How ICFJ is Bringing Innovations From the Global South to U.S. Newsrooms

Jan 52016

In April 2014 I attended the first U.S. gathering of Chicas Poderosas, a network created by International Center for Journalists' Knight Fellow Mariana Santos. The goal was to give Latina reporters skills that would make them digital news leaders. Santos had worked with Latin American journalists, and now she was targeting Miami. For three days, Latina editors and reporters, working with technologists, visual artists and other experts developed data-driven projects – from analyzing how well Miami-Dade County answers phone complaints to tracking global gender violence.

Above: Audiohack on

But how to keep track of their work? They used HackDash, an online dashboard created by Knight Fellow Mariano Blejman of Buenos Aires. The tool keeps tabs on projects that emerge in hackathons, or meetups like Chicas, aimed at finding digital solutions to today's problems. Developed in 2012, HackDash has 7,218 registered users, who track some 3,857 projects. One of them is NPR’s "This American Life" program, which turned to HackDash at a gathering designed to find new technologies for presenting audio content.

It was a twofer: Thanks to the work of these Knight International Journalism Fellows, Latina reporters in the U.S. became beneficiaries of a new network that helped them build the talent needed for the future—and they used HackDash to track their innovations.

Above: Mariana Santos of Chicas Poderosas. Photo credit: Mariandrea Eaea.

I'm delighted that this trend of South-to-North innovation is going to accelerate. With $3.4 million in support from the Knight Foundation, we can make sure that exciting breakthroughs, developed by Knight Fellows in the Global South, are shared with U.S. newsrooms.

Our Knight Fellows will attend major journalism gatherings and visit newsrooms in the U.S. to speak about the gains they've made in media transformation, entrepreneurship, new tools and technologies, investigative reporting, audience engagement, and journalism safety. They'll also share what didn’t work—to ensure that U.S. reporters don’t make the same mistakes.

Creativity knows no borders. A few years ago, when we began working to create a culture of digital media innovation, our Knight Fellows adapted tools devised in the United States and Europe for use in newsrooms in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

Knight Fellows also led an unprecedented South-to-South flow of innovation, sharing ideas, tools and apps across continents. A satellite mapping site that monitors deforestation in the Amazon rain forest is now being used to track wildlife poaching in South Africa. Tools created to protect journalists in Mexico have spread to Iraq. Special "boot camps" that help reporters use data to reveal government corruption in Africa are being replicated in South America and Asia.

Now we will close the loop. We will share new thinking and digital tools developed in Africa, Asia and Latin America with U.S. newsrooms. We now have the power to learn from one another quickly, and spread great ideas where they're needed. So U.S. journalists will soon be hearing from our Knight International Fellows, who will share their lessons learned in a cross-border flow of information that’s a win-win for all.

For more information on the International Center for Journalists and the Knight International Journalism Fellows, visit and Follow Joyce Barnathan on Twitter @icfjoyce.

This post was originally published on the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation blog.