A Constructive Checklist

When writing a story, go through this checklist. If you can answer yes to some of these questions, you’re on your way to a constructive piece.

  • Does it present a solution or response to a problem? 
  • Does it look toward the future, asking “what now?” 
  • Does it include sources beyond the “usual suspects”? (for example: does it include people directly affected by the issue, civil society, people with different perspectives, etc.) 
  • Does it add context and historical perspective? 
  • Does it examine various sides of an issue, the gray areas, instead of painting it in black and white? 
  • Does it present the whole picture or just one part of it? 
  • Is it critical and factual? 
  • Does it provide insight that others can use and build on? 
  • Does it challenge an accepted assumption or go beyond a stereotype? 
  • Is it calm and curious instead of outraged and accusatory? 
  • Does it help people understand multiple sides or points of view?
  • Does it get to the deeper motivations about why people feel or do what they do?
  • Does it challenge my own biases or presumptions as a journalist?
  • Does it acknowledge what we don’t know or understand yet? 

Checklist by Iconbunny from NounProject.com

Constructive story examples from around the world

Watery Bangladesh Works to Prevent Child Drowning Deaths (Solution)
VOA News, East Asia, Amy Yee, 2014
The largest cause of death of children above age one in the country is not malnutrition – it’s drowning. A local non-profit organization is teaching thousands of children to swim.
www.voanews.com/a/bangladesh-to-prevent-child-drowning-deaths (Print)

The remarkable floating gardens of Bangladesh (Solution)
BBC Future Planet, Kalpana Sunder, 2020
In the lowlands of Bangladesh, people are turning to a centuries-old form of hydroponics to keep afloat.
www.bbc.com/the-remarkable-floating-gardens-of-bangladeshr (Multimedia)

On the frontline of the climate emergency, Bangladesh adapts (Solution)
The Guardian – The upside, Sarah Marsh, 2020 
Farmers in delta lowlands are discovering innovative responses to floods and storms.
www.theguardian.com/climate-emergency-bangladesh (Multimedia)

From footpath to Facebook (Solution)
The Daily Star, Mathews Chiran, Aanila Kishwar Tarunnum, 2020
A 32-year-old streetside book business moves online.  
www.thedailystar.net/footpath-facebook (Print)

Once denied treatment, now welcomed – ‘Room 110’ shows the way (Nuance, beyond stereotypes)
The Business Standard, Tawsia Tajmim, 2021
A hospital demonstrates how transgender people should get access to health care in the country.
www.tbsnews.net/denied-treatment-now-welcomed (print)

Power Swarm: A revolutionary approach to solar microgrids (Solution)
Aljazeera, Sohara Shachi, 2021 
A startup called SolShare has developed a renewable energy solution that connects solar-powered homes to the houses of neighbors who cannot afford a panel themselves.
www.aljazeera.com/power-swarm (video, 9:38) 

Lucky Iron Fish (Solution)
BBC News, Philippa Roxby, 2015
An iron object shaped like a fish was designed to release iron at the right concentration to provide nutrients that many women and children in the country lack.
www.bbc.com/news/lucky-iron-fisch (Video, 3:17 + text)

How Wayanad became first district to vaccinate all adults (Solution)
National Geographic, Puja Changoiwala, 2021
Wayanad is the first district in Kerala, India, to have vaccinated the entire adult population with at least one COVID-19 vaccine. It did so by addressing fears through awareness campaigns and creating easy access to vaccines.  
 (Print, 12 min. read)

Coronavirus: How India’s Kerala state ‘flattened the curve’ (Solution)
BBC News, Soutik Biswas, 2020
Using a local helpline and two WhatsApp groups, a health council encouraged local villagers to accommodate people who were in isolation and didn’t have enough space for social distancing at home.
www.bbc.com/india-flattend-the-curve (Multimedia)

Spoon-fed (Solution)
The Hindu / Spark News, Impact Journalism Day, Prashanth Chintala 
An agricultural scientist produces edible cutlery in order to reduce plastic pollution.   
www.impactjournalismday.com/story/bakeys (Text)

Cases Drop but Dharavi still on alert, continues battling COVID-19 (Solution) 
The Quint, Ankita Sinha, 2020
From over two dozen cases daily, Asia’s largest slum reduced the number of recorded daily cases to single digits.
www.thequint.com/coronavirus/dharavi-community (Text, 3 min. read)

Indonesia’s Aceh medics offer COVID lifeline for the isolated (Solution) 
Aljazeera,  Aisyah Llewellyn, 2021
Doctors set up a Whatsapp consultation service to reduce the risk of people dying from COVID-19 when quarantining at home.
www.aljazeera.com/help-to-covid-isolated (Text)

