Theory of Change

The Theory of Change of Free Press Unlimited visualises our ambition and the strategy to get there. It is a simplified model of all the different elements that need to be in place to realise our long-term objective:

Media and journalists, as independent players in society, constitute a diverse and professional media landscape and function as change catalysts.

Long-term objective of Free Press Unlimited

In order to help enable local media to fulfill their vital social role, we work on three intermediate objectives (or outcomes). These are: (1) The establishment of an enabling environment for the media, conducive to Freedom of Expression; (2) Media serve the interests of the public and act as a watchdog on their behalf; (3) Journalists and media experts work professionally and are effective and sustainable. Free Press Unlimited engages strategically with key actors across civil society, the government and public-sector stakeholders to realise these outcomes. Media play a crucial role in inclusive and sustainable growth and development, linking grass-roots civil society concerns to national and global policy levels.

The image below is interactive for desktop/laptop users; if you click on an element, it will take you to the evidence base behind that element.

Intermediate Outcome 1 (IO1): An enabling environment for the media is conducive to freedom of expression, pluralism and diversity

In many countries, state and political actors fail to uphold international and regional standards for press freedom (online and offline) or take measures that contradict these standards. Free Press Unlimited aims to influence state and political actors through joint (inter)national advocacy, so that they: (a) enact laws and regulations in defence of press freedom, and address impunity; (b) ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms and safety of journalists; (c) guarantee access to media markets for independent small and medium-sized media outlets.

The second element (b) is similar to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 16, target 10 (SDG 16.10), which states: ‘Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislation and international agreements’.

Learn more

Visit the Enabling Environment Resource Guide for more information.

Intermediate Outcome 2 (IO2): Media serve the interest of the public and act as a watchdog on their behalf

Independent media contribute to increased domestic accountability and good governance by investigating any malpractice by power elites, and by placing issues relevant to civil society on the public agenda.

Access to information is a fundamental precondition for journalists to function as change catalysts. Therefore Free Press Unlimited advocates for the Right to Information under IO1, and supports whistle-blower platforms under IO2.

Media need to represent the diversity of society fairly, promote gender equality, and offer a platform to marginalised or critical voices. Free Press Unlimited reinforces the ethical principles of independent journalism by training journalists in inclusive and gender-sensitive media content, and by support to self-regulation of the media.

Citizens need to have the capacity to make sense of the vast amount of information, and be able to distinguish between quality journalism and misinformation. Free Press Unlimited places particular emphasis on media literacy programmes for youth.

Learn more

Visit the Accountability Resource Guide for more information

Intermediate Outcome 3 (IO3): Journalists and media-actors work professionally and are effective and sustainable

Media can gain public trust by upholding ethical standards as described in IO2, while at the same time putting their audience first and facilitating meaningful engagement with and among audience members. Free Press Unlimited supports small-and medium scale media outlets to develop innovative formats for audience engagement, both online and offline. This helps these outlets to know their audience and the information needs of their audience, and to build a solid base of paying customers.

Free Press Unlimited pays particular attention to media in conflict areas and exiled media to give them the support they need to reach their audiences.

Free Press Unlimited also coaches media outlets to diversify and innovate their income models. Both innovation and professionalism require good leadership and working conditions, safety & security skills, and gender equality in the workplace.

Learn more

Visit the Media Viability Resource Guide for more information

Cross-cutting elements

Almost every single one of our projects faces issues relating to gender and safety. These two themes have a great impact on the stories that are reported by the media and the way these stories are told. In practice, issues of gender and safety can hamper people’s access to unbiased, reliable and relevant information. That is why Free Press Unlimited makes these elements an integral part of every intervention strategy.

Gender Equality

Globally, the problems surrounding the position and portrayal of women in the media remain relatively unchanged, even though slow and occasional success is also seen. The number of female media professionals has increased, but women are largely under-represented at (higher) management and decision-making levels. In media content, women’s voices and perspectives are still largely absent. Gender and the empowerment of women in the media is therefore addressed by Free Press Unlimited in a variety of ways as explained in the Gender and Media Resource Guide.

Safety and Security

A safe media environment is of crucial importance to Free Press Unlimited’s work. If media workers are unable to do their work without risking harm, they will be unable to function as watchdogs, expose crimes and injustice, and provide reliable and independent information. Safety therefore plays an important role in all our work and a lot of activities to improve the situation are being implemented in our partner countries, as expained in the Safety Resource Guide.

Credits picture: Eyevine (2019). KABUL, Sept. 3, 2019 (Xinhua) — A journalist runs away from the site of a bomb attack in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Contact eyevine for more information about using this image:.T: +44 (0) 20 8709 8709. Email: