Mission and vision

In our ideal world everyone has access to independent, reliable and timely information. To make this possible, Free Press Unlimited supports media and journalists worldwide.

Our vision is short and to the point: People deserve to know. All over the world.

Our mission stems logically from that. Everyone has the right to independent, reliable and timely information. People need that information to control their living conditions and to make the right decisions.

To that end, press freedom and freedom of information are indispensable. That is why Free Press Unlimited supports local media professionals and journalists, particularly in countries with limited (press) freedom. They are close to their audience and are the best guarantee for a sustainable, professional and diverse media landscape. We enable them to give people access to the information that helps them survive, to develop themselves, and with which they can monitor their governments.

These are our core values:

Tailored Approach

Our approach (and why we follow it)

Free Press Unlimited believes that everyone has the right to reliable information. Information that enables you, as a person, to take control of your own life. Whether that means ‘knowing where to run to if your village is attacked’ or ‘knowing how to challenge the government about the lack of sewerage in your neighbourhood’, it is extremely important that this information is independent and that you get it on time.

Access to information, independent media and freedom of expression are crucial to citizens and social organisations that want to combat poverty and inequality in their society. Conversely, media need these organisations, so they know what is going on. What are the important issues for their readers, listeners and viewers? By reporting independently on them, and making public debate possible, media can contribute to positive change in their society.

This brings us to the main goal of Free Press Unlimited: a diverse, professional information landscape consisting of independent media and journalists that drive (social) change in their society.

Firmly focused on this main goal, we have carefully thought about the best ways to achieve this. You will find the result in our Theory of Change. That is in fact our answer to the question: what do we want to change and what steps are needed to achieve that? Which intermediate goals are logical and smart? And which activities bring those goals sustainably closer?

In 2017, we further refined these activities and extended the instruments with which we support our partners. After all, Free Press Unlimited works with local partners who must do their work in widely differing circumstances. One needs training, the other financial support, and yet another is best served by practical or physical help. Free Press Unlimited provides as much customized support as possible. That is what makes our work so fascinating, but also challenging and intense.

Three goals are crucial

You do not need (and probably don’t want) to know every detail of our Theory of Change. What you do need to know to understand our work, are the three goals we wish to achieve on the way to our main goal. Three issues are crucial to ensuring local media can fulfil their important social role. These are:
1. Journalists must be able to do their work. This requires, among other things, proper legislation that guarantees their safety and the freedom of expression, and that (government) information is accessible.
2. Media and journalists must work for the interests of the population, act as its watchdog. It is therefore necessary that they have the right contacts – and cooperate where appropriate – with other social players, such as media organisations or stakeholder groups. Media must reflect the diversity in society.
3. Media professionals must be properly educated, so they can deliver the quality to which their audience is entitled. Media must be able to be and remain independent of government or major donors.

Free Press Unlimited has developed a broad spectrum of activities to bring these ambitious ‘intermediate goals’ closer. You will find examples of these in this annual report, under ‘Our work’. We also explain precisely why we chose these activities.

This is how we measure the effectiveness of our work

In all our projects and as an organisation we monitor and evaluate where we stand in relation to our goals. What has already been achieved and where do we need to do our best or look for other ways to realise our goal? Is our Theory of Change still relevant? This is how we learn valuable lessons about what does and does not work. And because we continuously assess the effects and results of our work, we can provide sound accountability to our supporters and donors. This process is known as MEAL and consists of the following: monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning.

How do we measure the effect of our activities? We use ‘indicators’ for all our projects, to systematically record how we score on a variety of themes. For example, we look at whether social organisations are committed to the safety of journalists. And whether media call the powers that be to account, for instance by telling stories about corruption and abuse of power. The strength of these indicators lies in the fact that they measure the effect of projects everywhere in the same way. All these indicators taken together show whether we are achieving our goals.

What our stories teach us

However, indicators only tell part of the story. The Most Significant Change method helps us dig deeper. We ask our project-participants: what is the most important change that this project has brought about in your life? The answers to that question give us good insight into the actual effects of our activities – and how we can improve them. In 2017, we also taught our partners how to use the Most Significant Change method to gain more insight into the effect of their work.

In 2017, among others, we applied the method to the Speak Up Zambia project. Free Press Unlimited has been working here since 2011, and, with partners, has trained more than 400 citizen journalists. In Speak Up Zambia, funded by the European Union, citizens and journalists learn how they can monitor their local government’s public expenditure. That way, they can hold politics accountable. ‘Now I have the courage to face high-level people, because the training taught me to speak with confidence. We also learned to rely on facts and not on opinion,’ says one citizen journalist. In addition, they were trained to record their own stories and those of other slum dwellers using their mobile phone.

Thanks to Most Significant Change, we learned that the citizen journalists from the slums had significantly more influence when they worked for established media – in this case, community radio stations. Because of that, they received more respect and appreciation from their community, and people approached them more frequently with pressing issues and exclusive knowledge. Of course, it cuts both ways: the radio stations gained a very strong source of information, straight from the slums. The importance of the training for women was evident from the Most Significant Change stories. ‘The most important change is that the training motivated me to never underestimate myself just because I happen to be a woman.’

