What our member survey taught us & what Hostwriter will focus on in 2019

A peek behind the curtains at Hostwriter

Hostwriter ambassadors at our Warsaw Summit, September 2018

I held my breath when the email arrived, my heart making an uneasy jump. After four months of collecting data, doing interviews with stakeholders and sending out an extensive online survey to all Hostwriter members, a team of external evaluators got back to us with a first interpretation of their findings. These two sentences were highlighted in bold letters: “The results speak for themselves. Congratulations for your great work!“

What a relief! After years of voluntary work, we’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of growing funding and increased opportunity ever since. At this stage of the journey, it felt crucial to take a look into the mirror and make sure that we were still on the right track.

Almost 10% of our 4.000 Hostwriter members from 76 countries participated, representing well over half of the countries where we have members. Here’s some of our key findings and lessons learned:

Most of our members (75,5%) joined Hostwriter after it was personally recommended to them by a colleague.

Expanding the professional network was the main objective (75,5%) of our members to join Hostwriter.

Most activities evolved around the exchange of advice and the search for co-authors. Both giving and taking are reasons for using Hostwriter.

The Hostwriter network is a place to find potential colleagues for story collaborations (47,5%) and it provides advice and information (43,5). Only a pioneering portion of our members has published an investigation with another Hostwriter member at this point (8,8%).

Learning from our members: Our priorities for 2019

We’re thrilled that our members reported positive effects from being in the network, either in the form of helpful advice, story collaboration or couch surfing with a colleague! But we also have to acknowledge that 4% of our members shared in an open text field that they have not benefitted yet. That’s why we decided on the following priorities for this year:

1. We want to celebrate your Success Stories!

In the survey, one of our members offered this feedback:

“I hope you can highlight more examples of collaborative journalism. The more frequent journalists see it being done, the more they will believe it can be done.”

We will share and celebrate examples of successful journalistic collaborations in the hopes of inspiring many more! We believe collaborative journalism can make a difference in the world, and we want to spread the word about ways it has. We’ll ask our members for tips and glimpses behind the scenes, like our member Ramu Sapkota, who shared how his collaboration uncovered an international network of corrupt agencies in Malaysia and Nepal. It’s a great example of how collaborative journalism can influence policy and change lives. The story by Ramu and his colleague Alyaa Alhadjri was shortlisted for the 2018 Hostwriter Story Prize.

2. A focus on technological improvements

“Improve communication between members, creating more channels where we can learn if someone is looking for a collaboration on a certain topic.“

We couldn’t agree more with this comment. Recently, we launched the crowdsourcing tool HostWIRE, which includes a “Search and Find“ board where members can look for colleagues and post investigation requests. We hope the board will eventually turn into a fully self-organized space run by our members — but for now, the Hostwriter team will make sure to help sharing the calls within the network. Please give this new feature a try: Post a request on the Search-and-Find Board, and we’ll help you find a perfect match!

3. Diversity first: Hostwriter campaign for global growth

“Reach out to more new members outside Central Europe, especially in Africa.“/”Expand!“

Our ultimate goal is to have one member in every country of the world. In spring 2019, we will relaunch Hostwriter as a mobile-first platform to enable good usability in every corner of the world, including regions where internet connections are scarce. We are also working on skill-building for cross-border journalists, drawing attention to unconscious biases and lack of diversity to overcome the “Western-centric“ kind of journalism of today. We’re developing training modules on how a more inclusive journalism mindset can enable story collaborations at eye-level.

If you’d like to stay informed on all of this, please sign up for our monthly newsletter, Crossing Borders!