"Investigation is Collaboration" Conference Materials

Here you find the agenda and a rich selection of materials - videos, articles and presentation slides - from the "Investigation is Collaboration: Exposing the Invisible Together" Conference, which took place online on 2-6 August 2021.

We also curated this "Investigation is Collaboration" booklet including an invaluable list of cases and best practices that arose from the conference discussions. We hope you’ll use them to keep the conversations and collaborations going!

For a detailed description of the Conference, please read here.


Conference Sessions and Materials


Monday - 2 August


10:00 - 11:00 CET

Opening Session - Why "Investigation is Collaboration"?



11:30 - 12:30 CET

Keynote - Investigation Philosophies


(Article with snapshots from the session)
  • with Crofton Black
Session details:

Do we know things? How do we know them? Philosophers have been asking these questions for thousands of years. But for investigators and researchers, they have a particular resonance. What do we do when we investigate? How do we derive meaning from data and the absence of data? I’m going to look at some investigative practices and reflect on their relation to ancient and modern ideas about the acquisition of knowledge. I’ll talk about my work on extraordinary rendition, outsourced warfare and some other projects.

About the speaker:

Crofton Black is a writer and investigator. He is co-author of Negative Publicity: Artefacts of Extraordinary Rendition and CIA Torture Unredacted, and works on technology and security topics for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. Before this he was a history of philosophy academic, specialising in theories of knowledge and interpretation. He has a PhD from the Warburg Institute, London and was a Humboldt Fellow at the Freie Universität Berlin. More info at https://www.crofton.black/



15:00 - 16:00 CET

Keynote - Collaboration Is a Lifesaver. Literally


(Session-based article)
  • with Pavla Holcová, OCCRP
Session details:

Imagine you have the story of your life. Sensitive material, classified documents, exclusive testimonies. You are the one and only journalist doing the story, the one and only who has it all. And you are going to show to all your competitors how powerful a story you can deliver. And this is exactly what makes you an easy target, this is what might get you killed. Ten years ago, collaborative journalism was something unusual, quite often weird – why to share my precious information with someone else? Fortunately, this has changed. Collaborative stories are a new trend, because they are powerful, they have impact and they protect the journalists; because killing one is easy, killing a network is impossible. I will share my personal experience on how this works: how to cooperate, how to share, and how to coordinate such a stories.

About the speaker:

Based in Prague, Pavla Holcová is a regional editor for Central Europe with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP). She is an investigative journalist and founder of independent investigative center investigace.cz in the Czech Republic. She has contributed to major cross-border projects such as the Panama Papers, the Paradise Papers, the Russian Laundromat, and the Azerbaijani Laundromat. Together with her colleague Ján Kuciak, she exposed ties between the Slovak government and Italian mafia. She has also investigated massive illegal arms sales to Syria during the war, explored links between the global cocaine trade and Balkan organized crime groups, and identified illegal real-estate investments by politicians. In November 2016, Pavla was selected among a hundred New Europe changemakers and a hundred people changing Central and Eastern Europe for the better. In 2018, she was selected for the European Young Leaders initiative.



16:30 - 17:30 CET

Finding and Telling Human Stories From Numbers


(Session Slides)
  • with Fatima Hudoon
Session details:

Using a real-life data-driven example, I will talk about how I found compelling human stories through publicly available NHS (UK's National Health Service) data that shed light on the state of mental health services in Bristol and surrounding area. Whether you come from a data background or not, the session will show how telling stories with data can be accessible for anyone.

About the Speaker:

Fatima Hudoon is a Bristol-based freelance journalist, formerly Early Career Journalist at The Bristol Cable, a local media cooperative. She freelances for the Cable and various publications like the The National News, BBC and the Bureau Local. Fatima is also a 2021 Lyra Mckee Bursary recipient at the Centre for Investigative Journalism, where she is receiving training in investigative and data journalism.


Tuesday - 3 August


10:00 - 11:00 CET

Beyond DOs and DON'Ts: Main considerations for crowdsourcing evidence


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Tetyana Bohdanova
Session details:

What is crowdsourcing and why is it increasingly used by journalists, activists, researchers or 'citizen' investigators? What are the common methods and tools used for crowdsourcing data from the public? And what are the major considerations when setting up and executing a crowdsourcing effort? - These are the questions we will discuss in this introductory session to crowdsourcing evidence online.