Reaping the results

In 2017, in Somalia and Pakistan, we also experimented with the Outcome Harvesting evaluation method. The main advantage of this method is that it also measures results that we could not anticipate in advance: a bonus of sorts, one that may certainly be important to the partners and the project.

Together with our Somali partners, we investigated the (intermediate) results of the programme No News is Bad News. Five partner organisations spent three days on the question: which behaviour has changed thanks to the activities in this programme? They wrote down all the results, presented them to each other, updated them, and together they analysed what the programme had delivered up to that point. This produced an impressive picture.

For instance, prior to 2017, there was no journalism curriculum at universities in Somalia and Somaliland. Therefore, there were no clear goals, content and requirements for what a good journalist should be capable of. Our Somali partner Media INK developed such a curriculum, based on that of UNESCO, together with Hogeschool Windesheim, the universities of Mogadishu and Puntland, among others. Ten universities in Somalia provided input and no less than five universities (instead of the planned three) now train their students according to this journalism curriculum. The University of Hargeisa set up a faculty of journalism, based on this same curriculum. This way, the programme contributes to a more professional journalism sector in Somalia and Somaliland.

Another fantastic result was the changed attitude of publishers. In 2012, when Media INK started its first trainings, media did not allow or hardly allowed women to participate in journalism training. The percentage of women was stuck at 0-5 percent. Now that has risen to 35 percent! Editors-in-chief who three years ago saw no potential in female journalists, are now eager to employ these persistent, determined hard workers. Was that (partly) thanks to Media INK and Free Press Unlimited? Yes, according to the partners: Media INK continuously worked to convince media managers and the parents of the female journalists of the importance – and the safety – of the training. And Free Press Unlimited provided a project approach in which female journalists were given extra attention.

With these outcomes in hand, we and our partners can check if our Theory of Change is still in line with reality: does the desired change indeed happen as we anticipated, or should we revise our strategy? For the partners, Outcome Harvesting provides even more. Potential donors want to know who they are dealing with: a partner who can show well-structured results is in with a better chance. And that is precisely what our partners learn during the Outcome Harvesting. Not unimportant for media organisations that want to become financially independent.

Our stakeholders

Not only our partners, Free Press Unlimited also needs a broad financial base to continue to do its work. To this end, we have two fundraisers focused on international donors and since 2016 we also have a fundraiser for private donors (our Friends).

In 2017 it became clear again that raising funds for media projects in developing countries is not easy. For example, raising funds for the independence of Radio Dabanga is at the top of our list of priorities, but our efforts are thwarted by European migration policy. The EU wants to cooperate with the Sudanese regime, which has forced Radio Dabanga into exile, in order to contain the migration to Europe. The result: funds go to projects that prevent migration and less money is available for this life-saving radio.

Fortunately, many institutional funds and major donors are also convinced of the importance of access to independent, reliable information. In 2017, the success ratio of our international fundraising was around the same percentage as in 2016: about 40% of our applications were approved.

Our partners

Local media organisations are our most important stakeholders. Together with them, we set up countless programmes that give millions of people access to independent and reliable information. In 2017 we had 100 partners in 42 countries all over the world.

In November, Free Press Unlimited again investigated how satisfied our partners are with our work. Last year we did it ourselves for the first time, after tagging along for years in research by sector organisation Partos. We found the response to that to be too low and started doing our own. The result was much better: 40% of the partners responded (instead of 17% in the Partos study). Good reason to continue down this road in 2017. This year even more partners made the effort to let us know what they think of Free Press Unlimited. No less than 66% completed our survey!

As was the case last year, the partners are mostly satisfied with our work. They are least enthusiastic about the contribution Free Press Unlimited makes to their financial sustainability; in this area, we have initiated several initiatives, which we will continue to implement in the coming years (see also Looking ahead). Most appreciation is for the relationship and the communication with Free Press Unlimited: partners say it is respectful, helpful and knowledgeable. For our support in the future, the partners have put together a top 3:

  1. developing a joint strategy with Free Press Unlimited
  2. exchanging lessons and experiences with other organisations
  3. strengthening the long-term planning and sustainability

Our Friends

Free Press Unlimited counts itself lucky with its 2,960 loyal Friends, almost 200 more than last year. These are the people who believe our work is important and therefore support us financially. But not just as donors: our Friends are very involved and are willing to share their thoughts with us.

In 2017, we welcomed another 40 Friends to our offices for a festive and informative Friends Live. Because our Friends specifically let us know how much they appreciated the partners’ stories during the 2016 edition of this event, our specialists gave three master classes this year. They told those present about the role of photography in Iraq, community radio stations in the Central African Republic and the training of female citizen journalists from Zambian slums. Once again, our Friends were very impressed by our partners – and later in the evening they were able to talk about it over drinks.

