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Digital organizing as a powerful tool for media: my experience as an ECDA fellow

Carla Allenbach

I’m the Managing Director and Co-Founder of The European Correspondent. My background is in media organization and civil society campaigning. I’m originally from Switzerland, one of the most direct democracies in Europe, and live now in Brussels - the heart of European democracy.

A photo of Carla Allenbach
Carla Allenbach- The European Correspondent

The European Correspondent is a not-for-profit media organization. We have a network of more than 150 journalists across Europe contributing to our newsletter. Our correspondents report the stories that are relevant beyond borders. Independent media is an important pillar of democracy, helping citizens to form their opinions on current affairs. What happens where you live probably started somewhere else. And this is why there is a need for more European journalism. Our correspondents summarize the essential news in their countries to help you make sense of Europe. Through building a European media we foster intercultural understanding across borders. We publish a daily newsletter: Every day we cover a different European region and on Mondays, we cover the latest developments in European Affairs.

Everyone involved are volunteers and the network is sustained through donations by the readers. Our long-term goal is to become reader-financed whilst being freely accessible to the public. To achieve this we want to apply the digital organizing mechanism that is normally used in civil society and political movements: list growing, engagement ladders, a project of many. This motivated me to apply for the fellowship at the ECDA.

The fellowship allowed us to put our ideas into practice and get experienced advice and input from the mentors. We applied the learnings for list growth and reader engagement. During the three months, we focused on a list growth campaign to grow our community and implemented an onboarding journey that allowed us to learn who our readers are. The campaigns have proven successful in terms of list growth, extensive intelligence on who is in our community, and increasing donation pledges. Additionally, we learned how to use paid advertising campaigns on social media to our advantage and scale the communication with our readers. Whilst we already had the skills and knowledge about digital organizing within our team, the fellowship inspired us and helped us to implement concrete campaigns.

The weekly sessions were inspiring and a good place to exchange with the other fellows. Next to the group sessions, for me, the most valuable is the close collaboration with the mentor. Nilesh gave me and my team hands-on feedback which we were able to implement and test. His experienced eye from an editorial and campaigning background was invaluable for our organization.

ECDA Fellowship Program live session
ECDA Fellowship Program- live session

Through the fellowship, we identified relevant mechanisms to accelerate our outreach and growth. Through the micro-grant, we are one step closer to realizing our strategy to build a European media that is sustained by its readers.

Media organizations have a crucial role in our society; the close relationship with our community, which we can build through the digital organizing mechanism, will hold us accountable. We believe that our mission to build European journalism is something that many Europeans want to rally behind.

The most important lesson ECDA transmitted: Donating is a form of engagement.

Applied to our organization, we often encounter the reality that people do not want to pay for content, because they believe information should be free. While we understand this, we also believe that it is worth supporting organizations with a donation that works towards a mission that you believe in. This is why we do not ask our readers to pay for our content, on the contrary, we ask them to support our cause because they believe in the mission of creating European media.

For the upcoming months, we will be continuing to implement the learnings from the fellowship, focusing on more engagement. Especially with the EU election coming up, European media is more important than ever to connect the national level with the European level. We aim to grow a truly European audience over the next years: The European Correspondent aims to provide journalism relevant to people from Lisbon to Helsinki and Edinburgh to Istanbul.

During the fellowship, we established two campaigns:

I wholeheartedly recommend any progressive civil society media to apply for the fellowship. As we continue our journey to create European media that is sustained by its readers, the ECDA fellowship has been instrumental. Learn these mechanisms, stay independent, and build a community-based approach.

Find out more about the ECDA Fellowship Program:

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