Bayanat Box

Haramoun Hamieh

Lebanon
Promotional URL: https://www.facebook.com/bayanatbox

Provide a summary of the concept, how it works/could work, and why it could be successful

From youth unemployment to climate change, mental health, etc., there’s no shortage of
challenges in the Arab world. Even more numerous, though, are the Arab youth who
possess the passion and talent to build a more prosperous future. Bayanat Box wants to
help Arab millennials become more informed, engaged, and empowered to tackle these
challenges.
Bayanat Box is an independent digital media platform that harnesses the power of data,
design, and journalism to explain critical economic and social development issues
affecting Arab millennials and their communities. Through fresh, mobile-ready, evidencebased,
and visual stories in Arabic and English, we humanize hard numbers and rigorous
research on complex development topics and bust myths around controversial issues.
Through its content creation community and workshops, we train Arab millenials on our
content production process and empower them to use it to actively engage in national
policy debates and amplify their voices. Through competitions and other events, we
provide them with an opportunity to develop innovative solutions to economic and social
issues.
Over the past two and a half years, and in partnership with multilateral, regional, and local
organizations, we have shared online videos, animations, infographics and blogs with
millions of Arab youth on topics ranging from youth unemployment to early childhood
education to climate change, economic diversification, and public health in the Levant, the
GCC, and North Africa. We launched a campaign to tackle common misconceptions
around Syrian refugees and their impact on host communities in the Levant, which was
one of two Arabic projects shortlisted for the Global Editors Network award in 2017. More
recently, we organized a Hackathon where Lebanese youth designed innovative solutions
to combat fake news.
Over the course of this journey, we have managed to build an online community of around
a hundred thousand young Arabs who are excited to engage in data-driven discussion on
these issues. We have also tested and developed, and are continuously optimizing, an
inter-disciplinary content production and dissemination process that works seamlessly
across the boundaries of policy analysis, digital storytelling, design and media. We have
also experimented with different monetization strategies including content creation
partnerships, editorial and design service provision, and organization of competitions,
trainings, and events. Our accumulated knowledge in this new field along, coupled with the
innovative process developed, can be replicated within the journalism industry and other
sectors to produce more value-added content, especially in Arabic.

Explain briefly the specific problem(s) you are trying to solve, and how your solution impacts or will impact the region

The Arab world faces pressing economic and social challenges with far-ranging impacts
on the lives of citizens. According to our market research comprising of surveys,
interviews, and desk research: young Arabs (aged 18 to 35) want objective, evidence-based
analysis on these issues so they can form informed opinions. Arab youth reported that this
type of content would be useful for their education (e.g. understanding labor markets can
help them better choose their educational tracks). They said it can help them make better
decisions at work and at home (e.g. understanding changing business regulations, health
and education policies can help them anticipate the impact on their employers and
families).
Many young Arabs also reported their interest in contributing to ongoing national debates
on economic and social issues. They expressed a desire to engage in entrepreneurial
activities that are not only financially profitable, but socially impactful. Innovating and
designing such activities would require a better understanding of economic and social
issues.
However, Arab millennials generally struggle to find the economic and social development
content they are seeking. They reported (1) a lack of access to objective and accurate
information from credible sources; (2) an absence of content delivered in a simple, nontechnical
and visually appealing way; and (3) a lack of analysis in the Arabic language.
Traditional news outlets cover economic and social issues, but tend to provide news rather
than analysis. Their content is developed by journalists with strong communication skills
but limited knowledge of technical fields like economics and social sciences, which often
prevents them from offering research-based analysis. Research institutions are striving
more and more to digitally disseminate their findings but often struggle to do so in jargonfree,
bite-sized, and visual means.
As a disruptor in the Arab media scene, Bayanat Box hopes to reach across the barriers of
geography, industries, and age which separate producers of policy knowledge from
grassroots Arab communities, thereby supporting the spread of credible analysis and new
ideas on topics of direct relevance to Arab millennials. All our content is based on the
latest research from leading global, regional, and national research organizations. It is
developed by an interdisciplinary team of young Arab policy experts, designers, and
journalists to ensure accuracy and delivery using simple language, compelling narratives
and appealing visuals that are easy to share on social media .
We don’t believe, though, that experts hold a monopoly on knowledge and innovation. The unique views of citizens in general and youth in particular around development challenges
and potential solutions is crucial. It informs the perspectives we take on the topics we
cover. It drives our efforts to organize workshops, trainings and competitions to engage
Arab youth in creating their own content and putting their voice out there. It is the reason
we try to bring youth together to collectively problem-solve around economic and social
issues.
During a recent project on Fake News and its impact on social cohesion in Lebanon, we
found that the majority of our Arab millennial audience lacks the skills to fact-check the
content they consume.

Geographical Scope: where is the innovation currently operating/where would it first be applied and where would it scale?

Arab region. We have worked on content covering the Levant, Egypt, and the GCC. We
would like to scale through increasing the magnitude and breadth of topics we cover in
these countries.