Why Some Muslim Women Feel Empowered Wearing Hijab? (Nuance)
Magdalene, Kalpana Jain, 2021 
Muslim women’s clothing isn’t entirely about adherence to faith. It has been used in the past and present as an assertion of identity.
www.magdalene.co/story/muslim-women-feel-empowered-wearing-hijab (text)

Transforming tofu residue into biogas, Kalisari (Solution)
Kompas (Sparknews), Megandika Wicaksono, 2017
In Central Java, villagers are making (and using) biogas from tofu waste.
www.impactjournalismday.com/transforming-tofu-residue-into-biogas (Text)

Ending violence in Pakistan starts in the playground (Solution)
Apolitical, 2018
Right to Play, a program funded by the UK’s Department for International Development,  uses structured play-based activities to teach life skills to adolescents and was able to reduce peer violence and depression scores among participants.
www.apolitical.co/ending-violence-in-pakistan-starts-in-the-playground (Text)

The coronavirus effect on Pakistan’s digital divide (Solution)
BBC Worklife, Mehreen Zahra-Malik, 2020
40 times more school-age children have access to a television than to digital devices and bandwidth. Therefore, the government set up a dedicated TV channel called Teleschool.
www.bbc.com/coronavirus-effect-on-pakistans-digital-divide (Text)

Pakistani feminist comedians challenge taboos (new perspective, fuller view)
DW, Mavra Bari, 2022
Despite all odds and social barriers, women in Pakistan are using comedy to break gender stereotypes, share personal experiences and challenge patriarchal practices.
www.dw.com/en/pakistani-feminist-comedians (Text)

Junk Not! Upcycling plastic into furniture (Solution)
The Philippine Star, Jan Victor R. Mateo, 2018
The social enterprise JunkNot produces plastic ropes out of discarded plastic packaging and uses them as primary material for innovative furniture.
www.philstar.com/upcycling-plastic-furniture (Text)

Community pantry: ‘Not charity, but mutual aid’ (Solution) 
The COVID-19 pandemic made it hard for many Filipinos to feed themselves and their families. A local initiative asked people to donate what they could to help those in need.  

Africa’s Wikipedia Editors Are Changing How the World Sees Their Continent, Reasons to be Cheerful
Tolu Olasoji, South Africa, 2021
WikiAfrica Education spreads information about Africa’s diverse languages, cultures and politics by focusing on the voices and perspectives of African people.
www.reasonstobecheerful.world/africa-wikipedia-editors (Text)

‘A bright life ahead’: Botswana on path to seeing no babies born with HIV (Solution)
The Guardian, Kago Kgosietsile in Selebi-Phikwe, 2022
The country may be Africa’s first to stop mother-baby transmission as the WHO hails a “groundbreaking” fall in rates from 40% to 1%.
www.theguardian.com/botswana-mother-baby-transmission-hiv-rates-fall (Text)

Armed with phones and seeds, jobless Kenyans tackle illegal logging (Solution) 
Thomson Reuters Foundation News, Kagondu Njagi, 2021
Local rangers are using smartphones, satellite feeds and global mapping to monitor forests. Because of their efforts, there have been lower incidences of illegal logging and forest fires from poachers.
www.news.trust.org/ranger-smartphone (Video)

Kenya’s Water Women (Solution)
Al Jazeera, Karin Slater, 2015, Kakamega 
Kenya’s female water tank masons are delivering measurable benefits to their communities and empowering other women to take up leadership roles.
www.aljazeera.com/kenyas-water-women (Video, 24:30)

Internet from the moon (Solution)
Zulani, David Owino, 2021, Nairobi
To make internet connectivity accessible and affordable across Africa, Dr. Harold Omondi developed “internet from the moon,” a technology that uses satellite dishes to communicate with transponders placed on the moon by NASA. www.youtube.com/internet-from-the-moon (Video, 5:58 Min)

Sharing is Caring: Kenya’s Only Breast Milk Bank Expresses Care for Vulnerable Newborns (Solution)
Nigeria Health Watch, Christabel Ligami, 2021
To help mothers who can’t supply their newborn with an adequate supply of breast milk, a hospital in Kenya has developed a milk bank. 
www.nigeriahealthwatch.comkenyas-only-breast-milk-bank (Text)

Phobia of Healthcare Facilities: Community Health Volunteers, Shielding Clinically Vulnerable Families from COVID-19 (Solution)
Science Africa, Henry Owino, 2021 
In Nairobi, community health volunteers have played a crucial role during the pandemic by providing reliable health care information to residents.
www.scienceafrica.co.ke/community-health-volunteers-shielding-families-from-covid-19 (Multimedia)