Other Dutch people also find our work worthwhile. In 2017, we received a total of € 51,208 in donations from private donors, a drop of 3.7%. We received special donations in 2017 from the Drongo Talenfestival that named us their good cause, from students in Maastricht who organised a sponsored run for Radio Dabanga and from the Amsterdam-based IT company VBVB that sponsored NetAidKits for 20 journalists. We are also very pleased with Drukbedrijf.nl, that sponsors our printing and with the cooperation with Perfect Quality Logistics that, as of 2018, will be donating the proceeds from clothing collection campaigns to Free Press Unlimited.

Our donors

What more could we as an organisation wish for than reliable, collaborative partners who understand what the complex work of Free Press Unlimited is all about and are willing to finance it? We have those partners; something we are happy with and proud of. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs is by far our largest donor and our strategic partner in the comprehensive No News is Bad News programme. The Ministry is also financing the impactful Russian-language News Platform. The Swedish Development Cooperation Agency Sida joined our important Syria programme for 5 years at the end of 2016. Long-term funding that makes it possible to (re)build an independent, professional news sector in a country where this is more necessary than ever. The European Union believed our pilot Mama Sosa in Zambia, in which we educated women from a slum to citizen journalist, to be so promising that it decided to also finance the follow-up project.

Our work has been supported for years by our loyal donor Humanity United (part of the Omidyar group). New stars in our donor firmament are Google’s Digital News Initiative that funds the application for our Publeaks Mobile project, and the Dioraphte Foundation. With its contribution, this foundation enables Ethiopian students to receive a good education as a professional journalist.

Dutch Postcode Lottery

One of our most loyal supporters is the Dutch Postcode Lottery – and that is mutual. Free Press Unlimited greatly appreciates the fact that two years ago, the Dutch Postcode Lottery decided to fund our organisation for another 5 years. This long-term funding gives us the time needed to build an independent, reliable news service in countries without free press or conflict areas.

Whether it’s about people fleeing violence in Sudan, journalists in Iraq or El Salvador or girls who are likely to be married off in Nepal: thanks to those who participate in the Dutch Postcode Lottery they receive timely, life-saving information. We are also extremely pleased with the substantial increase in the annual contribution for our work to € 900,000. With this, we now also finance the Postcode Lottery Fund; in the past we submitted separate applications to the National Postcode Lottery.

Postcode Lottery Fund

62 articles, radio broadcasts and TV documentaries that you may have seen in 2017, would not have been published without the Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists. This fund has been making special foreign reports from Dutch journalists possible since 2009. Reports for which Dutch media have less and less money. Thanks to the Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists, journalists can still inform the Dutch public about issues such as commercial surrogacy in Georgia, the only Afghan girls’ orchestra and the effect of coal mining on the indigenous population in Colombia. The need for this type of fund is significant, as was evident from the annual increase in the number of applications. In 2015, we received 57 more applications, a year later it was 72 and in 2017 the number reached no less than 80. Also, the number of approved applications increased: in 2016, 27 journalists were able to travel, in 2017, the assessment committee approved 36 grant requests.

In-depth, critical investigative journalism abroad is even more difficult to fund. That is why we were so pleased with the extra leverage for this within the fund, for which the Postcode Lottery gave its blessing in 2016. Because all too often the proposals we receive do not meet our criteria, in 2017 we described more clearly the conditions such a production should meet. In 2017, 2 journalists began their investigation into human trafficking in Sudan and gas pipelines from Azerbaijan to Western Europe. This latest investigative journalism project has already produced the first publications.

Our audience

It is not always easy to explain our work. That is why we think carefully about how we communicate with the Dutch public and our supporters. Our communications team now functions at full strength. In 2017, we gave priority to increasing brand recognition of Free Press Unlimited and involving more people in our mission. What target groups we approach – and in what way – depends on our relationship with them and the need they have for information. We always keep it as personal as possible: a handwritten card, a personal letter or invitation. Even if we can’t do it at individual level, we make different versions of mailings and match it as closely as possible with a group of recipients.

In 2017, we got almost 200 new Friends. We look for and find new donors and interested parties – mainly in our existing grassroots of Friends and followers, but also in similar organisations, media and platforms. Those who, like Free Press Unlimited, are likely to think that people deserve to know. In 2017, we therefore made conscious use of the inspiring stories about the impact of our work. We published a selection of these stories in our newspaper No News is Bad News, which we distributed during Free Press Live. Because we want to use a lot more of these kinds of stories, we trained the programme staff to identify, gather and tell them. As a communications team, we learned that we had to specifically indicate what stories we were looking for: what a programme officer takes for granted may be an eye-opener for the Dutch public. Our new evaluation method Outcome Harvesting also provides a wealth of wonderful stories that we would like to pass on more. We have now collected 59 stories, 31 of which have been published.

