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MDIF celebrates 25 years of investing in independent media

It was 25 years ago today that MDIF made its first loan to the independent daily SME in Slovakia.

SME were being strangled by the authoritarian Meciar government, whose printing houses in Bratislava refused to print the newspaper. Our loan allowed SME to establish the first politically independent printing house in the country, able to print its own daily and other emerging non-state titles. (Read the reflections of Alexej Fulmek, CEO of SME publisher Petit Press.)

And so, in the crucible of post-Communist Europe, MDIF was born.

Quarter of a century is an important milestone for any organisation. For one like MDIF, working in the fast-moving, politicized and hugely important world of the media, it’s extraordinary, particularly without the security of an endowment or government backing. Yet here we are, working with more clients and investors, still growing our amazing team, pushing the boundaries of impact investing and continuing to support real change around the world.

Over 25 years, MDIF (or rather, MDLF as we were at the time – we switched ‘Loan’ for ‘Investment’ in 2013) has changed significantly, as have the media companies we work with. It has been an amazing journey and over the course of this year we are planning to capture some of the most important lessons we’ve learned in a way that seeks inspiration from the past but has real relevance to the present.

We have set ourselves the ambitious task of producing 25 pieces of content that have concrete value to today’s media, media development and impact investing worlds. Centered on the theme ‘25 things we’ve learned’, we’ll be drawing on practical experiences from across our organization that advance the discussion about how to support the business of public interest media.

We’ll reflect on lessons learned from hands-on work with independent media, like how a company should prepare to take on investment or what are the most important steps for an organization transitioning from non-profit to for-profit status. And there will also be insights from our work helping funders and investors to advance their mission of supporting independent media, such as the pros and cons of using a fund structure for impact investing or how to build lasting relationships with funders.

I think producing 25 pieces of stimulating content from across MDIF will be a fitting tribute to 25 years of pioneering work. Stay tuned…

Harlan Mandel

Chief Executive Officer

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