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Omidyar’s Luminate Invests US$1M in Kenya Media Lab to Support Press Independence.

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Omidyar’s Luminate Invests US$1M in Kenya Media Lab to Support Press Independence.

Luminate, a global philanthropic organization which is part of the Omidyar Group, will invest US$1m in a new space that aims to boost the capacity of journalists and publishers to report in the public interest. 

The Baraza Media Lab will provide Kenyan journalists, publishers, and media entrepreneurs a dedicated physical space to strengthen collaboration, networks and skills. 

The lab will be run in partnership with Mettā, an innovation and entrepreneur’s hub, and will draw from the company’s established experience in curating meaningful and corporate innovation.

Ory Okolloh, Managing Director at Luminate, said: “We believe that supporting a vibrant media eco-system in Kenya is critical on a number of fronts. From providing an enabling environment for independent media to thrive, to supporting collaboration and providing the space for innovation to happen within the media industry, the Baraza Media Lab will be an important anchor for journalists and entrepreneurs alike. We look forward to working with the community and other partners as we build something transformative.” 

Luminate’s launch of the Baraza Media Lab comes at a time when Kenyan media faces several challenges. A 2018 research report by Reboot found that the key challenges facing Kenya’s media ecosystem include a lack of innovation among media organisations, skills gaps among media practitioners, weak networking between media and aligned sectors and downsizing at major media houses.

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The Baraza Media Lab aims to help solve these challenges by taking a bottom-up approach, focused on meeting the immediate needs of journalists and media stakeholders. The lab will offer its members three key benefits.

  1. To support stronger networking and collaboration in the media ecosystem, the Baraza Media Lab will serve as the go-to place for media practitioners, thus helping to build crucial relationships within media, as well as among media, civil society and the citizenry. 
  2. To help build skills, the Baraza Media Lab will run a content programme that delivers journalist-centred training, to address the explicit needs of journalists in the community. 
  3. To foster innovation in the sector, the Baraza Media Lab will offer capacity building to members on sustainable media practices that go beyond the conventional readership- and membership-based models. Training will include modules such as innovative content delivery, payment infrastructure, and the wider use of technology like data and analytics.

Churchill Otieno, President of the Kenya Editors Guild, noted: “The Baraza Media Lab launch marks a watershed moment in the push to strengthen media freedom and independence in Kenya. For years, the Kenyan media sector has faced pressing challenges – including commercial pressure, low capacity, a legal framework fraught with gaps, and weak cooperation with external stakeholders. We envision that the Baraza Media Lab will serve as a catalyst to rekindle strong skills development, more collaboration, and ultimately stronger independence in the sector.”

Maurice Otieno, General Manager of Mettā Nairobi said: “Mettā has built solid communities and will be transferring the same experience in building a more vibrant and engaged media community. It will act as the melting point of media support from talent, content, funding, and a place that journalists can call home.”

The Baraza Media Lab will be housed at Keystone Park in Riverside, Nairobi, and is expected to open before the end of the year.

To maximize its impact in building a stronger and more sustainable media ecosystem, Luminate will work alongside Mettā to draw in additional partners, in fields ranging from media, technology, and academia to philanthropic organisations and corporates.

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