In 2017, we focused our social media on involving more people in the work of Free Press Unlimited. Successfully! On Twitter, the number of followers grew by more than 1,140 to 6,900; during our event on 2 November the hashtag # FPLive17 was trending topic in the Netherlands. We also made over 2,800 new friends on Facebook (totalling more than 18,000). On LinkedIn we expanded our network by nearly 200 people to over 1,000. The YouTube videos from Free Press Unlimited were viewed about as often as in 2016 (9,870 times). Only the number of visitors to our website fell sharply. But the average time that visitors spent on the website increased by 30%. In 2017, we worked hard to optimise our website and make it more user-friendly. With success: visitors found the information they were looking for faster and stayed on the website for longer. In addition, the bounce rate (people who leave the site immediately) dropped by 8% to 64%.

Contact with our supporters

We maintain contact with our (potential) supporters in several ways:

  • We distributed 1,000 copies of the English-language newspaper No News is Bad News during Free Press Live and Friends Live.
  • Our introductory brochure ‘People Deserve to Know’ found its way to interested parties during Free Press Live, Friends Live, events and guest lectures.
  • A fact sheet explaining the work of Free Press Unlimited in numbers (ranging from 46 countries to 2.3 million listeners to Radio Dabanga) serves the same purpose: a first introduction to our organisation.
  • Our new Friends brochure provides more information about how donors and volunteers can support our work.
  • We placed an informative advertisement 4 times in Villamedia, the magazine of the Dutch Union for Journalists.
  • Every month we send a Dutch-language e-mail newsletter to almost 3,900 subscribers and 3 times a year an English-language version to over 800 subscribers. The latter group is a mix of foreign partners, donors, alliance partners and media.


World Press Freedom Day On May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, together with other organisations in the Press Freedom committee, we organised another Festival of the Free Word – this time in the Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum. With the Dutch presentation of the Freedom of the Press report, we drew attention…

World Press Freedom Day

On May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, together with other organisations in the Press Freedom committee, we organised another Festival of the Free Word – this time in the Dutch Institute for Sound and Vision in Hilversum. With the Dutch presentation of the Freedom of the Press report, we drew attention to the sorry state of press freedom. This earned ample attention from the media, from the Parool and BNR to the television programme Koffietijd. We looked at the decline of press freedom all over the world, we discussed the (un) safety of Dutch journalists. During the event we exhibited photos of the journalist Jeroen Oerlemans, who was shot dead in 2016.

Free Press Live 2017

The main guest at Free Press Live 2017 on November 2nd, was Diane Foley, mother of the American journalist James Foley who was assassinated by ISIS in 2014. Her foundation is committed to the protection of freelance war correspondents. In her impressive speech she condemned the widespread impunity for crimes against journalists, for example, the murder of her son. No less impressive was the video in which the CEO of Rappler, Maria Ressa, explained how difficult and risky the work of journalists in the Philippines has become. Free Press Unlimited director Leon Willems announced that we will make € 25,000 available to support endangered journalists in the Phillipines.

During the event, only women came on stage when the Free Press Awards were presented. Coincidence? Not according to Mwape Kumwenda, who received the prize for the most courageous and most tenacious journalist, with loud applause from the 250 journalists and policymakers present. ‘I think women, more so than men, are able and have the strength to change our society.’ The other prize winners are certainly strong. The Ukrainian investigative journalist Marina Ansiforova is only 22 years old, but she exposed the corruption of 50 judges, some of whom were relieved of their duties – and thus saved the process of judicial reform in her country. She won the Newcomer of the Year-Hans Verploeg Award. With the support of the Postcode Lottery Fund for Journalists, two Dutch journalists, Maartje Wegdam and Ariadne Asimakopoulos, made an impressive documentary about a Ugandan child soldier. Together they received the Best Report Award.

Publeaks, the stories

On 10 March, Marietje Schaake, MEP for D66, received the first copy of our collection ‘Publeaks, the stories’. Here, readers find the most appealing stories that came about thanks to the whistle-blower’s platform Publeaks. From the broadcast about the Lidl-extortionist by EenVandaag to the article in NRC about the student gun club Colonel Colt: the journalists were put on the right track to expose them through Publeaks. In its three-year history, hundreds of issues have come to light thanks to Publeaks.

World Radio Day

Of course, Free Press Unlimited celebrated World Radio Day in 2017. In the Netherlands we organised a mini-campaign to gain financial support for our radio partners. Radio connects people, certainly in countries where people are prevented from going to school by war and poverty and are therefore illiterate. As Leon Willems said in a radio-interview with the UN mission in South Sudan: ‘Radio plays an important role in rebuilding peace. People can tell their story and hear the opinions of others – in a peaceful manner. That is why radio is so extremely important.’ Whether it is through a radio soap for young people or a factual report. In South Sudan Free Press Unlimited supports Radio Tamazuj, that builds bridges, connects people and encourages them to talk instead of fight with each other.

International Women’s Day

On March 8th, International Women’s Day, Free Press Unlimited organised the Men4Women March in Southeast Asia. Hundreds of male employees of our media partners in Nepal, Indonesia and Bangladesh took to the streets to express their support for the fight for equal rights. After this success, we will also organise the march in other countries next year.

