Achieving sustainability and viability

External factors and limitations for achieving media sustainability and viability

“Let's be flexible and not underestimate the external factors and constraints against viability. Political change, human resources, turnover within media…” Caroline Vuillemin, Fondation Hirondelle
Participants emphasised that achieving media sustainability is not an easy or simple task. For example, the unique situation of media organisations that are not for profit, which is the only option for them to operate in a certain situation. They work with UN Agencies to plan campaigns and are required to prepare reports, log frames, which is different from cooperation with advertising agencies. At the same time, the non-profit status affects the capacity of an organisation to generate revenue. Investors do not invest in nonprofit and non commercial organisations and media are in the circle of searching for solutions for achieving sustainability.

How are successful interventions measured?

Diverse ways of proving success in media development campaigns were highlighted, and these went beyond financial sustainability and viability. For instance, the diversification of revenue streams, and the impact that media organisations have in their country or area’s media environment were identified as other indicators of success. Such diversification of income streams is especially important in conflict zones and crisis situations, as the need for independent sustainable media organisations is needed for informing people with reliable and accurate information.
Thus, donors shouldn’t look at just the financial sustainability of a project, but rather how that project, and that project’s sustainability, can contribute to making the whole organisation more viable and sustainable.
“Partners, donors, investors. Don’t ask us about the viability of a project of two years, at the end of the project. Come back in five years, 10 years, 15 years after your investment, and come check what remains. It may be that the media closed, but maybe the journalist went to work elsewhere, or the citizens and the audiences got savvy for independent and quality information. And that is a lasting result.” Caroline Vuillemin, Fondation Hirondelle

Knowledge-sharing, partnerships and data democratisation

Participants referred to knowledge sharing, partnerships and democratisation of data in the context of achieving media sustainability.
Jason Lambert from Internews mentioned that they have developed a typology, a playbook with enough granularity and simplicity that can be used by different implementing teams. He also spoke about the need to democratise data among media development actors so that realistic targets could be set for programmes.
Participants also referenced projects implemented in collaboration and partnership using strengths and skill sets of various partners to achieve sustainability (Jurnalift, Media Viability Accelerator, PRIMED).
They also spoke about the importance of partnerships with local organisations, leaning on local knowledge and building local coalitions.

Scene post-COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected the media development sector tremendously. Firstly, international donors and stakeholders have lost the ability to work on the ground with their partners. Because of this, some organisations’ work structures have changed.
“It’s harder to work remotely than it is in person. It’s harder to generate strong results when we’re working from afar than when we’re in person with organisations. The mode that we do this work in is also changed. So we work much more towards sprints rather than marathons, because people’s attention spans are not strong when we’re not there.”, Jason Lambert, Internews