first thing I learned about finding funding prospects. Your chance to secure backers will increase if you think differently.
My team and I applied this thinking when creating IJI, and we were able to find plenty of new opportunities. The most exciting opportunity involves an upcoming workshop to teach local journalists about mobile journalism. Documenting reports using mobile phones will allow them to get more content quickly. In the training, participants will learn how to take and edit photos as well as share information from their mobile devices in real-time.
Since no one else is doing a similar project [in the region], we’re able to approach producers of smartphones and telecommunication companies and ask them to sponsor this upcoming workshop.
Asking attendees for fees
Everyone wants free, but it’s important to ask journalists who attend workshops to contribute. Maybe a one-day workshop is free, but make sure to charge affordable fees for more advanced workshops to help sustain your institution.
Companies are always looking to partner with innovative initiatives, so never sell yourself short.
I searched the Internet and found many Egyptian, Arab and international entities willing to fund media projects. The Creative Lab aims at helping young entrepreneurs in the media field. Sponsored by twofour54 in the United Arab Emirates, Arabs can apply to get finance help for projects in the media and entertainment industry. The National Endowment for Democracy funds freedom of expression projects.
Ask local companies
Searching for local companies is another helpful hint. The IJI team searched for local companies here in Egypt and discovered that most large companies have a special department to put money toward local community initiatives.
Turn to the Internet
Currently, IJI is planning to launch an interactive educational website to provide online courses about independent journalism for any Arabic speaker worldwide. Free training sessions will be available online. However, in order to maintain a proper business model, users will have to pay for receiving advanced courses and downloading educational material and videos.
Mentee Mostafa Fathi is the founder of the Independent Journalism Institute. He is a Cairo-based reporter for the Lebanese newspaper Al Safir and a project manager at United Journalists Center. His trainings focus on modern media.
This story was originally published in Arabic and translated by Shereen Karadsheh.
Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via 401(K) 2012.