About the Speaker:

Tetyana Bohdanova is an elections and civil society development specialist and a researcher of technology’s impact on democracy. She has over a decade of field-based experience in citizen engagement and electoral transparency work across Eastern Europe and Eurasia, including the implementation of crowdsourcing projects in restrictive environments.



11:30 - 12:30 CET

CrowdNewsroom: It needs the crowd to get the bigger story


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Justus von Daniels, CORRECTIV
Session details:

Crowd-based journalism needs a simple idea but also a structure. That’s why CORRECTIV created the platform CrowdNewsroom, which makes it easy to share information, documents and data, and helps journalists to analyse these data in a structured way. In this session, I would like to take you on a tour of what we’ve learned and what challenges we faced in this process.

About the Speaker:

Justus von Daniels is Editor-in-Chief of the german non-profit newsroom CORRECTIV. He joined CORRECTIV in 2015 as an investigative reporter. In 2018 he led the project „Who owns the city“, a crowd-based investigation with 10000 participants and 7 media partners. The project and individual publications won several awards. Justus is a trained lawyer and obtained a PhD before joining journalism.



15:00 - 16:00 CET

Artistic Practice and Investigative Research

  • with Heba Y. Amin
Session details:

Artists have always engaged in diverse and creative approaches to research. More recently, however, they have carved critical spaces for urgent political topics that are otherwise difficult, if not dangerous, to confront elsewhere. This talk addresses the potential of framing investigative research within the context of arts and culture for social justice. Through my work, I will discuss the political implications of image production on the Middle East and Africa in the last 150 years and artistic methodologies aimed at making the racially deterministic power dynamics of technology more evident.

About the speaker:

Heba Y. Amin is a multi-media artist and Professor of Art at the Stuttgart State Academy for Art and Design. She is the co-founder of Black Athena Collective, curator of visual art for the Mizna journal, and currently sits on the editorial board of the Journal of Digital War. Heba Y. Amin was awarded the 2020 Sussmann Artist Award for artists committed to the ideals of democracy and antifascism, and was selected as a Field of Vision Fellow, NYC (2019). Amin’s work has been shown in numerous international exhibitions, her latest publication: Heba Y. Amin: "The General’s Stork" (ed. Anthony Downey) was recently published by Sternberg Press (2020) and her works and interventions have been covered by The New York Times, The Guardian, the Intercept, and BBC among others.



16:30 - 17:30 CET

Keynote - Walking in the Sunshine: The joys of transparent investigation

  • with Jim Mintz, DigLab
Session details:

Stepping back from particular cases and contexts, I offer a philosophy of investigation that I find leads to deep investigations and happy investigators: consider gathering the facts openly, if it is safe to do so. Don’t worry about the subjects hearing about your investigation - contact everyone who’s knowledgeable, even those involved in the wrongdoing, human to human. Tell them about the team you work with; express your passion for getting the story right; show your curiosity and humility about what you’re learning. Investigate in the sunshine.

About the Speaker:

Jim Mintz has been digging into wrongdoing for 40 years. He was first a freelance reporter, then became a private investigator and founded MinzGroup and then professor of investigative reporting at Columbia Journalism School’s Stabile Program. His foundation, Dig Lab, is a part of the emerging Seek Initiative that is building a movement of citizen investigators. Jim helped create a game in the public interest (it’s free) called Kleptocrat: How to Hide Dirty Money, which helps people practice ways to recognize and bust corruption and money laundering.


Wednesday - 4 August


10:00 - 11:00 CET

How Not to Be Afraid of Spreadsheets (exposure therapy)


(Session Slides)
  • with Adriana Homolova
Session details:

Do you break in cold sweat anytime you have to do something in a spreadsheet? Do you believe you just can't understand what is happening in all those rows and columns? Hopefully it's not that dramatic, but fear not! In 60 minutes, I - Adriana Homolova, a data journalist and trainer will help YOU to slowly overcome your fears. At the end of a series of gentle exposures to data of varying shapes and sizes, you will be able to extract some information out of even the largest of spreadsheets.

About the Speaker:

Adriana Homolova is a freelance data journalist, nerd in the newsroom, data trainer and public spending research enthusiast. Currently she crunches data on kids in migration for Lost In Europe, helps to organise the marvellous Dataharvest conference and mentors future data journalists through training. Adriana is a member of the Open Procurement EU Coalition.



