Four facilitators: Ms Jeanette Bolenga (lead facilitator), Mr Francis Iro, Ms Hamidan Bibi and Mr Laitia Tamata, (co- facilitators) planned and conducted the workshop.
Pre-preparation and conduct of workshop:
As a co-facilitator, I prepared myself with the following:
This was conducted a week prior to departing for Vanuatu for a better input and output into the workshop proper. During this time, I interviewed a local (Fiji) journalist (Television) who had covered the Fiji’s National Elections 2006 for use as additional relevant local material or to provide greater local content into the workshop. This was well received by other facilitators as well as by the participants. This was used during the session (Media and EMB – building a better relationship).
Also, during this time I was able to go through the facilitator’s handbook and handouts, ensuring greater familiarization of the topics and its topical relevance to the small Pacific states. I was able to develop additional role plays which looked at how the EMBs and Media reacted to media reports in both negative and positive ways to situations. This was well acted and well received by the participants. They also enjoyed playing out the role during the session.
In the spirit of cultural diversity and representation, I also included an energizer which gave participants an opportunity to showcase their traditional acts such as a song, act, gesture etc in pairs. This was a lot of fun and was also well received as it promoted their culture amongst others. Participants enjoyed this session as well.
Facilitators Team Meetings
Due to unavailability of airline seats any earlier, facilitators were able to meet three days prior to the workshop. Thus the team met on Friday 8 Aug from 6pm to 10pm; Saturday 9 Aug from 9am to 10pm and on Sunday 10 Aug from 9am to 10pm to finalize details of the workshop. The meeting was chaired by lead facilitator, Ms Jeanette Bolenga. A draft program was identified. This program was subject to change at the completion of each day’s delivery, noting comments from participant evaluations as well as input by the facilitators themselves.
Where ever required, translations were made in ni-vanuatu language (bislama). Team meetings were also held every evening at the end of each day to discuss the day’s sessions and evaluations. Lessons learnt were very useful.
The Conduct of the Workshop
The workshop was conducted over 3.5 days i.e. Monday to Friday (Wednesday being a cultural tour day). Sessions were selected and delivered by all facilitators – please see breakdown provided on the daily program. I was able to prepare and deliver the following topics:
Go through materials in the Participant Folder
Defining the Media
Roles of the Media
Types of Media – How the Media is structured
Roles of Media in an Election
Covering an Election – Media as A Watchdog during Elections
The EMB-Media Relationships
Media Related Functions of an EMB
Implementing a Communications Plan
Communications Planning Scenario
Media Relations Techniques
EMB Media Liaison Office
Apart from the sessions above, I also covered Cross –cutting themes, icebreaker, and was the MC for the opening of the workshop as well as participated in the closing sessions. All facilitators helped prepare the venue on a daily basis.
On a daily basis, participants were also informed of the outcomes from the evaluations and discussion were held for clarification and for further information on issues raised. We also enjoyed getting the feedback as it provided a good learning opportunity for all the facilitators.
Participants: At the end of the workshop, participants felt there was a need for the EMB and the media to work together and have better relationships as both depended on each other for dissemination of accurate and timely information on general elections. In most cases, the media, in particular radio, was the only medium for people to get their information. There was also a need to include and work more closely with other stakeholders such as the NGOs, schools etc. Participants felt there was a need to move away from the traditional approach to media by the EMBs and vice-versa. Both (EMB and Media) realized that there were weaknesses that could be looked at and worked upon to improve relations between the two. Others felt that EMB and Media complemented each other therefore there was a need to build better relationships for the benefit of all. A gradual change in attitude was needed.
The participants shared an array of experiences and knowledge with each other and with the facilitators which made the workshop enriching.
The facilitators brought to the workshop many years of experience and knowledge from around the Pacific. In particular, they were able to bring in specific Pacific-related examples, stories, views and information sharing. This was a strong point in the team and participants were keen to learn from all of us as well.
Overall, the workshop was a learning experience for both the participants and the facilitators. It is anticipated that for the EMB and Media to work together, a more meaningful working relationship need to be cultivated within the two organisations and that training as such should be an important component of it on a regular basis.
I acknowledge the opportunity provided by USP and Lead facilitator for me to co-facilitate this module with other trainers. I also thank the other team members for the encouragement, support and professionalism shown towards my work.