One year of running a consortium of fact-checkers in India: insights & learnings

Ekta is a consortium of fact-checking groups and organizations working to address the quality of online information in India. Ekta's member organizations are AFP Fact Check, BoomLive, Factly, India Today Fact Check, Vishvas News and The Quint – and Meedan, a technology non-profit that builds software and initiatives to support global journalism.

Ekta, India’s first fact-checking consortium of IFCN signatory organisations  turned one in April 2022. For the seven founding members of Ekta, it’s been one year of coming together as collaborators, several meetings to arrive at a common goal, and a lot of hard work to launch a training and mentorship program to build the next generation of fact-checkers in India.

In the last three months we have introduced the tools and techniques of fact-checking to over 350 journalism students. We designed this as a holistic program that enables students to acquire a wide range of skills related to fact-checking and have a real world experience of addressing misinformation by engaging with groups that are members of the International Fact Checking Network (IFCN).

On Ekta’s first anniversary, we would like to share some reflections and insights from this coalition. 

The coalition is a platform to build collective knowledge and leverage each other’s strengths 

As Ekta we are a diverse group; we are big and mainstream newsrooms with large teams and smaller and specialized groups, sometimes with limited resources. Ekta gives us a platform to pool in our collective knowledge. We have developed a curriculum on fact-checking based on our experience as fact-checkers and journalists. The curriculum brings examples from our work of claims that are relevant, issues that impact us, such as mental health and the most relevant and up-to-date tools and techniques of fact-checking. It’s a rich curriculum because of the collective effort that has gone into developing this.

We have had trainers, technologists, data experts, program coordinators that have come together to lead and launch the training and mentorship program. Outreach to colleges and universities has been smooth because of the work and relationships established by some members of the consortium. Each training session has always had at least two different groups coming together to plan, coordinate and lead the session. The training sessions have helped us prioritize collaboration over competition. The collaborative effort has also given us recognition, visibility and credibility as the first ever coalition of fact-checking groups in India.

A consortium needs to identify and set common goals 

In a consortium this takes time; each organization has needs and priorities that are different and arriving at a goal that is common to all requires several rounds of discussion, iteration and adjustment. As fact-checking and technology groups, we all have our own work and organizational needs. Ekta provided us an opportunity to think of work that would require collaboration. The goal of training the next generation of fact-checkers in India also complements our own work and prepares the ground for any future work that we can plan for as a consortium.  

Building trust, chemistry and camaraderie happens with regular discussions and tasks

As a consortium, we have realized that small things do matter. Coming to weekly meetings on time, contributing to discussions and work being planned, leading some tasks and sometimes supporting others in their tasks - all these have helped in building trust among the members of the Ekta consortium. 

Working towards a common goal has also helped in strengthening a sense of camaraderie. In our case the training and mentorship program has objectives and targets that we are all trying to meet. It’s not just one organization or Ekta member, but all seven groups that are putting in time, energy and a lot of hard work to meet the goals set for this five-month long program.   

For smoother collaboration and planning, starting early is key

As a coalition, it helps to start ahead of important events around which activities are planned. These could be elections and other events of national significance. We came together in April 2021 at the same time as the Assembly elections in India. It has taken us time to identify areas of common interest, design workflows and dedicate team members to the plans made. Identifying partners in a coalition also requires time. As Ekta we feel better prepared and stronger to take on a new project after a year of working together. Starting a few months ahead prepares the ground for smoother collaboration and better planning. 

Funding is required for collaborative work 

Ekta came together without any funding support at the outset. We met and worked together for several months without any financial assistance. In a coalition, the demands of time and resources can be sustained over a period of time if there is funding available. For the current training and mentorship program, Ekta has been fortunate to have received financial support. Going forward, we hope our plans to expand Ekta, strengthen our activities as a coalition and set-up a collaborative newsroom around elections, get support. Watch this space for more updates from Ekta!  

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