Please state the current status of your initiative

Active initiative

Beneficiaries: Explain who would benefit from this solution and indicate whether you would be working with a local partner or organization to implement (if so,specify)

Our primary target audience is Arab millenials who are curious to stay up-to-date about
economic and social challenges in their countries and/or the Arab region. We target them
through social media where they are the most active. We learned through our market
research that our target audience wants a credible go-to digital source for fact-based,
visual, and explanatory content on economic and social development issues in the Arab
world. So, we built Bayanat Box to do just that.
Through an interdisciplinary content production and dissemination process, we covered a
number of topics using open data and reports such as education, climate change,
demographics, employment, and governance at a fraction of what this could cost a
traditional media outlet. In addition, we worked with a number of UN agencies, think tanks,
and governments from the Arab region to produce relevant, nuanced, and digital
campaigns based on evidence. We were able to re-use and adapt our inter-disciplinary
process in a number of situations, countries, and organizations.
Many of our projects and partnerships were short-term collaborations. But throughout the
process, Bayanat Box’s team discovered the potential of going further with these projects.
But as a social enterprise, resources were limited as they were mostly dependent on
partners’ objectives.
Therefore, we aim to create long-term partnerships with national, regional and international
organizations who share the same goals and values.

Describe the scalability and innovation elements of your initiative

Publishers and content creators around the world are still actively experimenting to find
the right combination of editorial and monetization strategies to create revenue streams
that will allow them to keep creating great content for their audience.
In the first 18 to 24 months from the launch of Bayanat Box, we tested and designed a
solid content production process that seamlessly, efficiently, and cost-effectively
integrates policy, journalism, and design. We also experimented with various themes,
topics, revenue streams and modes of operation. More recently we have been developing
ways to build skills among youth in the region who are interested in explanatory policy
journalism through competitions, trainings, and conferences.
Our accumulated knowledge in this new field along, coupled with the with the innovative
process developed, can be replicated within the journalism industry and other sectors to
produce more value-added content, especially in Arabic.

Please state your innovation sponsor (if applicable)

Bayanat Box is incubated by Huloul NGO.
Bayanat Box worked with various international, regional, and national organizations on a
project basis (e.g. UNDP, UNE-ESCWA, Queen Rania Foundation, Issam Fares Institute for
Public Policy at the American University of Beirut, Internews, etc.). These partnerships
aimed to resolve information asymmetry on refugees, Persons with Disabilities, early
childhood education, fake news, and data-driven journalism, to name a few.

What are your key resources at this stage and what resources would you need to implement/scale?

We currently have a virtual and inter-disciplinary team (Dalia Al-Kadi, Alya Al Aali,
Haramoun Hamieh, Layal Salman) residing in different parts of the Arab region and the
world that is skilled at (1) seamlessly integrating policy, storytelling/journalism, design,
and media to create and disseminate visual and mobile-ready policy content, and (2)
training others. We also have a community of engaged followers on our website and on
social media (~ 100k followers on facebook and ~20k on instagram).
To take Bayanat Box to the next level we would require to expand the team to allow us to
enhance the quality and quantity of content, expand our network of public and private
sector leaders to support business development, and to develop a core group of industry
advisors who can support us in experimenting with revenue streams so we can ensure
financial sustainability and stability moving forward.

What are your key challenges and risks at this stage?

Financial sustainability is a key challenge that will allow us, if surmounted, to grow
exponentially. The past 2 years were very important for us to master the craft while being
efficient. Yet financial sustainability remains a key challenge as we would like to be able to
move away from project-based sustainability.
Furthermore, our production process requires individuals to work in a multi-disciplinary
team and across the design, journalism, policy, and media industries. We invest in training
our team members, and losing them causes a big hit to the production process. This
makes the impact of financial volatility on the organization even higher.

What are your goals and timeline?

In the first 18 to 24 months from the launch of Bayanat Box, we tested and designed a
solid content production process that seamlessly, efficiently, and cost-effectively
integrates policy, journalism, and design. We also experimented with various revenue
streams and modes of operation. More recently we have been developing ways to build
skills among youth in the region who are interested in explanatory policy journalism
through competitions, trainings, and conferences.
In the next phase, we want to focus on further building a community of youth in the region
who have the skills to produce this type of explanatory policy content while testing and
refining new products and services that can allow us to enhance financial sustainability
and stability.
By June 2020, we aim to build a strong team to increase the magnitude and breadth of
content through the current content process while experimenting with new content
formats, and reach and engage wider and new audience groups.
By December 2020, we aim to continue to experiment with ways to grow our community of
Arabic-speaking content producers within a reasonable time frame and budget. .
By December 2021, we aim to achieve financial sustainability by having a solid portfolio of
products, services, and events and growing our client and partner base

Why should this innovation be selected?

Today, journalism is fighting two battles on two frontiers: The battle of Fake News and the
battle of monetization and sustainability. This battle is perhaps even more nuanced in the
Arab world where support for innovation is comparably scarce.
While being committed to evidence-based explanatory journalism and aware of the
importance of financial sustainability for a digital publisher, Bayanat Box joined the battle
on both fronts.
In this enduring journey, we have acquired new insights; not only technical ones, but also
insights about the hopes and fears of this Arab generation.
As young Arabs, we want to live in an Arab society where debate on critical economic and
social issues is frequent, data-driven, and inclusive of all citizens, especially youth. We
imagine an Arab world where all citizens are informed, engaged and empowered to
contribute effectively to national debates. We want to make sure that this common dreams
becomes reality.
Bayanat Box
Inform, Engage, Empower

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