PULSE #5 ❤ Open Data Stories

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Starting yesterday the European Union parliament elections kicked off. People have already cast their votes in the UK and the Netherlands with the majority of the EU countries voting this Sunday. With the populists on the rise across the continent, the potential risk of the far-right uniting to try and sabotage the European project from the inside is real. That is why I have decided to focus on a selection of interactive stories that concern Europe in this newsletter. 

Before starting working for the Outriders, I used to work with civic technology and open data projects, and Jakub managed ePaństwo, an open data/ transparency NGO. That is how we met. No wonder, there is a special place in our heart and minds for stories based on open data. When I attended the Data Journalism Awards ceremony during the GEN Summit in Athens last week, I was especially excited about the projects shortlisted in the Open Data category. So I have decided to shine some light on all of them in this week’s newsletter.

These stories have all been conducted in a spirit of openness, meaning that they are mostly made using open source tools, which you can now take and use for your work. The data they base on is open: it was extracted from documents and closed-up government files using legal tools (such as FOIA request) or sorted manually but has now been cleaned, structured and is free (in a commercial but also metaphorical sense) to use for everyone.

There are many stories covered by data, and so too often without getting journalists involved, they don’t get enough attention. It is why it is crucial that the projects below have been conducted by media, mainly in large collaborations. Fingers crossed for their long life and social impact!

All the geeks, techies, and the lovers of numbers – this is something for you. Enjoy :). 


The post-conflict numbers, Consejo de Redacción – www.consejoderedaccion.org / Colombiacheck.com, Colombia

The project explores what happens to the money dedicated to reconciling Colombia post-civil war. The project is two-phased – what happened so far is data mining, systematization, and visualization. The result was the creation of an open data tool that visualizes Colombia’s map, and 170 prioritized municipalities: each one with its post-conflict contracts data including amounts, a type of contract, a tracking number and its length. In the next phase, nine local media outlets are investigating the data and writing systematic coverage using the tool. 60 articles of intended 72 were written so far.

Sold From Under You, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and HuffPost UK, United Kingdom

After 700 FOIa (Freedom of Information) requests filed to the UK government this project mapped 12,000 buildings and pieces of land sold, transferred or otherwise relinquished by local authorities enabling the public to see which community spaces had been sold off, to whom and for how much. As a UK citizen, you can use your postal code to see what has been sold near you. One hundred and fifty people signed up to take part in the project Bureau’s network of members call across the UK, making Sold From Under You their biggest collaboration to-date.

OCCRP Data, Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, Bosnia and Herzegovina

This winning project (Congratulations OCCRP!) is a data compendium of all OCCRP’s data resources, including 21 TB of documents and 1180 database tables with a total size of 1.2 TB. It includes support for multiple languages and alphabets, optical character recognition and named entity extraction! The tool has been used as a leak analysis tool for a number of our recent investigations, including the Troika Laundromat collaboration and the Daphne Project. The tool has been made using open source tools and is available for the broader public under this link (some sources being hidden from anonymous, non-registered users).

Database on proceedings against public officials, Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia, Serbia

Another database combines information on the proceedings against public officials in Serbia between 2010 and 2018. Proceedings were launched against officials who did not register their property or income on time, did not provide accurate information about it, or found themselves in a conflict of interest. “Officials” include members of parliament, ministers, ambassadors, mayors, directors of public companies and other public figures with salaries financed by public money. The database has been made with open source tools and is available in Serbian language only.

Foreign Lobby Watch, Center for Responsive Politics, United States

Foreign Lobby Watch is a searchable database of foreign lobbying and influence spending launched by the US Center for Responsive Politics (CRP) in August 2018. Created through the analysis of data extracted from records on file with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), the Foreign Lobby Watch tool lets users conduct keyword searches on standardized, value-added data by a coding lobbyist, firm and country along with visualizations like mapping to enhance usability. The tool allows users to quickly learn which foreign interests are seeking to influence U.S. policy, and how much they are spending to accomplish this goal.

FiveThirtyEight’s Open Data initiatives, FiveThirtyEight, United States

FiveThirtyEight uses statistical analysis — hard numbers — to tell compelling stories about elections, politics, sports, science, economics, and opinion pool analysis. This database has been designed to keep them accountable for the forecasts they have made since 2008. Interesting use of a transparency tool that at the same time help organize the work of the organization (probably more interesting for those closely following their work or statistics and probability modelling in general though).

If you have recently read or simply remember a great interactive story concerning the topic of the European continent, European Union or else – please share it with us. 

Outriders Network

The last time you heard from me was just before our small event for Polish media working with/ or thinking about engaging more with their communities. The meeting was actually a part of a more comprehensive European program – Engaged Journalism Accelerator which Outriders (and I specifically) are the ambassadors in. I was in Berlin yesterday discussing what we have learned with other new media organizations in Europea at the #EELive19 meeting organized by the European Journalism Center. 

Otherwise, I am in a scoping phase looking forward to outlining the new Outriders Network season (including the upcoming Outriders Stage – formerly Outriders Summit), but this one isn’t done just yet. We still have a workshop in Armenia coming up at the end of this month (June 29th). After that – look out for the summary of the first season, we have much exciting news to share about what happened and what is to come.


Our community event for travellers who tell stories about the world – Wachlarz – took place last Saturday in Wrocław, Poland. We had a record number of tickets sold – 500 participants showed up.

In the meantime, Outriders Brief continues to come out regularly, and our newsroom is working on more stories to share with you – these stories include two solutions journalism articles which will be published around this fall. Stay tuned.

That is it for now, enjoy all the data I shared with you and – the summer!