Free Press Unlimited will enter a new phase in 2016. The financial support from the Medefinancierings-stelsel (the MFS-II co-financing programme) will then be in place and we will start our Strategic Partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (2016-2020).
We set up a number of new large-scale programmes in 2016. We also introduced a new organisational structure and new staffing, and started implementing our new strategy. In other words: in 2017, we will be able to go ‘full speed ahead’. At that point, we will have laid the groundwork for our programmes, our new teams will be more closely aligned and we can start booking results. And thanks to the input of our Knowledge & Quality team, we will be able to quantify these results more precisely than ever – and offer more insight into the true impact of our work via the stories of the people whom it is actually all about.
We are confident that our new MEAL system will yield valuable new insights that we can share with our partners, colleagues and donors. Moreover, over the next few years, we intend to make far more use of the expertise of some of our highly-valued local partners. In 2016, for example, we asked one of our partners in Malaysia to think along about a problem that we had encountered in Zimbabwe. We will be making further work of this kinds of cross-pollinations in the coming period.
In 2017, we will also continue to develop – and draw attention to – our long-term strategy for the post-2017 period. Of course, we have already been giving thought for some time now to our strategy for the period after 2020. That year will mark the end of both our Strategic Partnership and the Sida funding for our large-scale programme in Syria. Will our current partnership with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs be followed up? Will we retain Sida as a major donor? What will happen to the Russian-Language News Exchange?
We will also need to answer other, less pragmatic questions. Free Press Unlimited would like to initiate fundamental research into the question that is at the forefront of public debate around the world: What is the impact of journalism? How does it contribute – and in which forms – to the democratic process and a more informed populace? This issue is something that we plan to shed light on in our future long-term strategy.
Larger-scale projects and spreading risks
Over the course of 2015, we already adjusted our strategy in relation to financing and fundraising. We have decided to execute fewer small-scale projects and increasingly focus on large-scale programmes – as well as seek the associated financing. In 2017, we will continue on this course. In addition, we intend to spread the risks of funding interruptions. In some cases, donors stop funding our projects in conflict areas fairly abruptly – in response to a sudden upsurge in fighting, for example. To prevent projects from immediately coming to a standstill – leaving the population without a reliable source of information – Free Press Unlimited will work to arrange the support of multiple donors.
By now, Free Press Unlimited is broadly recognised as a source of expertise in the field of media and information. This has given us growing influence on the policies of government organisations and private institutions at the national and international levels. Over the next few years, we will make unrestrained use of this influencing capacity to promote the causes of press freedom, the protection of journalists and the further professionalisation of local media organisations. So that working together with their audiences, the media can become catalysts and drivers of change – particularly in areas suffering under government oppression or violent conflict.