Fighting Laikipia’s prickly pear (Solution)
Africa Uncensored, Peris Gachahi, 2022
The spikes of the invasive prickly pear cactus cause injuries and often death of animals in pastoralist communities in Laikipia County. Residents have found a way to control its spread by introducing a biocontrol insect and also by using the plant to produce biogas. 
www.youtube.com/Fighting Laikipias-prickly-pear (Video, 10:02)

How to get rewards for your rubbish (Solution)
BBC World Service, 2018 
“Wecyclers”, an urban waste management company based in Lagos, give households in low-income communities a chance to capture value from their waste, while providing a reliable supply of materials to the local recycling industry.
www.bbc.co.uk/rewards-for-your-rubbish (Audio, 12:00)

How a Nigerian security guard used football to end tribal conflict (Solution)
TRT World, Kelechukwu Iruoma , 2021
A series of four football competitions in 2017-18 brought peace to two communities whose land dispute had led to violence. www.trtworld.com/nigerian-security-guard-football (Text)

The people racing to replant Africa (Solution)
Pioneers Post, Laura Joffre, 2021 
Climate change and deforestation have made the region between the Sahara desert and the African rainforest uncultivable. One initiative has started to build an 8,000 km mural of plants and trees along the southern border of the Sahara desert. www.immersives.pioneerspost.com/great-green-wall (Multimedia)

In the age of social distancing, Sudanese open their homes to Ethiopian refugees (Solution)
The National, Hadeel Imad al-Deen, 2021
Tens of thousands of Ethiopian refugees fleeing to Sudan to escape war ended up in the border town of Hamdiyet, where a refugee camp was quickly overwhelmed. Local residents, despite the pandemic, opened their homes to the refugees. www.thenationalnews.com/sudanese-open-their-homes-to-ethiopian-refugees (Text)

Uganda’s bicycle ambulances help the pregnant, sick and injured (Solution)
Al Jazeera, Caleb Okereke, 2019
Bicycles can provide vital access to health care in remote, rural areas that are otherwise inaccessible by vehicle. 
www.aljazeera.com/ugandas-bicycle-ambulances (Photojournalism)

‘It’s radical’: the Ugandan city built on solar, shea butter and people power (Solution)
The Guardian, Caleb Okereke, 2021 
Okere City has been rebuilt with a school, a marketplace and solar-powered energy. The project was not approached as a charity, but as a social enterprise that collaborates with the community. Result: Okere generates revenue and has become self-sufficient.
www.theguardian.com/ugandan-city-shea-butter-and-people-power (Text)

Pandemic Offers Surprising Opportunity for Farmers (Solution)
Global Press Journal, Linda Mujuru, Vimbai Chinembiri , 2020
In reaction to lockdowns and travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, many farmers participated in bartering networks that have opened new markets closer to home.
www.globalpressjournal.com/zimbabwe/pandemic-offers-new-opportunity-farmers (Text)

Reeling it in: Egypt’s fishermen exchange the Nile’s plastic waste for cash (Solution)
The National, Toka Omar, 2021
Fishermen use their boats and river knowledge to help collect tons of plastic waste choking Egypt’s lifeline.
www.thenationalnews.com/egypt-nile-s-plastic-waste-for-cash(Video, 3:22, and text)

A Facebook page solved the riddle of my missing child (Solution)
BBC, Dina Aboughazala, 2020
More than 2,500 missing people have been found in Egypt because of work by the Facebook page Missing Children, which compiled a vast trove of photos and uses facial-recognition software to match faces to cases. 
www.bbc.com/news/Facebook-page-solved-missing child (Text)

In Egypt, online group Qawem saving hundreds of women from sextortion (Solution)
DW, Ihab Zidan, 2021
Technology has facilitated the sexual exploitation of thousands of women in Egypt. To save others from the same fate, a young Egyptian man launched an online group dedicated to confronting extorters.
www.dw.com/egypt-online-group-saving-from-sextortion (Text and videos)

Nanny Biscuit: Community fights back against the mental health crisis – and urges people to open up (Solution)
Denbighshire Free Press, Aaliyah Rugg, 2021
Coronavirus has affected many people’s mental health, but one community has fought back with a new buddy system and outdoor concerts to help combat loneliness and isolation.
www.denbighshirefreepress.co.uk/fighting-back-mental-health-crisis (Multimedia)

