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How the Thomson Reuters Foundation is redefining the meaning of philanthropy

23 March 2018

In the aftermath of the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 and the poorly coordinated aid agency activities that followed on the ground, the Thomson Reuters Foundation created AlertNet to provide trusted news to humanitarian workers around the world. After the toppling of Saddam Hussein in 2003, it established Aswat Al Iraq, the country’s first independent English-language news service. It did the same in Egypt in 2011 and Myanmar in 2015.

While strengthening free media around the world remains at the core of what we do, the Thomson Reuters Foundation was transformed in 2008 when the Thomson Corporation acquired the Reuters Group. With the acquisition came the appointment of current CEO Monique Villa, who created new programmes driven by one basic principle: to multiply the impact of the people and organisations we assist.

Through all our programmes, we platform the voices of the marginalised and aim to strengthen free media and civil society around the world. We’re also a charity, and like most NGOs, we’re keen to inform our networks, connect our beneficiaries and empower the communities we work in. That’s why we’ve teamed up with CharityComms: we want to reach more people, like CharityComms members, who use comms to tell the story of organisations creating change.

Promoting the highest standards in journalism and legal pro bono

Rather than handing out grants, the Foundation receives them from other organisations and delivers free programmes and services that better equip people and organisations to drive positive change around the world. All proceeds from our corporate training are also reinvested directly back into these programmes, all of which have something to offer to CharityComms members. Through TrustLaw, we provide more than 3,300 NGOs and social enterprises in 175 countries with free legal assistance. TrustLaw is the world’s largest pro bono service and has generated the equivalent of 109 million US dollars in pro bono hours since 2010. It’s an entirely free service which connects NGOs and social enterprises with local law firms to facilitate free legal advice on day-to-day commercial legal projects as well as larger cross border research programmes. Over the years, TrustLaw has supported grassroots organisations to employ their first staff members, helped vulnerable women access loans to start their first businesses and brought renewable energy lighting to slums.

Our dedicated team of 48 journalists covers the world’s under-reported stories, bringing modern slavery, women’s rights, the human impact of climate change, land and property rights, cities, and social entrepreneurship to a global audience. All our stories are distributed on Reuters wires, reaching a billion readers daily, and are available to all free of charge. Be it Senegal’s migration crisis or the women making a difference in politics around the world, we tell the stories others don’t – and you’re welcome to republish them all! In addition to creating independent news platforms around the world, our Media Development team runs multi-year programmes like Wealth of Nations and Perspektivy, and trains and mentors journalists around the world. From helping to change the law in Egypt to exposing corruption in South American football, we empower journalists to make a real impact in their communities.

We also host Trust Conference each year, our flagship annual event and a fast-growing movement to fight slavery worldwide and empower women. Previous speakers have included Nobel Laureates Muhammad Yunus, Kailash Satyarthi, and Shirin Ebadi, MSF International President Joanne Liu, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino, Queen Noor of Jordan, Cherie Blair, Salma Hayek-Pinault, and Christie Turlington. The 2018 event will be held at London’s QEII Centre on November 14th and 15th.

Thomson Reuters Foundation CEO welcomes delegates to Trust Conference. November 15, 2017.

What we’ve achieved

Our mission is clear. We aim to promote the highest standards in journalism and spread the practice of legal pro bono around the globe. Combining the power of our programmes, we’re uniquely equipped to tackle some of the world’s most pressing social and economic issues.

Take modern slavery, a hidden crime affecting more than 40.3 million people around the world today according to the latest estimate from the ILO and Walk Free Foundation.

Through TrustLaw, we’ve matched frontline anti-slavery NGOs with some of the world’s leading law firms. These partnerships allow the NGOs to receive free legal assistance and ground-breaking research, which frees up their resources and furthers their advocacy work in the countries where they operate.

Our international team of journalists also raises public awareness of the issue by reporting on human trafficking and modern slavery. We cover slavery on a daily basis and publish in-depth investigations, such as our exposé of unreported child deaths in India’s illegal mica mines which led to Volkswagen suspending ties with some suppliers. We’ve also trained local journalists from more than 20 countries across four continents to cover the issue.

At Trust Conference, we create high-impact initiatives to counter forced labour and human trafficking. Among these, the Banks Alliance to fight human trafficking with data – established in the US, Europe, and Asia – and the Stop Slavery Award, which recognises businesses for their efforts to eradicate forced labour from their supply chains.

As we celebrate ten years as the Thomson Reuters Foundation and look to the future, we will continue to build on our strengths and use the unique combination of our programmes to have yet more impact on issues that matter.

Get involved

Take our training

Choose from an extensive catalogue of courses, covering everything from media skills to Twitter essentials. The next workshop, held on 12 April in London, is focused on women and leadership. It offers an in-depth look at the difficulties women face in the workplace, and teaches the skills required to overcome them. Thomson Reuters Foundation is offering CharityComms members 50% off the standard price; a discounted rate of £250 (excluding VAT). Find out how to book your discounted place in the next edition of eNews (28 March 2018).

Become a TrustLaw member

Simply take the online eligibility quiz and become a member to benefit from the world’s largest pro bono service.

Join us at Trust Conference

The Trust Conference connects global business leaders, government representatives, lawyers, pioneers and advocates in the field of human rights and anti-slavery. Charities and NGOs are eligible for a discounted rate. Book your place today.

Image: Thomson Reuters foundation. Chandrakant Shankar Meghwani and his wife Chandrakala pose with a picture of their son Mahesh who died while extracting sand.

Zeina Najjar

communications manager, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Zeina Najjar is communications manager at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Prior to that, she was the coordinator for the Institute of Regional and International Studies at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and worked as a communications consultant in Lebanon and Denmark. She holds an MSc in Media and Communications from the London School of Economics.