11:30 - 12:30 CET

‘Stronger Together’ or ‘Hell Is Other People’? - How to plan and launch collaborative investigations


(Session Slides / Article with snapshots from the session)
  • with Jose Miguel Calatayud
Session details:

In an increasingly complex social, political and economic environment, and in times of lurking crises, from Covid-19 to the climate emergency, we need to collaborate if we are to investigate such complex phenomena. However, depending on how you go about it, being part of a collaborative investigation can be one of the most rewarding or one of the most stressful projects you participate in (or, most likely, both things at the same time).

About the Speaker:

Jose Miguel Calatayud is a freelance journalist based in Berlin, currently focusing on collaborative investigative journalism in Europe, and most recently he coordinated the Cities for Rent investigation. Jose also works with Arena for Journalism in Europe, a non-profit foundation that promotes cross-border collaborative journalism and where he lead the Housing Project, and has collaborated with Tactical Tech's Exposing the Invisible project on training emerging investigators and developing resources for collaborative investigations. Jose also contributes to AlgorithmWatch and Eticas Foundation about algorithmic accountability reporting. More info at https://josemcalatayud.net/in-english .



15:00 - 16:00 CET

Keynote - Investigating Internment Camps and Prisons in China's Xinjiang


(Article with snapshots from the session)
  • with Megha Rajagopalan, BuzzFeed News
Session details:

More than 1 million Muslim minorities have been taken to mass internment camps in China's Xinjiang region. Over the past two years, our team used satellite images and in-depth interviews to uncover the scale and direction of this unprecedented campaign, mapping hundreds of camps and revealing the abuses that take place inside. This talk will focus on techniques to investigate human rights abuses in parts of the world where physical access is difficult, and on lessons learned from this project.

About the speaker:

Megha Rajagopalan is senior correspondent for BuzzFeed News in London. She has reported from 23 countries in Asia and the Middle East on stories ranging from the North Korean nuclear crisis to the peace process in Afghanistan. Previously, she spent six years as a correspondent in China for Reuters and BuzzFeed News. Her most recent work has focused on documenting the scope and impacts of China's system of mass detention for Muslim minorities in its Xinjiang region, and her team's series on the subject, which used geospatial analysis, architectural modelling and dozens of interviews, won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting among other distinctions.



16:30 - 17:30 CET

"Diversify or Be Destroyed": Lessons from the cross-border newsroom at Unbias the News


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Tina Lee, Hostwriter
Session details:

In this session, I will offer tips on cross-border collaboration learned from the first months of launching Unbias the News, a publication striving to make journalism more inclusive and diverse. Reaching outside of your network, working with people you've never met, and making a respectful and inviting collaboration is not a matter of politeness or political correctness, but about getting the context and perspectives essential to making your investigation relevant to stakeholders. How to do this while also navigating landscapes that are complex for press freedom is the topic of this talk.

About the Speaker:

Tina Lee is Editor-in-Chief of Unbias the News, an anti-racist and feminist cross-border newsroom started by journalism network Hostwriter. Originally from the USA, she writes, researches and podcasts about migration, human rights, and the far-right and has previously worked for Human Rights Watch and the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network. 


Thursday - 5 August


10:00 - 11:00 CET

Investigative Commons: A new era of human rights investigations


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Anne Schroeter, Investigative Commons / ECCHR
Session details:

The Investigative Commons was launched as a collaboration between ECCHR, Forensic Architecture and FORENSIS in 2021 and constitutes a timely response to an era in which facts and truth have become battlefields, and racist and nationalist tendencies occupy our discourse spaces. In this session you will hear how - through collaborative investigations with like-minded journalists, investigators, reporters, artists, lawyers, activists, architects, scientists, and cultural institutions and their respective methodologies - the Investigative Commons strives towards accountability for human rights violations across multiple forums including courts, cultural institutions, citizens’ tribunals, and media platforms.

About the Speaker:

Anne Schroeter holds a LLM in international law from Glasgow University and a BA in political science from Universität Potsdam with a minor in public law. She has worked with Case Matrix Network, Syrian Archive and other NGOs in analytical and legal positions on accountability for international crimes, evidentiary analysis and transitional justice. Between 2018 and 2019 she worked with the Syria team in the International Crimes and Accountability program of the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). She has been the coordinator of ECCHR’s Investigative Commons project since July 2020.



11:30 - 12:30 CET

More Than Meets the Eye: Geolocation for human rights investigations


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Robin Taylor
Session details:

In this session we will take a deep dive into the world of geolocation, visual analysis, and the importance of creativity in human rights investigations. I will present the basics as well as introduce some innovative solutions from practical cases.

