Call for Proposals: Grants for piloting investigative partnerships

February 26, 2019


Over the last decade civil society organizations in the field of transparency, civic engagement and accountability are increasingly using data and technology for analysis, engagement and to create evidence for advocacy. Likewise, investigative journalists are increasingly using data for investigations to back up the evidence of their reporting and using data visualizations for new ways of storytelling.

Civil society advocacy organizations and investigative journalists are clearly two very distinct groups with specific functions, missions, approaches, skills and needs. However, both groups can mutually benefit from each other’s work and expertise.

Independent journalistic investigations on misuse of power, fraud and corruption are the cornerstone for public scrutiny and for holding governmental duty bearers and private sector players to account. Civil society advocacy is often the driver for social change. It can mobilize people on specific issues and play a significant role in multi-stakeholder coalitions to co-create local solutions to governance issues. Often, legislative reforms on transparency and accountability are the result of long-term advocacy by civil society groups.

The problem

All too often civil society organizations struggle to create robust evidence to back up their advocacy. All too often great journalistic investigations lead to public outcry but have no accountability follow up. In a country like Malawi, for example, the main national news outlets are full of corruption scandals. However, many times there are no consequences. Stories about corruption have a tendency to focus on individual misbehavior, without addressing the systemic structures and issues that enable corruption and misuse of power in the first place. When there are no accountability responses (strategic litigations, changes in laws, norms and practices) to investigations, there is a risk that this reinforces the perception of impunity and frustration ala ‘we cannot change anything’.

Assumed mutual benefits

  • Journalists can benefit from the domain knowledge of issue-focused civil society organizations, as they are often specialized in specific issues and sectors like health, education, extractives, etc. Journalists also benefit indirectly when their investigations are actually used as evidence for reforms and social change. Moreover, journalists may get an opportunity to create or build up networks or partnerships for collaborations e.g Panama Papers consortium.
  • Civil society advocacy organizations can benefit from the expert skills on conducting proper investigations, and create robust evidence as a basis for accountability follow-up actions. They can also benefit from the wide public reach that media offers, as a platform for spotlighting issues.

Assumed issues and risks

  • Journalists need to be independent and follow a rigorous code of conduct. It is not their societal function to do advocacy for change in policies, norms and practices. Hence, being seen in close collaboration with those who use their evidence can cause reputational risks;
  • Civil society advocacy organizations might be tempted to demand the investigations to deliver the evidence and arguments they need for their advocacy, introducing biases that are not compatible with objective and rigorous journalistic practice.

Proposed investigative stories grant scheme

To enable the power of investigations for accountability while keeping both groups independent from each other, Hivos and partners are launching a pilot on investigative partnership grants.

Civil society advocacy organizations are invited submit proposals on advocacy – spelling out clearly what evidence is needed to advance the advocacy, and how the evidence-based advocacy would be carried out.

Journalists are invited to submit proposals on investigations – spelling out clearly what evidence the investigation will produce.

There are different ways to submit applications:

  1. Journalists and CSOs can identify potential collaborations themselves and develop a joint proposal together;
  2. Journalists and CSOs can submit applications for investigations (supply of evidence), and advocacy (demand for evidence) separately and Hivos and partners will aim to broker supply and demand.

Call for proposals

The call for proposals will be launched in April 2019. The program will only fund proposals where brokering of supply and demand is successful, i.e. where there is a clear case that the evidence created will be used for advocacy or other forms of accountability response (e.g. strategic litigations, etc). Both parties will receive a flexible grant up to 5,000 euros each for a period of 3-6 months to cover investigation and accountability follow up. We may offer an extension upon certain terms and approval of Hivos. In addition, the program can broker access to specific expert mentors in the field of financial investigations and accountability advocacy as needed.

Eligibility and selection criteria

Investigative journalists(media organizations or individuals)

Applicants must:

  • show a proven track record of publishing/broadcasting quality investigative stories on the misuse of power and corruption in a credible online or offline media partner (stories published on own blog do not count);
  • have at least one guaranteed credible media partner, to amplify their reach & impact;
  • spell out in detail what evidence will be produced and commit to producing actionable information/data with re-usable source documentation, as well as a public evidence dossier;
  • submit a sound concept (including, methodology, work plan, timeline, and budget, etc.) for an investigation related to misuse of power and corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, or Latin America
    • Preference will be given to investigations from Indonesia, Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Guatemala and Bolivia.
    • Preference will be given to investigations around public procurement and public money flows in the sectors of health, extractives and construction.

Civil society organizations (no individuals)

Applicants must:

  • show a proven track record of using evidence for transparency and accountability advocacy;
  • submit a sound concept and approach for evidence-based advocacy related to the misuse of power and corruption in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, Latin America
    • Preference will be given to investigations from Indonesia, Philippines, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Guatemala and Bolivia.
    • Preference will be given to investigations around public procurement and public money flows in the sectors of health, extractives and construction.


The program will set up a selection and brokering committee with key experts from each region: Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia, and Latin America. Ambient and domain knowledge will be key for the evaluation and selection and brokering. The committee will develop evaluation and selection criteria that will be published with the call for proposals. Selection and brokering will take about a month. Implementation can start in April 2019 and take 3-6 months.


  • Successful applicants will receive 2,000 euros upfront and 3,000 euros after submitting the final deliverable.
  • All produced publications, materials, and documentation of investigations, data, evidence, stories and advocacy will be published under an open license (e.g. Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike, CC-SA-4.0) – please suggest other licenses for data if appropriate

Selection committee and regional editors

Hivos will convene a selection committee for each region (South-East Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America) composed of the regional editor, an experienced investigative journalist with editorial experience from the region, two members of the Hivos Open up Contracting team (global and regional) and an additional expert on public finance investigations. The selection committee will develop a simple but rigorous selection criteria and apply it to all applications. The regional editor will act as an editor to all selected applications per region (approximately 2-4) in the time between April and September 2019.

Please note that there are two different application forms:

  1. Application form for CSOs
  2. Application form for investigative journalists

Interested candidates should send their finalized application form to Michelle van Raalte (

This is a new format that we want to experiment with and that we might close the application at any time after 1 April 2019 – but only after having identified the first round of very promising, high-quality and robust proposals.

Note: We are open to requests for extension especially for full investigations in restricted countries. For cases like these, we will set some guidelines for approving extension requests, i.e., getting info such as problems encountered in reporting, plan to resolve problems, revised timeline and target publication date, etc.