Our organisation

The work pressure at Free Press Unlimited is always quite high - all of us carried out an enormous amount of work again in 2017. Despite that, our employees are still very satisfied and sick leave is very low, thanks to their great dedication and probably also to the structure and management of the organisation. Achieving our goals is just as essential as the work satisfaction of our employees. After all, they are the most important pillars on which the organisation depends.

Organisation structure

Free Press Unlimited does not believe in a strong hierarchical structure. Our organisation is structured like a network, where all teams and departments can learn from each other. The organisation chart shows the close connections between the six project teams and the seven support departments. In combination with the open connections between office spaces, this organisational structure explicitly invites the daily exchange of knowledge, experience and information.

Each project team has a team leader who manages her or his team in the performance of their duties. Four of these teams are bound to a specific region: Sudan & South Sudan, Syria / Eurasia (the Russian-language News Platform), Fragile Africa (with countries such as Burundi and Central African Republic) and MENA (Middle East & North Africa). In addition, there is a Youth & Media team and a Gender, Safety and Accountability team. The size of the teams varies from 1.8 FTE in Youth & Media to 11 FTE in the big Sudan team, which also includes the staff of Radio Dabanga.

The 7 support departments keep the organisation operational and future-proof: Communication, Knowledge & Quality, Donor Relations, Human Resources, Office Management, Safety and Finances.


Free Press Unlimited is a foundation. We choose the Supervisory Board model as our governance form. This gives the Board of Directors the necessary scope to operate quickly and flexibly. The Supervisory Board guarantees that they do so carefully and effectively. The Board of Directors of Free Press Unlimited consists of Leon Willems and Ruth Kronenburg. They also form the Executive Team: Leon is Managing Director and Ruth is Operational Director. The Directors conduct the daily policy and are accountable to the Supervisory Board. Their duties and responsibilities are set out in the Articles of Association of Free Press Unlimited and in a management regulation.

How much do the directors of Free Press Unlimited earn? We follow the remuneration scheme for directors of Charity Netherlands and the Wijffels Code. For their virtually unlimited availability and effort they receive € 99.371 (Leon Willems) and € 89.248 (Ruth Kronenburg) gross per year, including holiday pay.

The additional activities of the board members are directly related to their work for Free Press Unlimited. Leon Willems is special advisor to the Global Forum for Media Development. Ruth Kronenburg is a member of the advisory committee of Pro Bono Connect, a project of the Dutch Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. They receive no compensation for this work.

Management meeting

In 2016, together with all employees, we critically examined our organisation. One of the conclusions was that the bi-weekly meeting of a limited management team no longer fits the fast-growing organisation. Starting in 2017, we replaced this MT meeting with a strategic management meeting. This is a quarterly meeting of the directors, the team leaders and the Communications and Knowledge & Quality coordinators. All team leaders and coordinators meet up every month. They discuss and coordinate operational matters that are important for the entire organisation and support each other as managers.

Supervisory Board

The Supervisory Board is ultimately responsible for Free Press Unlimited. It keeps an eye on the performance of the organisation and intervenes if it finds it necessary. The Supervisory Board is responsible for the overall strategy of the organisation and makes decisions based on annual budgets and reports. The Supervisory Board accounts for its activities in 2017 in its own report.

Independent offices

Ideally, Free Press Unlimited wants its partners to pull their own (financial) weight as soon as possible. On condition that they can run their organisation in a professional manner. Free Press Unlimited tries to guide them as much as possible to achieve this: tailor-made and at a realistic pace given the often difficult circumstances in which they operate.

We are therefore proud that our production office in South Sudan, Free Voice, became fully independent in 2017. Free Media is, after Media INK in Somalia, the second of our original three production offices (local offices that carry out very large productions) that successfully became independent. Number three will hopefully follow next year. In 2017 we worked hard together on a plan to also strengthen this production office so that it can continue without our support.

Complaints procedure

Free Press Unlimited has a complaints procedure for its stakeholders, in compliance with the ISO 9001 standards.

Free Press Unlimited works on the basis of the principle that if a complaint comes in, it can teach us something. The procedure sets out a protocol to which all employees must adhere to. Every complaint is processed and registered as quickly as possible, but within 14 days at the latest. If the complainant is dissatisfied about how the complaint is handled, she or he can appeal to the management of Free Press Unlimited. If, after that, the complainant is still not satisfied, the next step is to appeal to the Supervisory Board. If the complaint for which the appeal has been lodged concerns the Board of Directors or the Supervisory Board, the Confidential Advisor will deal with it. There is also a 14-day deadline for lodging an appeal, within which Free Press Unlimited must respond. Complainants can always request information about the handling of their complaints.


Free Press Unlimited exists by the grace of its experienced, driven and expert employees. They give substance to our mission every day: giving people access to independent, reliable and timely information. We cannot offer them a huge salary, but we do offer a pleasant working environment, dedicated colleagues and the tools and training to do their job well.