About the Speaker:

Robin is a leading investigator on the Tibet Research Project. Currently completing a research master’s in criminology with a focus on visual evidence and citizen investigations at Erasmus University Rotterdam & University of Kent.



15:00 - 16:00 CET

A Climate of Collaboration: My climate issue is your climate issue


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Jelena Prtorić
Session details:

Is there a link between your local river drying up and European policies on climate and energy? Do you know which international energy companies are active in your country or region and what their track record on environmental protection is? Within the Arena Climate Network, we want to emphasise the importance of a cross-border mindset when investigating climate issues and develop the tools that would enable journalists, researchers and concerned citizens to collaborate across borders on climate stories. Join the session to learn what the Arena Climate Network is all about, hear what opportunities for journalists we have in store, and how you can join, contribute to the network and keep the collaboration alive.

About the Speaker:

Jelena Prtorić is a freelance journalist who has reported for a wide variety of publications in English, French, Italian, and her native Croatian. Her work has focused mainly on gender and human rights, migration, the environment and climate, culture and social movements. She also works with non-profit Arena for Journalism in Europe as the coordinator of the Arena Climate Network and its Climate Network Forum. She is an occasional podcaster and translator of graphic novels. Jelena tweets from @yellena_p



16:30 - 17:30 CET

Learning from the Best: Resources for every investigator


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Anne Koch and Rowan Philp, GIJN
Session details:

The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) has been developing a massive list of online resources about investigation methods, tools and cases - and they are open to everyone, not just journalists. In this session we will explore some of GIJN's learning and collaboration resources that are essential for anyone looking to expand their knowledge and connect with other investigators around the world. Emerging from our conversations and interviews with the world's leading investigators, we will also describe a dozen of the best and most innovative tips and tools those investigators have shared.

About the Speakers:

Anne Koch is the Program Director of the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN). She worked as a broadcast journalist and executive for more than 20 years, mostly for the BBC, before becoming a director at anti-corruption NGO Transparency International (TI), overseeing nearly 50 independent TI chapters in Europe and Central Asia. During her award-winning career in BBC journalism Anne was deputy director of the English World Service, executive editor of the BBC’s flagship radio news and current affairs programs and editor of the World Tonight. She has produced or edited over a hundred documentaries and worked as a producer on BBC Radio 4’s investigative journalism program File on Four.

Rowan Philp is a reporter for GIJN. He was formerly chief reporter for South Africa’s Sunday Times. As a foreign correspondent, he has reported on news, politics, corruption, and conflict from more than two dozen countries around the world.


Friday - 6 August


10:00 - 11:00 CET

An Investigator’s Introduction to Risk Management


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Léopold Salzenstein
Session details:

Investigating wrongdoings is a risky business. Unfortunately, individual investigators rarely have the resources and guidance to comprehensively assess and mitigate their risks. This session draws on the expertise of professionals and scholars specialised in societal risks, such as disasters or conflicts. I will provide an introduction to the concept of risk and present a practical method to help individuals or small teams manage the risks of their investigation.

About the Speaker:

Leopold Salzenstein is a freelance investigative journalist focusing on climate change and societal safety. His work has been published in various online media, such as Mongabay, Carbon Tracker and The Local. He is currently working with The New Humanitarian. Leopold graduated from the University of Lund in 2021 with a Master’s degree in Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Adaptation. He is also a fellow with the Solutions Journalism Network, where he is learning to use data in solution reporting. He tweets from @LSalzenstein.



11:30 - 12:30 CET

Communicating with a purpose: Investigative Storytelling


(Session Slides / Session-based article)
  • with Nuria Tesón
Session details

Why do we investigate? And what would happen to the evidence we gather, the people that confide it to us, those who trust us with their stories, or the ones who commit wrongdoings if that information never sees the light? Communicating and narrating our investigation is key, it is one of the pillars of our work as investigators. Communication might be a double-blade weapon used to create false narratives and manipulate, but in the hands of the right people, in our hands as investigators, communicating with a purpose is essential to achieve change, raise awareness or bring people together, among other things. Investigative Storytelling can be done in different ways and formats, it can be directed to a 'target audience' or fly away beyond our expectations. In this session I will explore some pathways of investigative storytelling and considerations we should keep in mind before deciding the most fitting style(s) for our investigation.

