Funding journalism using participatory grantmaking: a guide

The cover of Funding journalism using participatory grantmaking

In the UK and around the world we face multiple, intersecting crises – crises in our democratic institutions, crises of social inequality, and crises in our environment. We urgently need a media system that can facilitate democratic participation and collaboration and support collective solutions to major challenges such as pandemics and the climate catastrophe. One key part of this media system is trustworthy, relevant and reliable news and information, which has a vital role to play in democratic life.

This period of wider instability has also coincided with a period of major change in how journalism is practised and funded, particularly structural changes in advertising markets that have made it an ever less sustainable funding model for journalism. It is widely accepted that new sources of funding are now required to support journalism, whether coming from the state, philanthropy or ‘Big Tech’ companies.

Less explored is the question of how this money should be distributed. We believe that for media to truly support democratic life, the ways it is funded should also be subject to democratic control and accountability.

This guide outlines how learning and best practice from participatory grantmaking, which is widely used within philanthropy, could be adapted for journalism funding to meet this aim.

This guide is the product of collaboration between the Media Reform Coalition and the Public Interest News Foundation (PINF), with input from a wide range of organisations with relevant expertise, including the IWA. The lead author is Dr Debs Grayson, who was the Campaign Coordinator on the MRC’s BBC and Beyond campaign (2021-2023) working with Professor Natalie Fenton of the MRC and Goldsmiths, University of London. Debs also has a background
in participatory grantmaking, being a long-standing member of the Edge Fund, and conducting a consultancy for the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust which led to the establishment of a participatory Movements Fund in 2022.

Read the guide in full here.

The IWA’s research on media, democracy and public interest journalism is supported by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

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