In just five months, the first cohort of news leaders taking part in Elevate, ICFJ’s news business hub, have been hard at work. And it shows.
Some have already updated their business plans and redesigned their workflows. Others have examined their organizations’ value add and reviewed their profit and loss statements to determine their north stars.
These are great first steps. While journalists typically discuss headlines, story assignments and audience engagement, this group of leaders is working with Elevate to develop their business and management skills. The ultimate goal? Help their news organizations – many of them small- to medium-sized and operating in political environments challenging to free, independent media – become more sustainable and grow.
The news leaders, who come from 17 organizations across 15 countries, so far have devoted a total of 56 hours to intensive learning sessions.
Participants had multiple sessions with Microsoft trainers, top-notch business professors from Babson College, and media entreprepreneurship expert Jeremy Caplan, a professor at City University of New York. The sessions covered finance, marketing, business models, social media and more.
“The ‘wow moment’ in the knowledge sprint phase was the session with Jeremy Caplan - when we talked about how to organize our lean canvas,” said Alaa Jamal, CEO for Donia Al Watan in Palestine. “It’s a project that took us to stop and think, and that’s what we need.”
After the initial knowledge sprint, ICFJ launched Elevate Talks, where program participants have the opportunity to meet and interview internationally-known media CEOs. Patrick Steel, former CEO at Politico, and David Clinch, head of Global Partnerships at Mather Economics and former CEO at Storyful, were the first two leaders to take part.
Much more is yet to come. From now until November, the news leaders will receive one-on-one mentorship. With guidance from their coaches, they will work to address the three key issues standing in the way of their organization’s growth. Some of them will develop Customer Relationship Management tools (CRMs) to better understand their audiences. Some will launch products in new formats. And some might discontinue services that weren't profitable or interesting from a marketing perspective.
“The mentorship phase – we hope – is going to enable us to tidy up documentation as regards of business planning and the financial costing of different operations and how we’re going to scale up our operations,” said Ajibola Azmat, from the International Center for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) in Nigeria, which does hard-hitting investigations on topics such as politics and transparency.
Toward the end of the year, Elevate will distribute $100,000 in grants – to make sure that participants can enter 2023 not only with a solid business mindset but also with the resources to execute their plans.