About the Speaker:

Nuria Tesón is an independent multimedia journalist and writer, co-founder of the MásTesón collective. She is based in the Middle East where she covered the most newsworthy events of the region for the past 12 years. She has investigated among others: the trail of mercenaries in Libya during the war, the activities of fighters being trained by the Libyan militias in the following years as well as the Al Qaeda infiltration in the East of Libya; the connections between terrorist attackers of the March 2004 Madrid train bombings with Spanish foreign fighters in Syria; fracking; political corruption in Spain and Romania; the destruction of native rainforest in Brazil's Amazon basin and its impact on the local communities. Her work has been featured in Time, CNN, Al Jazeera, AJ+, The New York Times, France 24, El País, and Le Monde among others, and exhibited on several continents. She collaborates with universities, institutions and private entities creating content for seminars, workshops, exhibitions and performances around journalism, conflict zone coverage, the use of Art and Journalism to achieve structural changes, media and conflict, coverages with a gender perspective. Since 2018 she is an 'Aspen Young European Leaders' Fellow.



15:00 - 16:00 CET

Keynote - Mnemonic: Supporting justice and accountability through effective digital documentation of human rights violations


(Session-based article)
  • with Jeff Deutch, Mnemonic / Syrian Archive

Session details:

In 2014 the Syrian Archive was established as a rapid response project working in close collaboration with Syrian reporters and documentation groups to preserve digital information of the Syrian conflict: images, videos, and other postings that are invaluable historical artifacts and potential evidence of human rights abuses. Mnemonic grew out of the recognition that Syrian Archive’s workflows could be adapted to other locations where human rights violations must be documented and preserved but the ecosystems to do so are underdeveloped. Since 2017, Mnemonic has used our position as a cross-sectoral, cross-disciplinary organisation to provide the tools and methodologies that enable human rights defenders to use digital information in the fight for justice and demand accountability. In this talk, I will share some of our methodologies, discuss some of the ways in which we have collaborated with others, and share some of the key considerations we have had to navigate within the human rights investigative space.

About the speaker:

Jeff Deutch is director of operations and research at Mnemonic and co-founder of Syrian Archive. With more than 10 years of experience in the human rights and nonprofit sector, Jeff previously worked with Tactical Tech where he engaged in research concerning the risk and barriers activist communities face in using technology for transparency and accountability. Jeff has a doctorate from Humboldt University in Berlin, Masters in Public Policy from Hertie School of Governance, and a Bachelor of Arts from Hampshire College. He is also a fellow and member of the steering committee at the Centre for Internet and Human Rights.



16:30 - 17:30 CET

Closing Session - What it Takes to Start a Global Movement of 'Citizen' Investigators

  • with SEEK Initiative founding members
Session details:

Meet the new SEEK Initiative, a group of people and organisations who are joining forces and exploring pathways to empower everyone to create high-quality, verifiable, evidence-based stories that inform public decision-making and strengthen democracy in this era of information crises. Join us in a participatory closing session to hear more about our ideas, plans as well as challenges, and to take active part in a discussion about possibilities and opportunities of turning investigation into a form of community engagement.

About the Speakers:

SEEK Initiative is an emerging international alliance of nonprofit organisations with decades of experience in supporting impact-focused investigations by civil society. Its co-founders are CORRECTIV, DigLab, The Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) and Tactical Tech. SEEK is working to enable a global movement of individuals and communities who use reputable investigative methods and tools to expose what is really happening in their societies.


About the Conference and its Organisers

"Investigation is Collaboration" was a conference that brought together the stories of investigators, investigative initiatives and techniques that have emerged and developed lately, in the hope of getting individuals interested in delving deeper into topics and questions, to get inspired and learn from these techniques and stories.

This event was organised and hosted by Exposing the Invisible - ETI - a Tactical Tech project that has been actively experimenting with ways to promote investigation as one of the most important forms of public engagement. Through a series of films, interviews, guides and resources, ETI looks at different techniques, tools and methods along with the individual practices of those working at the new frontiers of investigation. ETI's flagship project is the Exposing the Invisible Kit, a collaborative, self-learning resource that makes investigative techniques and tools used by experienced investigators more accessible to people and communities who feel motivated to start their own investigations, without losing sight of ethical or safety considerations.

Tactical Tech is an international NGO that engages with citizens and civil-society organisations to explore and mitigate the impacts of technology on society.

The conference was part of a one-year EU-funded project developed by Tactical Tech, which focused on organising activities and developing self-learning resources for journalists, citizen investigators, activists, researchers and others interested to receive training in safe online and offline investigative techniques.

Contact: eti@tacticaltech.org

Illustrations by Ann Kiernan


This project is supported by the European Commission (DG CONNECT)

European Commission

This text reflects the author’s view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.


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