Thinking of applying for the GNI Innovation Challenge? Here are some tips on how to


The Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge 2022 has officially opened applications for the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa where selected innovation projects will be eligible to receive up to $150 000 each in funding. As applying for funding can be a daunting task, here is all you need to know about GNI and what GNI winners from the SAMIP cohort had to share.

What is Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge?

The GNI Innovation Challenge is a global program that empowers news organisations from around the world to demonstrate new thinking in digital journalism. The GNI is now advertising its third innovation challenge in the region since 2019; the first two rounds saw 43 projects selected from 18 countries.

SAMIP virtual session on how to secure GNI funding

SAMIP recently hosted a virtual lunchtime session aimed at sharing tips on how to successfully apply for GNI funding. The conversation was led by participants who have previously received funding from the initiative. Agri-news publisher, Food for Mzansi made the list of GNI Innovation Challenge recipients in 2020 for the Citizen Journalism Project to mentor journalists on basic news reporting, filming, and video editing.

Daily online newspaper, Daily Maverick, made the same list in 2020 for Rev Engine, which is a unified reader to help the newsroom create and package more relevant content to individuals, assist in membership/subscriber conversion and offer insights to aid editorial decision-making. The most recent GNI recipient from our cohort is mobile news publisher, Scrolla Africa who made the list in 2021 for Scrolla Data Lite which allows readers to access news online at a very low data rate.

Co-founder and CEO of Daraj Media, Alia Ibrahim, and Managing Director of Advisory Services at MDIF, Patricia Torres-Burd, a former judging panellist at the 2019 GNI Innovation Challenge forum also weighed in with some advice for GNI applicants.

Here are some of our favourite tips and takeaways shared:

  • Follow the GNI guidelines carefully – they offer the recipe for success.
  • Focus on how the project creates and delivers social utility.
  • Define the problem and the solution clearly.
  • Try to internally poke holes in your own project first.
  • The project should be clearly aligned with your publication’s mission.
  • If it is product-based, don’t suggest too many ideas, rather choose one.
  • You should demonstrate you have the ability and resources to deliver on your plan.
  • The project should have scalability and the potential for impact outside your organisation.
  • GNI does not fund training.


Applications are open to organisations of any size, including freelancers and sole traders, that aims to produce original, innovative journalism and whose projects focus on innovation and creating a more sustainable and diverse news ecosystem. Geographically, applicants must be based and incorporated in the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa region, unincorporated organisations must be registered in the region or, if unregistered, have their principal place of business there.

Projects are required to have clear indicators showing the potential impact of the project from a user as well as a business perspective. All ideas are welcome and selected projects will need to be delivered within one year.

Projects will be evaluated against five criteria: innovation, impact on news ecosystem, diversity, equity and inclusion; inspiration; and feasibility.

Project Funding

  • Google will fund up to $150,000 for selected projects. Out of the total project budget, Google will finance up to 70% while at least 30% must be provided by the applicant
  • The self-funded portion may include operational costs. Eligible expenses include personnel costs, engineering costs, and the purchase or licensing of any equipment, tools, hardware, software, and other assets or materials needed for the project
  • Marketing expenses should not exceed 20% of the total amount of Google funding requested. Editorial expenses are not part of the eligible costs and will not be covered. Funding may not be spent on general and overhead costs.


The application window is open from 22 February 2022 and closes on 5 April 2022 at 23:59 GMT. Applications must be submitted online via the GNI innovation challenge website in English or French. As part of the application process, applicants are required to produce a slide deck. Click here to read more and apply.