Behind the distillation process of innovation

Innovation is a buzzword I have adopted into my everyday language here at the Investigative News Network where I am tasked with documenting some very exciting experiments in sustainability at nonprofit newsrooms.

The INNovation Fund—granted by the Knight Foundation in a partnership with INN—is a $1 million pool of money to be distributed in a series of micro grants over the next two years. The first round was awarded to eight nonprofit newsrooms in mid April this year, and the second one is set to be awarded in October.

It is the first time INN has ever been done anything like this. Yet, INN is the appropriate partner for this task given its growing membership of investigative newsrooms and the robust suite of services and benefits it offers those nonprofits. After all, INN has since its inception always looked for ways to share institutional knowledge and best industry practices in the nonprofit news sector.

We have been working closely with the Knight Foundation on how to best document these experiments with one goal in mind: to ensure the rest of the nonprofit public media and independent publishing community enjoy the benefits of the lessons learned.

Grantees from the first round have already begun their projects and are well on their way to test their ideas. Soon we will begin to document these updates on our website and, possibly on other platforms, a public profile of each project.

We expect each of these organizations to share their experiences, discussions and results—the good, the bad and the ugly. We learn a lot even when we fail.

As a matter of transparency and organization, we’ve come up with a basic methodology for documentation. Updates will be published on in the following structure:

  • Summary: Proposal, budget, timeline
  • Team statements: Who worked on the project
  • Q&A: Interviews
  • Metrics of success: How success is defined and measured
  • Multimedia: Photos, video, audio

Here are some of the questions we will be asking each of the teams:

  • What do you intend to accomplish with your project?
  • What do you hope to learn from it?
  • What challenges do you anticipate—or what challenges did encounter?
  • What are the implications of this project for nonprofit journalism?
  • How will you move ahead beyond this experiment?
  • In hindsight, how would do this experiment next time?
  • How would you advise another nonprofit on how to replicate this experiment?

Updates for each project will vary from organization to organization, therefore, the above structure is not set in stone. We are committed to doing it right and we are confident that we will produce a solid body of work of “lessons learned” and results that will be of some value to other news organizations.

With that in mind, send your comments or questions to me at