How Spain got to the top of the vaccination ladder (Solution)
DW News, Anne-Sophie Brändlin, 2021
Spain has one of the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the world. Nearly 80% of people there are fully vaccinated. They’ve done this without mandates, health passes or government orders. 
www.youtube.com/spain-vaccination-ladder (Video, 8:42)

The Sinking Cities project (Solution)
Unbias The News, 2022
This global cross-border investigation examines how sea-level rise is impacting six major cities: Lagos, Alexandria, Karachi, Dakha, Rotterdam and Dublin. The team from Unbias The News worked together with local journalists. They spent six months investigating how their governments and coastal cities are responding to the consequences of climate crisis and preparing for a threat that will affect communities, ecosystems, and economies.
www.unbiasthenews.org/sinking-cities (Multimedia)

The library where the books are people (Dialogue)
BBC World Service, People Fixing The World, Claire Bates, 2021
At the human library you borrow a person you wouldn’t usually meet for a half-hour frank conversation. The volunteers have various book titles from polyamorous to former prisoner. The aim of these face-to-face chats is to break down assumptions and prejudices.
www.bbc.co.uk/library-where-the-books-are-people (Audio, 23 min)

How five friends can change a refugee’s life (Solution)
BBC World Service, People Fixing The World, Claire Bates, 2021
Groups of Dutch friends are helping families settle when they move to a new country.
www.bbc.co.uk/five-friends-change-refugees-life (Audio, 23 min)

Coronavirus and the end of globalization? (Future-oriented, Full picture)
DW, Global 3000, Kilian Schütze-Alinsky, 2020
Experts discuss the scenarios for economic cooperation after the pandemic. Undoing globalization, a green deal? 
www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-and-the-end-of-globalization (Video, 7:21)

Constructive Journalism – institutions, dedicated media outlets and formats

The institutions listed below advocate for the adoption of constructive journalism and its principles in newsrooms and academia. The media outlets featured below either take a generally constructive approach in their storytelling or have launched specific constructive projects and sections.

Europe/North America 
The Constructive Institute (CI) is a Danish research center dedicated to promoting the principles of Constructive Journalism among journalists, scholars and in newsrooms through scholarships, fellowships and events. Founded in 2017 by Danish journalist Ulrik Haagerup, the institute is located at Aarhus University.

The Solutions Journalism Network (SJN) is a non-partisan organization which promotes the principles and practice of solutions journalism through training and fellowship aimed at reporters, news organizations and media lecturers/scholars. SJN has partnered with newsrooms around the world on projects. It was founded in 2013 by journalists David Bornstein and Tina Rosenberg.

The Poynter Institute provides news services, training and fact-checking to the public and to journalists around the world. Through webinars, workshops and seminars, Poynter Institute offers training to journalists on a wide range of topics related to journalism and media practices.

Reporters d’Espoirs is a French NGO founded in 2004 that works with journalists and the media to refine, experiment and develop solutions journalism in France, Europe and the world. The organization offers annual prizes for solutions-based stories, conducts impact analyses, offers training and has a program on digital innovation called #mediatech4good.

Bonn Institute: Organization founded in 2022 promoting a constructive approach to journalism. The institute works with media companies and research institutes to analyze the impacts of a constructive approach and shares conclusions in the form of publications, events and professional training.

Middle East
Egab helps young local journalists publish solutions stories in regional and international media outlets.

StopBlabla is one of the foremost solutions journalism digital platforms in Africa for the promotion and production of useful, constructive information and initiatives. Through its initiatives such as #SoJoAfro and the Africa Tour of Solutions, StopBlabla looks at how Africans are developing ideas to address the challenges confronting the continent.

Solutions Now Africa is a solutions journalism newsroom established in early 2022 by the Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) in Uganda. Dedicated reporters produce immersive stories on innovations, models and systems that are working around Africa. By searching for alternative solutions they also challenge negative narratives about the continent.

Africa No Filter (ANF) is a donor collaborative organization that supports the development of nuanced and contemporary stories that shift stereotypical and harmful narratives within and about Africa. They carry out research and offer grants to journalists and storytellers in Africa.

Everyday Africa is a collective of photographers working to broaden the perception of Africa. With the World Press Photo Foundation, they have set up The African Photojournalism Database (APJD), a directory of emerging and professional African visual journalists reporting on cultural, economic, environmental, political and social issues, sports, nature and stories of everyday life. The database currently lists over 500 photographers. www.everydayafrica.org

Mobile Journalism Africa is a Kenya-based platform for young storytellers who want to change the narratives about their continent by filming with mobile devices. The platform’s motto: “Our stories are best told by us”.