Personnel policy

In 2017 we put our brand-new HR policy into practice. It is based on 3 principles:
1. Employees are the most important pillars of the organisation.
2. Free Press Unlimited wants to be an appealing employer.
3. Personnel policy must be further professionalised.

In the past year, the job descriptions have been updated, compared with those of other organisations and linked to new salary scales that we will apply in January 2018. Due to the departure of our partner Greenhost (in full agreement; we had outgrown our premises and we were unable to find a larger office together), since 2017, we have been able to provide our employees with more space. We turned the canteen into a nice place for a lunch or short consultation, where we can also hold larger meetings. We also created places to work quietly or brainstorm together about new ideas.

In November we let an external party ask our employees: how satisfied are you with your work and the organisation? The questionnaire was drawn up in consultation with the Works Council. No less than 80% of the employees completed the survey. If one thing is clear from the results, it is that Free Press Unlimited has extremely dedicated employees who feel free to express their opinions. That was also an explicit question, which was answered positively by 81%. Opinions differ as to whether enough is being done with that result.
‘I feel that we are doing important work.’ Almost all employees are proud of Free Press Unlimited – that is much more than the average employee in the Netherlands (93% compared with an average of 78% in the Netherlands). Employees feel their work is appreciated, find the atmosphere pleasant and value the cooperation within their teams. However, the predominant opinion is that communication between the teams could be better. They still lack a clear vision of the future, but management is working on this, in consultation with employees; a new long-term plan will be presented in the spring. Employees also feel that work pressure is high – but not too high in 84% of cases. This may also be because of their great motivation – and to be exact – for all the new plans. Someone answered the question ‘What makes you enthusiastic?’ with: ‘The professionalisation steps we take.’ This dedication and drive are what make employees the most important pillar of the organisation.

After the turbulent growth of the past few years, the organisation came into slightly calmer waters in 2017. That is reflected in the number of employees: in the past year 64 people worked for Free Press Unlimited, 1 of whom in East Africa and 1 in Eastern Europe (55.9 FTE). That is 1 FTE less than in 2016, when we employed 66 employees. In 2017, we welcomed 8 new colleagues, 3 of whom were actually old acquaintances: they had previously worked as interns for Free Press Unlimited. We said goodbye to 10 colleagues who opted to take on a new challenge or whose contract was not renewed, partly due to the termination of a project.


How are we ourselves doing when it comes to gender equality? Very well, if you look at the male-female ratio among our employees. In 2017, 36 women and 28 men worked at Free Press Unlimited. The balance is also pretty good at management level, thanks to our policy of preferably appointing female managers for vacancies. The Board of Directors consists of a man and a woman, and in the management team that replaces the former MT there are 5 men and 4 women. In terms of age, there are the same number of employees between 20 and 35 years old, as employees between 36 and 50 years old: 24. The other 16 people are aged between 51 and 65.

Interns and volunteers

In 2017, 4 people worked as interns at Free Press Unlimited. We have a clear internship policy, with sharp guidelines about recruitment and job description. Interns gain relevant work experience and offer Free Press Unlimited a fresh perspective and ask critical questions. Seven highly valued volunteers were active in the Communication department, also during Free Press Live, and as writers of stories about our work. 1 indispensable volunteer helped to fill the media library of our worldwide children’s television project WADADA News for Kids.

Sick leave

After a spectacular drop in sick leave in 2016 (from 4.4% to 1.72%), it levelled out in 2017. At 1.83% this percentage is still far below the national average of 5%. Free Press Unlimited does its utmost to create a healthy working environment for its employees. In that context, we offered everyone a preventive medical examination in 2017; more than half (34 people) took advantage of this.

Education and training

Free Press Unlimited encourages its employees to constantly improve themselves, both individually and within their team. Each year we draw up a Continuous Professional Development Plan, in which relevant courses and training are scheduled.

We follow some together, like learning days that take place twice a year. Some are individual, and some training sessions required whole teams to be out-of-office. In 2017, as an organisation, we specifically wanted to become better at learning valuable lessons from projects and programmes. So, we trained ourselves in the use of MEAL methods. Everyone also followed the training ‘how do we raise more awareness for gender (in)equality in our own organisation’ and honed their digital skills.

At the end of 2016, the employee satisfaction survey showed that there was a great need for personal guidance. The fast-growing organisation put more and more demands on management and team leaders. It will not come as a surprise that in 2017 they enthusiastically took advantage of the special coaching plans that Free Press Unlimited arranged for them. Thanks to these coaches, they are better able to manage their own teams and run the organisation more efficiently. All line managers received on-the-job training in 2017; we will continue with this in 2018. Team leaders and management took part in a crisis management training in January and we organised a workshop on fake news for interested parties.

Twice a year we organise learning days (Free Press Unlimited days) for the whole organisation. Everyone who attended said it was super-valuable. Under the coordination of an external party, we look back and ahead, we exchange lessons learned and cross-pollinate each other with solutions for similar problems. We, as an organisation, reap the rewards: a proven good idea from one party is enthusiastically copied and adapted by the other. In January we organised these days for the first time and in September the second session took place.

