Our Work
Stefan Candea / 2014-05-29

Sponge is an open and collaborative media lab in Eastern Europe, based in Bucharest, Romania.

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Our work is experimental, in two ways:

On one hand, we experiment with liaising existing networks of journalists, activists, developers, information designers, legal experts and students, by making these collaborate and interact on various projects. We started in Bucharest Romania, but soon expanded troughout the Easter European region.

Secondly, we experiment with articles and digital tools stemming from the collaboration of the above mentioned groups of innovators at the intersection of journalism, technology, transparency and accountability.

Sponge is the entry point for media related visionaries who recognize a real life problem: the lack of information in the public interest.

We experiment with technologies and digital tools, with the aim of producing and promoting free, relevant and verifiable content of public interest.

I initiated this laboratory during 2011, after coming back from a year long fellowship at Harvard. During that year I watched how efficient are experimental approaches and the chronicle of innovation in journalism at Harvard and MIT labs like C4, Berkman and Nieman Lab. Students and professionals got the chance to get involved with cutting edge projects in research but also in solving real-life problems.

I was playing with the idea of creating such an experimentation lab for years. While we don't have the resources and infrastructure that US Ivy League universities provide in this region, we have a pool of passionate and talented people and a slew of information transparency related problems. Hence we are used to test and experiment suitable solutions.

I've reached out to groups and organizations who survived this landscape during the last decade and pitched them the idea of the Sponge media lab. In one way or another we all played with new ways of getting information, packaging and disseminate it. While doing so, we also had to attract resources and design protection mechanisms.

The funding partners of this Lab are groups of investigative journalists around the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism, free software developers (Ceata), mappers (geo-spatial.org), activists for human rights and free speech (ActiveWatch), legal experts for digital rights (ApTI) and the school for political sciences at Bucharest University.

Until now we've build under the Sponge umbrella a free software publication platform for in-depth journalism; we organized an Open Media Challenge creating free software tools with local participants and people coming as far as from Bielarus; we endorsed with content or speakers several national and international conferences (Re:publica, European Data Forum, Data Harvest and Personal Democracy Forum).

During the next months you can expect to read blog posts about the way we collaborate and innovative digital tools, improving our current media landscape.

Each month we will have a dedicated Topic of the Month. At the end of the month we will have a public meeting to discuss ongoing projects related to the Topic of the Month.

Every three or four months we will organize a hack event.  Don't miss our hack event hosted by Coliberator conference this June.

Here is how you can interact with us:

Join our mailing list 

Here is how you can get involved

- Send us blog posts about interesting tools, articles, books, films in the context of media related innovation – we will publish them.

- Enroll for a voluntary shadowing position on the following: project management, development, communication, community organizing, fundraising, mentoring, coding and reporting.  We take interns who find their own source of financing (for instance Erasmus students)

- Participate to industry related trainings, workshops & conferences

- Attend our public events and read our future blog-posts;

- Ask about partnership options on projects you've already started/developed;

 Contact us: contact (at) thesponge (dot) eu