World’s Best News is an independent Danish news organization which uses constructive journalism techniques to produce stories that address some of the biggest problems facing the world. They have a critical but progressive and solution-focused approach to constructive journalism by giving attention to people who take action and inspire hope.

Reasons to be Cheerful is a non-profit editorial project founded by artist and musician David Byrne. The magazine offers stories about smart, proven, replicable solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, rooted in evidence. Reasons to be Cheerful aims to inspire people to be curious about how the world can be better, and to become part of that change. reasonstobecheerful.world

De Correspondent is a Dutch membership-based news site based in Amsterdam that launched in 2013 after a crowdfunding campaign. Instead of covering the daily news cycle, the publication focuses on in-depth coverage and providing a fuller context through the work of correspondents, or “guides”, who each focus on specific topics. Some of their articles are translated into English. decorrespondent.nl

Perspective Daily is a German member-supported online publication founded in 2015 that features a constructive approach. The founders aim to have articles based on solid science and have stated that the goal is to empower readers to take action by showing them possible solutions. 

Sparknews is a social enterprise that looks to spread the word about positive solutions to the important problems facing the globe. Founded in 2012, Sparknews tries to give positive initiatives a boost by helping them increase their visibility and connections. Its initiative, Impact Journalism Day, partners with daily newspapers around the world to publish supplements that feature solutions to concrete problems.

The Christian Science Monitor is a news organization offering global news with a constructive approach. Despite the name, the outlet does not have a religious orientation and instead aims to report stories that point out a path to progress or illuminate ways of thinking that motivate people to act the way they do. The goal is to shed light on possibilities for how to move forward. 

The Optimist Daily is a US-based, reader-funded daily publication (newsletter, website, daily podcast) that offers a daily dose of “intelligent optimism” from around the world. Topics: Environment, Science, Business, Politics, Education, Health, Lifestyle. 

Grist is a nonprofit, independent media organization that looks at solutions related to justice and the climate. Its Fix Solutions Lab explores ideas and innovations that will shape the climate conversation. The organization seeks to bring together and elevate change-makers through storytelling, events, and network-building. 

The Better India is a Bangalore-based news platform focused on positive stories. Its stated goal is to enable large-scale impact, through empowering and uplifting articles. 

Human Journalism Network  Founder and director: the Argentine journalist Chani Guyot: “The media has a responsibility to showcase society’s problems in its ‘watchdog’ role, but we believe it also has a responsibility to showcase the stories of the people and organizations that are seeking to solve those problems, because those stories exist and are often underrepresented.” The Human Journalism Network started in 2021 as a “pilot” project, in Latin America. In 2023, it has become a global network with 14 media partners (Latin America, Canada, US, Europe, Asia and South Africa).  

Some other media outlets with a constructive focus in Europe are:
Zetland (Denmark) www.zetland.dk/aboutzetland
Correctiv (Germany) correctiv.org
Krautreporter (Germany) krautreporter.de
The Tortoise (UK) www.tortoisemedia.com
Inkline (UK) the-inkline.com

BBC: People fixing the world highlights responses to the world’s problems while Crossing Divides brings together people with conflicting opinions, across divisions of race, class, faith, politics and generation. Future Planet features stories on sustainability and My Perfect Country explores ideas for policies that work.

The New York Times: For 11 years, Fixes looked at solutions for social problems and why they worked.

The Economist: Briefing discusses problems and how to go about them.

ABC News (Australia): The Bright Side offers a collection of stories every two weeks that aim to inspire, engage and create hope. The newsletter highlights important constructive stories covered by the outlet. 

Politico: What Works features innovative ideas from US cities “at a time of unprecedented urban reinvention” (topics such as income inequality, food-related issues, sanitation, etc.).

  Fast Company: Impact explores “The big ideas that are changing the world”.

 The Boston Globe: This major US newspaper once ran a section called Things that work (e.g. what schools can do to prevent mass shootings). Many of the stories featured there are still online. 

The Guardian: The Upside tackles climate, healthcare, gender, science and technology, and community leadership. Keep it in the ground addresses environmental issues.

 DW: Planet A addresses climate adaptation efforts. Flipping the Script tries to make debates more constructive 

The Squirrel: A project of German-based nonprofit, The Squirrel is a news curation app focusing on constructive journalism stories from the likes of the Guardian, BBC, CNN, The Conversation and Euronews. The stories can also be found on its website and newsletter.

Mongabay:  A nonprofit, reader-supported US-based environmental science and conservation news platform producing original reporting in six languages by a network of over 800 correspondents in some 70 countries. It offers a section called “Conservation Solutions News”.