Boston University Wins Grand Challenges Explorations Grant to Create Global Student Newsroom

November 1, 2012

Boston University is the winner of a grant from the Grand Challenges Explorations, an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.  A team of BU researchers including Anne Donohue and Elizabeth Mehren of the College of Communication (COM), and Jennifer Beard and Monica Onyango from the School of Public Health (SPH) and the Center for Global Health & Development (CGHD), will use the grant funds to develop its concept titled “Pamoja,” the Swahili word for together, for communicating the importance of investments that support global development.

“We are thrilled to receive this grant and through this project we hope to achieve a better understanding of how public health aid is serving low- and middle-income countries,” said Donohue, associate professor of journalism at COM and Pamoja principal investigator.  “Through the creation of a global health student newsroom with student participants from BU and our partner universities in Kenya, we will aim to uncover and share the quiet but compelling stories of how international aid affects those who receive it.”

“Our hope is that finding and reporting on the positive stories about the ways in which aid is working will serve as an antidote to donor fatigue,” said Beard, a researcher with CGHD and assistant professor of international health at SPH. “An old adage in the public health profession is that public health is invisible when it is working, but consumers read and hear about the failures all the time. We want the positive stories to balance that coverage and reveal global health successes large and small.”

Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) funds individuals worldwide who are taking innovative approaches to some of the world’s toughest and persistent global health and development challenges.  GCE invests in the early stages of bold ideas that have real potential to help solve the problems people in the developing world face every day. The BU collaborative project is one of over 80 Grand Challenges Explorations Round 9 grants announced today by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

During the initial phase of “Pamoja”, students from BU will work in partnership with students from Great Lakes University of Kisumu and Bondo University College (both located in western Kenya) to build relationships with local civil society and government stakeholders to tell stories of seemingly intractable problems, creative interventions, and public health successes small and large. Stories will be disseminated to a global audience through formal and informal channels. In addition to social media, students will also work with professional mainstream media partners. Likewise, students in the developing world will get their stories out to various local media sources, tapping into local radio and audio podcasts on cell phones.