Arete Stories
Published in

Arete Stories

What is ‘solutions journalism’, and why should I be creating content in this way?

At Arete, we have a strong focus on “solutions journalism” and apply this to each assignment that we work on.

Ed Sheeran’s video for Comic Relief was widely criticised as promoting ‘poverty porn’ (Image: Comic Relief)

Last year, Arete trainer, Peter Burdin, explored how reporting through a solutions journalism lens can avoid creating ‘poverty porn’. In this article, we will dive deeper into this subject, exploring how a solutions journalism approach to content gathering can, amongst other things, combat donor fatigue and garner greater engagement.

But before we get into the benefits of a solutions journalism approach and why as a charity or NGO creating your content in this way can be beneficial, let’s first understand: what is solutions journalism?

What is solutions journalism?

Theodore, who runs a workshop where he teaches people to tailor clothes, works in his office in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Eden Sparke / Arete)

The clue to solutions journalism is in the name; it is the reporting of responses to social issues where people, institutions and/or communities are working towards solutions. A good example of this is in our latest ‘From the photographer’ journal entry by Eden Sparke, which reports on the lack of employment opportunities for women in the DRC and how a scheme called #GiveWork aims to change this.

Journalists, charities, and NGOs have for years created content using problem-focussed reporting. While this form of reporting does an important job of covering the social problems at hand, it doesn’t focus on initiatives that aim to provide help and support. Solutions-based writing refocuses the story on who may be working to solve the issue, as well as how and why the solution may be working (or in some cases, not working).

Why is it better to create solutions-based stories?

Theodore’s niece, Deborah, prepares cassava leaves to be cooked while his wife Adeline, 60, lights their lamp in their kitchen in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Eden Sparke / Arete)

As a charity or NGO, great content engages people and energises support for your cause. A solutions journalism approach has been proven to help readers feel more informed, and more likely to carry out further reading on the subject as well as increasing propensity for the reader to share what they have read (1).

More detail around the solution = more engagement

Solutions journalism uses an investigative approach to understand why the particular social issue has arisen, and analyses what solutions are being implemented to solve it. By helping the reader or viewer understand in depth what is being done to solve the issue, one is more likely to engage them and gather their support.

By covering the story in more detail, one is creating more opportunities for the reader or viewer to engage with the content, whether through empathy, interest, or inspiration. Traditionally, the focus is on the solutions aspect of the social issue that is working; but even if the solution is failing, it still provides an honest and interesting insight for the reader about what hasn’t worked and therefore what could work in the future.

A solutions perspective can tell a more positive story

Theodore’s family pose for a photo outside their house in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: Eden Sparke / Arete)

Reporting on social issues from a solutions perspective can also allow for a more positive approach to telling a story. Positive stories will always have a greater impact and are much more likely to be shared online (2). A more positive approach to storytelling will help your content stand out in an industry that too often reports on social issues in a way meant to elicit shock from the reader or viewer.

These aspects of solutions journalism can ensure your content stands out in a sea of problem-focused reporting, create more support and awareness for your cause; with readers and viewers more likely to share content created in this way, and combat donor fatigue by providing a more engaging prospect for your readers and supporters.

How we can help

We have outlined what solutions journalism is as well as touching on some of the benefits of creating content from this perspective. However, there is much more to know and understand about solutions journalism.

If you have a project that you think could benefit from our solutions journalism approach, or you would like to learn more about this topic in one of our workshops, then please get in touch.


1. Curry, A.L. and Hammonds, K.H. (2014) The power of solutions journalism. Engaging news project.

2. Tierney, J. (2013) Good news beats bad on social networks. The New York Times.

— — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — — —

Love our content? Sign up to the Arete newsletter to get your monthly dose of stories that #makeadifference.



Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store

Arete is the expert storytelling and training agency for NGOs, UN bodies and foundations.