2019-20 Magic Grant Profile: Maternal Figures

This post is part of a series of profiles of our current 2019-20 Magic Grants. It gives us an opportunity to brag about the great work being done by our grantees, and also to encourage you to consider applying for one of next year’s grants! Funding could start as early as July 1, depending on your needs. Read about the proposal process on our web siteapplications are due May 15

Nigeria has the highest maternal mortality rate in the world, but it does not perform systematic analyses to assess the efficacy of different health interventions designed to help protect women during childbirth — it does not collect its own statistics related to maternal health outcomes, and depends instead on data from outside organizations.

For their 2019-20 Magic Grant Maternal Figures, journalist Ashley Okwuosa and data analyst Chuma Asuzu are taking a solutions journalism approach to data collection and synthesis, documenting how shifts in technology, policy, and culture impact the Nigerian maternal death rate.  The team is also centralizing health data from groups like the WHO, the World Bank, and others, to fill the gap in basic data about maternal health.

Since being awarded the grant last year, the team has hosted a beta version of their database of Nigerian maternal health interventions, nearly 100 projects from organizations throughout Nigeria and the world.  For each intervention, they are paying close attention to impacts, and asking questions like what metrics matter when measuring success. Okwuosa notes that just as “a mechanic looking at the engine of a car”, the journalist needs to show people how things work for them to understand issues as complicated as this. 

The group has formed partnerships with the Solutions Journalism Network to hold a series of webinars about reporting on Nigerian maternal health, and built their own network of journalists working in Nigeria or abroad on this issue. From surveying this network, they learned some of the most common pain points for these journalists, starting with a basic lack of public health care data, then finding funding for their reporting, and a lack of proper training. From this survey, they also identified which statistics their database should contain. 

Now, they are helping Nigeria Health Watch solicit a series of stories on Nigerian maternal healthcare, and working with Code4Africa to develop a tool that can be continually updated with new health interventions. They hope to release their beta database soon. To keep updated with the project as they move towards a final version of their tool, follow their blog at https://blog.maternalfigures.com/.  

Are you interested in new forms of storytelling, or new uses for journalistic practice and storytelling generally? Consider applying for a 2020-21 Magic Grant. Read about the proposal process on our web site — applications are due April 10.

Since its inception, the Brown Institute has funded over 150 people across more than 50 projects. It has has funded the creation of data sets and new database technologies to support journalism (Data Share, Democracy Fighters), editing tools that simplify audio and video production (RoughCut, Synthesizing Novel Video from GANS), and significant stories exploring new modes of expression through data visualization and immersion (We Can, 1000Cut). Read more about our projects on our web site browninstitute.org.

Consider applying for a 2020-2021 Magic Grant!  Read about the proposal process on our web siteapplications are due May 15.