Confidential Advisor

In 2017, Free Press Unlimited got a new Confidential Advisor, after the 2 members of the confidentiality committee had reached their maximum sitting period of 4 years in 2016.

The Confidential Advisor is the point of contact for employees who wish to file a (well-founded) complaint about a problem that they are unable to resolve with their immediate superior. For complaints about the organisation and labour law complaints, Free Press Unlimited has other channels.

In 2017, the Confidential Advisor received 5 reports of undesirable behavior, 4 of which turned out to be in combination with work-related matters. After talks with those concerned about how they could raise this together, these issues were resolved. In the fifth case, an employee felt sexually intimidated by someone outside Free Press Unlimited. However, the employee did not want to take any action, because it was a one-off contact. The Confidential Advisor received no official complaints or reports of abuses in 2017.

Works council

In 2016, Free Press Unlimited grew so fast that we employed more than 50 employees. That meant we were ready to replace the staff representatives with a proper Works Council.

After thorough preparation in the first half of 2017, we organised our first Works Council elections in June. The staff representatives drew up statutes and rules with the help of an external expert and negotiated on them with the management. On this basis, the brand-new Works Council started in July for a 3-year period. To ensure things run as smoothly as possible, both Works Council and management received a works council training.

The Works Council drafted a plan in its first six months and prepared for possible support requests. It informed all employees on the contact and communication options, sent updates and organised two meetings with all the employees. Employees approached the Works Council and presented various issues requesting that they be discussed with management. This took place in 4 meetings.

The Works Council and HR, jointly arranged the employee satisfaction survey and urged employees to fill it out – which resulted in a participation rate of 80%. In its short existence, the Works Council met 8 times; it distributes the minutes of these meetings to the employees via e-mail or the internal Wiki. It meets with management every quarter – twice in 2017 – and each month 2 Council members consult with 1 board member.

Knowledge, quality and continuity

In 2017 we enthusiastically started applying all the new methods and tools that we had developed in 2016. Our Knowledge & Quality team supports us in this, both within the organisation and in the projects with our partners. Of course, we want to guarantee that the organisation is future-proof and that we can continue to do our work safely. A detailed risk analysis and an adapted safety policy help us to achieve that.

Knowledge & Quality

Knowledge development is of great importance for an organisation like Free Press Unlimited. How does press freedom develop in the countries in which we work, how can we help journalists to protect themselves better? How do we continuously monitor whether we are achieving our goals? What are the most important issues that we need to lobby internationally and who can we work with? Which topics do children find important in country X and which partner in country Y can help his colleagues in country Z? Just a cross-section of the questions we face every day. To answer this, the work of our Knowledge & Quality team is indispensable.

In 2017, the Knowledge & Quality team introduced various methods to monitor our projects and evaluate the results. Outcome Harvesting, for example, the Most Significant Change stories and tracking media attention for women in gender media monitoring. For partners, they developed a Stakeholder Analysis: a questionnaire and step-by-step plan with which organisations can determine their policy influencing strategy.

At the end of 2017, the Knowledge & Quality team enriched the organisation with an innovative experiment: a database in which we collect ‘evidence’ for our Theory of Change. What works and what does not work as we expected? In this evidence base we find stories, reports, evaluations and results from our own employees and external experts. Each document teaches us something about a step in our Theory of Change. The database contains, for example, an external report that shows how investigative journalism contributes to combating corruption and building a democracy; a recognition of media’s watchdog task.

This ‘proof’ and the stories, can also be used to clarify what Free Press Unlimited actually does and what results we achieve (e.g. fundraising). Or on which issues we want to influence policy. Thanks to this database, we can also quickly see which gaps there are in our knowledge – and where we need to carry out further research. For the time being, the team fills and tests this promising source of knowledge itself, but if everything works satisfactorily, it will become accessible to the entire organisation. For that reason, the evidence base has already been built within our internal Wiki.

Project management information: we just do it ourselves

Last year we wrote about the issue that was giving us sleepless nights: the search for a good information system to manage our projects. In 2017, this quest ended unexpectedly right where it started: at the Free Press Unlimited office. What happened? At the end of 2016 we initiated a pilot with our (then) best option, open source software that most fully met our requirements. But it turns out it is very difficult to put Free Press Unlimited’s work into a system. Moreover, the chosen information system was very user-unfriendly. Then we had a eureka-moment: why not build a project management information system ourselves, on our internal Wiki? It would also be a lot cheaper than buying expensive external software. No sooner said than done. We will probably be able to work with this system by early 2018.

Quality management

Free Press Unlimited meets several recognised quality standards.

