Welcome to 'The Story Hunt'!

'The Story Hunt: Uncover the EU' is a programme hosted by the Open Knowledge Foundation Germany's teams of Datenschule, OpenBudgets, and SubsidyStories.eu. Together with journalists, analysts, non-profit organizations, developers and designers, we want to develop and apply the skills needed to hunt stories in financial data.

The Story Hunt is split into two separate parts: a series of Workshops and an Expedition Weekend in Berlin.

The workshops are tailored to aspiring data journalists and non-profit organizations that are interested in improving their data-literacy skills. They are run by our team and by trusted members of the civic tech community in Germany.

They will culminate in the weekend-expedition at end of June, where - together with proven experts - we are going to dive into a massive database of the European Union’s primary financial instrument, the ESIFunds.

During the weekend, we will form interdisciplinary teams that collaboratively work on finding stories, leads, and data analyses around the EU and its money flows. This will offer an ideal opportunity to practice the acquired skills in a supportive environment.

Interested? Join us!

The Challenge

Our aim is to use the extensive EU subsidy data that we have collected to find interesting stories on how the EU spends the taxpayers money. But what exactly are we hunting for? The range of possible stories is vast, but using the data to follow the money and research what kind of projects were financed can yield astonishing results.

An illustrative example is Farmsubsidy, a similar project that collected all the EU’s agricultural data. An investigation led by Greenpeace analysing the top 100 recipients of the agricultural fund then uncovered that “Individuals or families featured in the Sunday Times’ Rich List own or control 16 businesses among the Top 100 beneficiaries, receiving a total of £10.6m last year in “single payment scheme” subsidies alone, and £13.4m in total farm subsidies.” This was a quite revealing result produced by data driven journalism. Thus, examining flows of financial data could be the cornerstone of your next story or campaign.

With The Story Hunt, we want to get together and venture into the data in order to find out whether it contains similar, exciting stories.

A first insight from the Czech dataset, for instance, was that 80% of their ESIFunds was received by public institutions. Therefore, one of the ideas includes focussing on recipients such as universities that are frequently financed through EU research grants.

Another approach might be looking into the EU’s funding priorities such as job creation and evaluating these by using the operational programmes.

However, we are very open to any suggestions and will develop new project ideas together on the first day of the weekend workshop.

The Data

The EU and its money flows are notoriously complex and intransparent. In an effort to change this, the team behind SubsidyStories.eu has gathered, cleaned, and concatenated data on the EU’s most important financial instrument: the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF).

Together with representatives of different disciplines (journalists, non-profit organizations, developers, domain experts, and designers) we want to immerse ourselves in the data, hunting for stories.

While there are many existing transparency portals and data sources on the EU’s finances, the actual, local recipients of the ESIFunds have thus far often been difficult to access since they were published regionally. Now though, the data is available in one dataset telling you where the money goes. If you already want to look at the data, check out the following links:

Detailed documentation

Policy and data background

Data Description

You can view a report on the data quality here.

The data on OpenSpending

The dataset in one .csv file (879MB)

The quality (and thus the level of transparency) of the data varies greatly across the EU member states:

(Image taken from the ESIF data quality report.)

The Workshops

Learn essential data-skills such as finding, scraping, cleaning, analysing, and visualising data and apply you newly-developed skills in the Story Hunt!

We offer 5 weekly workshops, each 2 hours, starting on 23 May 2017.

1. Getting Started

23 May 2017

The first meeting will be an introduction on the upcoming topics and the Structure of the ESIF data. We will present inspiring data-driven stories to get your creativity flowing.

Guest Speaker: Simon Jockers

2. Asking questions and Finding Data

30 May 2017

Starting with the basics of data, we will show you where to find data and how to ask questions to datasets using simple spreadsheets.

3. Scraping & Cleaning Data

6 June 2017

In this workshop we explain the basics of scraping data from the web and show you how to clean these often messy datasets with tools such as OpenRefine or LibreOffice.

4. Analytics: Intro into Basic Statistics & Spreadsheets

13 June 2017

Statistics have a bad reputation of being difficult and manipulative. In this workshop we will show why you should use statistics and how they can help you validate your data. We will run basic functions for first analysis.

5. Visualising Data

20 June 2017

Data comes to life in visualisations. In this workshop we will discuss basic principles of design and data visualisations.

Guest Speaker: Lisa Rost

The Weekend-Expedition

The Story Hunt Expedition is a weekend-long event that will bring together the previously trained participants with experts from the field of programming, data analysis and design. The weekend will begin with a dive into the data on Friday. Together we will attempt to find first leads and develop research questions that guide us through the following two days of intense story hunting.

The Story Hunt will be a combination of group work, training, and mutual learning that teaches the whole investigative data pipeline process from asking questions to the dataset, hypothesising, cleaning and analysing it and turning the results into stories, presentations and visualisations.

It fosters teamwork and collaboration in all the necessary fields for working on a data-driven story, and allows us to attempt to produce concrete output in one weekend.

The Expedition will happen from the 30th of June - 2nd of July.

More infos coming soon!


Join us & sign up!

Sign up now - participation is free, however the number of participants is limited!


The workshops are planned to accommodate up to 10 people. Our aim is to put together a group diverse in background but with a shared first experience in working with data.

Requirement: Commitment for 5 weekly meetings, starting the 23 May 2017 and participation in the (free) Data Expedition 30 June - 2nd July. You should have affinity for data or interest in EU topics, plus a ton of Enthusiasm! :-)

To apply, click the button below and state your motivation including, if you already have one, a first idea of what you would like to investigate using the data on subsidystories.eu

Applications run on a first come, first serve basis, so apply now!

The Expedition Weekend

We have room for 25 experts in our data expedition weekend. We want to form a mixed group of Journalists, Programmers, Data Scientists, Domain Experts, Advocacy and NGO Officers, Designers, and more. So if you recognize yourself as part of the following groups: Storyteller, Scout, Analyst, Engineer, or Designer, please apply and state your motivation and background in the registration form.

Travel costs up to 250€ can be covered upon acceptance and participation in the expedition weekend.