Learn more about what Jeff Kelly Lowenstein and the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism have been doing

Big Data Ignite 2018 Conference

Jeff Kelly Lowenstein, assistant professor of Multimedia Journalism and Padnos and Sarosik Endowed Professor of Civil Discourse, is the founder and executive director of the Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism (CCIJ).

CCIJ brings together investigative journalists, photographers, data scientists, and students to work on investigations on key international issues. The group provides mentoring and opportunity to local journalists who do not have access to global networks. Kelly Lowenstein states the mission of CCIJ is to enhance global accountability by laying bare the problems and identifying possible solutions to them. They also have the highest respect for existing national and international investigative networks such as the International Consortium for Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

“We have received planning and program support from Open Society Foundations (OSF), and have also received program grants from Open Society’s Southern African division, the Fund for Investigative Journalism, Money Trail, Solutions Journalism Network and 1forAll,” Kelly Lowenstein said.

In an increasingly visually-oriented world, CCIJ seeks to reach the public by working with some of the world’s top photographers and visual documentarians to tell stories of people affected by the abuses they expose. The team generates impact by producing high-quality investigative work and sharing data that shapes global discourse and policy on the globe’s most critical challenges. They work diligently to increase the number of people engaged in this vital work by producing content with an emphasis on solutions, not just on exposing problems. 

“The journalistic drumbeat of dire predictions can be counter-productive without a countering of hope,” Kelly Lowenstein said.  “Where possible, we locate and support stories that talk about solutions to the problems. We highlight and seek widespread dissemination of these stories.”

In October of last year, Kelly Lowenstein and the other CCIJ members launched “H2O Fail,” a comprehensive investigation of the degree to which the global community fails to provide healthy drinking water, a United Nations-declared right, for close to 1 billion people around the world. While global in scope, the project’s initial stages are focused on Southern Africa and the United States, where our team has the most substantial presence.

“Within water issues, we look to break new ground by writing about the financial actions both of major water corporations like Suez and Veolia as well as of “water hogs,” those companies like soft drink giant Coca Cola and beer corporations that use a tremendous amount of water in the production of their goods” Kelly Lowenstein said.

The group concludes the failure results from relentless corporate profit-seeking and water consumption, toothless governmental oversight and enforcement, and insufficient reporting of solutions to the global water crisis. It leads to devastating, often fatal, consequences for thousands and thousands of vulnerable people. 

The project H2OFail builds on the “Gaming the Lottery project”, a groundbreaking investigation of the international lottery industry. That project, which continues, involved more than 60 people from a dozen countries working in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and the United States. 

With the interest and encouragement of OSF, who approached CCIJ after their presentation at the 2017 Global Investigative Journalism Conference in South Africa, the group began to think about continuing and expanding what they had started with the Lottery Project. OSF’s belief that there was room in the landscape for another global journalism entity—one with fewer restrictions and cast a wider net has proved prescient. This is how the Water Resource Project—H2o Fail—began.

CCIJ members and editors Adi Eyal and Raymond Joseph will be speaking about their works as part of the Big Data Ignite conference at 12 p.m. ET on Thursday, October 8. Anyone is welcomed to join.

CCIJ is a separate entity from GVSU, meaning they only work with GVSU graduates. If you are graduating soon and would like to learn more about getting involved, you can contact Kelly Lowenstein at JK.LOWENSTEIN@CCIJ.IO.