  • A variant of ISO 9001 that applies specifically to the development sector. This is also called the Partos standard, after Partos, the Dutch association of development organisations. Because our certificate for ISO 9001:2008 expires in April 2018, in 2017, we prepared ourselves well for the new version, ISO 9001:2015. We had an external expert investigate whether we had done so well enough. They judged our management processes to be ‘adequately organised and secured’ and that ‘the organisation is well on the way to full implementation of the elements of the new standard ‘. In early 2018, our ISO project team will make sure the transition runs smoothly.
  • Free Press Unlimited is a Recognised Charity. In 2016, this quality label replaced the old CBF quality label and is the initiative of cooperating quality label organisations such as CBF and Charity Netherlands. In 2017, Free Press Unlimited also met the strict standards of this quality label.
  • Free Press Unlimited reports on the projects in the Strategic Partnership in accordance with the standards of the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI). However, there is an agreement that we do not publish data that might endanger people and organisations. We have recorded what we do and do not make public in a special Exclusion Policy.
  • Free Press Unlimited has drawn up its own code of conduct to which all employees must adhere. Moreover, as a member of Partos and Charity Netherlands we abide by their codes of conduct.

Risk analysis

Every year, Free Press Unlimited analyses the most important risks that the organisation faces. We do this in accordance with ISO 31000 risk management. In the table below, we list the most important risks, how likely they are, what the consequences are and what measures we take to prevent these risks. This table is, among other things, in line with the new RJ650 guideline. To help our employees avoid risks, the internal Wiki contains a detailed analysis, complete with sample scenarios.

  Threat Measure Opportunity Impact
Digital safety By hacks, phishing, spying or unsecured digital communication leaks privacy sensitive information that may endanger people’s lives. Digital environment is outsourced to specialist IT-hostRegular training of employees. Information security is part of the general safety policy. Probable Major
Survival Funding of media projects becomes difficult due to changes in the political environment. Active lobby for developing media and compliance with Sustainable Development Goal 16.10 (access to information) Average Major
Performance Projects are not or are poorly carried out, resulting in damage to the reputation of Free Press Unlimited, its partner and/or the donor. Compliance with and regular monitoring of project procedures.Crisis management plan is integrated in the organisation and MT is trained. Improbable Major
Fraud Fraud or wrong information during the performance of a project. Compliance with project procedures, financial controls, location visits, limited sub-grants (1 year), sanctions. Average Small
Strategy Directors are too involved in performance instead of strategy. Training and coaching for directors and managers. Average Limited
Reputation Threats of damage reputation to Free Press Unlimited through negative reporting about our projects or in crisis situations. Compliance with and regular monitoring of project procedures.Crisis management plan is integrated in the organisation and MT is trained. Average Limited
Conflict areas The country where we are carrying out one or more projects becomes too instable, resulting in the suspension of projects. Context analysis before carrying out project, so that risks are known. In case of an unexpected crisis, contact donor immediately and inform partner of steps (closure, hibernation). Probable Major
Compliance Free Press Unlimited or its partners do not or insufficiently meet the agreements with the donor during the performance of a project, resulting in damage to the reputation of Free Press Unlimited. The Finance Department checks all the demands in advance and the reports during performance.
Financial start-up meeting per project, in which donor demands are determined and measures are taken to meet them.
Average Limited
Finance Insufficient financial control over local offices. Annual financial checklist, continuous monitoring, regular contact with local financial staff.Pay advances monthly. Average Limited


Security policy

Free Press Unlimited not only helps journalists do their work as safely as possible, safety is also top priority within our organisation. All our employees must follow a safety course. In January 2017 we organised a training in crisis management, which we will do every year.

Our internal Wiki contains various security protocols that every employee can check. But all those separate regulations and manuals do not make things much clearer. That is why in 2017 we combined all agreements and procedures into one security policy, which will take effect in January 2018. This tells you, for example, how you can effectively prepare for a trip to a high-risk country. Or what measures you need to take to work safely with digital information – for example, encrypting e-mail messages or surfing the Internet via a detour (VPN). It also explains how you can identify the risks per project and what measures you can take to minimise them.

Because new European rules for the protection of personal data come into force as of May 2018, we carried out comprehensive preparations in 2017. A major advantage for us is that our own security policy is already so stringent: Free Press Unlimited is accustomed to working with sensitive information (from partners). We identified all the personal data in our databases and then thoroughly investigated them. Conclusion: the data are properly protected, and the risks are as small as possible.

Digital security is becoming more important every day. It is no coincidence that the risk of hacking, phishing or spying was a red flag in our risk analysis. If we are not constantly on our guard when we store or share something online, we may unintentionally endanger the lives of our partners. That is why we work closely with our partner Greenhost and have our own security team (including a digital security specialist). They keep a sharp eye on ensuring that Free Press Unlimited employees keep themselves and their data safe.


Free Press Unlimited tries to reduce its CO2-emissions as much as possible:

  • We encourage travelling by public transport and working from home.
  • We purchase green energy from renewable sources, i.e. solar and wind.
  • We fly climate-neutral. We compensate our air travel through the Climate Neutral Group.
  • Our paper consumption has dropped significantly in the last few years, particularly by printing less. What helps, is that we digitally share almost all the internal information and revise it through our Wiki. If we buy products, installations or services, we opt as much as possible for the most sustainable and greenest variant.