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Learning to Build Stories Using Data and Design in the South Caucasus

Year when project approved: 
Approved budget: 
US$17 325.00

The South Caucasus is comprised of three diverse countries, each facing different challenges becoming democratic and open societies where political processes represent the needs of constituents. The media in this region is largely limited to the traditional forms of print, TV, and radio. Because media organizations rely on these models that are no longer sustainable because of the internet and technology, they are susceptible to the financial control and bias of political parties and special interest groups, which in turn influences the content and quality of their journalism. Audiences in this region, in response, lack trust in the media, and thus in an institution necessary for an open and free society.
Georgia, arguably the most democratic country of the three, has undergone a series of peaceful political changes during the decade, all major changes occurring through democratic mechanisms, even though participation is still low44. However, the media is not trusted in Georgia compared to the overwhelming trust in such as the Orthodox Church, with only 23% of Georgians trusting the media while 81% trust the Church45. Journalists and journalism organizations are reluctant to change and still rely on methods that are no longer effective in the current context.
Armenia’s lack of economic independence is an important factor in its journalistic environment. As a large percent of its budget comes from its diaspora, whose values are often colored by Armenian nationalism rather than the immediate needs of the local population, Armenia’s media is characterized by a lack of grassroots involvement and focus. Perhaps that is why only 26%46 of Armenians trust it.
In Azerbaijan, a recent heavy-handed crackdown by the government on any form of opposition is indicative that the country’s media lacks the environment to function freely and that the situation is becoming increasingly less democratic. The media and civil society are under threat, and the government has forced many journalists into exile or set a deafening expectation that journalists should toe the line or face the consequences. That being said, 39% of Azerbaijanis trust the media47, as limited as it is.
Journalists, media organizations, and journalism programs in Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia suffer from a lack of exposure to modern trends in journalism, technological know-how, and the trust that characterizes these institutions in a healthy democracy. Regionally, media organizations haven’t recognized the importance methods and technologies available to consume data. Attempts at moving forward come up short because of an over-reliance on old methodology and lack of education about data journalism practices.
JumpStart aims to create a culture of data-based journalism using modern methods of storytelling in this region where it is the only organization doing this type of work. This project will be assessed on how well this model of data journalism, which meets the needs and demands of contemporary readership, is integrated into the media of these countries. This project will address the problem of an over-reliance on traditional media outlets and lack of adaptation to contemporary media practices. In the past decade, data journalism has developed as an important way to convey complex issues and large data sets to audiences. Given the complexity of the South Caucasus and the availability of data (such as through the Caucasus Research Resource Center48 and geostat.ge), as well as the correlation between media freedom and good governance, equipping journalists in the South Caucasus with data journalism skills will result in more open and democratic societies.
At the core of this problem is the lack of professional skills in using data to tell news stories. JumpStart will address this problem through building capacities, which in turn will build more open societies and more accountable social institutions. This component will equip 3 journalism trainers in current datajournalism and media techniques through four 5-day training methodology course spread through the life of the project (one each quarter) who will then capacitate up to 20 journalists in each of the South Caucasus countries through coordinated monthly trainings.
The majority of journalists in this region are women and the majority of those involved in the technical side are men. The project will seek a gender balance throughout its implementation.
44 http://civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=27478
45 Caucasus Barometer, CRRC, http://crrc.ge
46 Ibid
47 Ibid

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Beneficiary name: 
JumpStart Georgia
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Vision: JumpStart Georgia equips media to translate this complexity into language a wider audience can understand and use to build stronger, more open societies. JumpStart offers regular media development services through trainings and workshops, through working with partner organizations to shape their media and data strategies, and though leading by example through our in-house visualizations and opensource storytelling tools.
In the past two years, we have designed and led media workshops in Georgia for and with the UNFPA, ISET, Open Society Foundations, JumpStart International, the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs, the European Journalism Centre and others while showing what’s possible through our own visualizations and storytelling tools (www.feradi.info; www.liberali.ge/ge/liberali/infographics; storybuilder.jumpstart.ge/en). We have also become increasingly aware of the need for a more widescale approach to our media development work as the issues facing the South Caucasus continue to grow in complexity.
JumpStart's aim for 2015 is to expand the geography and scale of our impact by working to develop data-journalism and media capacities and fostering cooperation in university programs, media organizations, and CSOs throughout the South Caucasus. We believe that creating a culture of datadriven storytelling in Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan will lead to stronger, more transparent civil societies and democratic institutions, and more informed citizens throughout the South Caucasus.
Mission: The issues societies face today consist of complex mechanisms and processes. JumpStart translates this complexity into language a wider audience can understand and use to participate in factbased discussions and ultimately make more informed decisions. JumpStart creates informed decisionmakers who in turn strengthen democratic institutions. We do this through better communication based on evidence.

Beneficiary address: 
5 Shevchenko St, Apt 2, 0108, Tbilisi

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Beneficiary phone: 
+995 032 214 29 26

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Location and contacts
Project contacts: 

Eric Barrett, Executive Director: info@jumpstart.ge

Project place: 
South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan)

Project region: