Shifting the power:
a resource hub for journalists
On Our Radar’s toolkits and guides have been developed from a decade of working with communities on the margins to share their stories.
Over this time, we have developed a set of tools, trainings and workshops to support those who would like to:
- Build reporting networks
- Co-produce award-winning media
Building reporting networks
Communities on the frontline of the world’s most pressing challenges hold extraordinary insight on the matters that affect all of our lives. On Our Radar has built reporting networks all around the globe: from dementia diarists in the UK, to election trackers in the Niger Delta, to textile workers in Bangladesh, and citizen reporters on the frontline of the Ebola crisis.
Shifting the Power: a toolkit for journalists and storytellers
This toolkit is designed to support organisations to set up, build and maintain reporting networks.
This toolkit also outlines our ‘5Cs’ methodology, a diagnostic tool used to overcome the barriers that may prevent marginalised communities from sharing their experiences (see the diagram at the bottom of this page for an overview of the 5Cs).
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Community reporter training
On Our Radar’s community reporter training curriculum is made up of six core modules and can be delivered in person or online. This training provides a foundation in community reporting, enabling reporters to unearth, capture and share stories about the issues affecting their community.
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On Our Radar works with people to tell their stories in their own words, combining a participatory approach with the highest production values and journalistic standards. We have developed a set of tools and principles to support individuals and organisations who want to co-create award-winning media.
From contributors to co-producers: a guide to participatory production
This toolkit is aimed at producers, journalists and documentary makers who want to integrate participatory practices into their work. The toolkit suggests co-production tools for every part of the production process, from story-gathering through to the final edit.
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Visual storytelling training
This visual storytelling training programme is aimed at communities who are relatively new to multimedia storytelling. This training is typically delivered across 3-5 days. By the end of the training, participants will have a solid foundation in visual storytelling and will have put together their first short film, shot on a mobile phone.
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All of our tools and training programmes are highly adaptable. Please get in touch at email@example.com if you’d like to know more.
Exploring the 5 C's
Underpinning all of our work is a diagnostic tool called the 5Cs. From people experiencing homelessness in the UK, to communities living with malaria in Sierra Leone, there are five recurring barriers that marginalised communities around the world face when trying to share their insights and concerns. This framework offers a pathway for communities to identify and overcome those challenges and share their experiences with dignity and power.
Do participants trust you? Are they on board with the aims of the project? Do they believe that speaking out will result in meaningful change?
It can be hard for individuals to believe that sharing their experiences will result in meaningful change. Social marginalisation or a breakdown in trust in institutions can lead to a well-founded fear that sharing a story may create further isolation, criticism or disrespect. Communities may not trust media or institutions who have, in the past, distorted their words in order to sensationalise.
Ensuring they feel invited in at the very early stages of planning and design may help to ease concerns. We have also found that interesting new ideas will emerge if communities are invited into the scoping and co-design stage. A sense of ownership or genuine engagement helps build trust.
Traditional design processes can perpetuate marginalisation; the same people commissioning projects are the ones leading the design and delivery of the projects. The design phase is the first opportunity to break this cycle. Opening up the design of a project to communities offers a brilliant chance to create a shared mission and explore creative routes that may have evaded an internal design team.
To get the most out of a co-design process, the emphasis needs to rest on listening and responding to a genuine problem rather than arriving with a pre-emptive idea or solution. Tokenism will be spotted immediately and can further erode conviction in the media. If done well, the creative process will emerge as stronger and more authentic, creating essential buy-in from all stakeholders.
Do participants have the skills, access and resources required to report on a story safely, securely and accurately?
Very few people have the opportunity to go through professional journalism training and fewer still will go on to be given a platform for their work. Introducing the concepts of newsgathering and storytelling to communities can be a real pleasure as many of the skills required are already innate in social interaction: inquiring after friends, witnessing events or questioning local politicians over decisions and actions.
There is a critical role in reframing these capabilities as valuable journalistic skills and adding to them through training and mentoring. Capacity-building for reporting must remain responsive as each participant will also bring unique challenges. Taking the time to understand those capacity challenges and finding the right tools and training mechanisms to mitigate those challenges is key.
Training and skills-share sit at the heart of communications capacity-building and can be both a learning opportunity and a creative process in its own right. Training can be delivered remotely via digital or mobile, with pre-recorded modules sent to participants who can learn at their own pace. Workshops can be held within community spaces or bring participants together in a central space over two to three day sessions. The content of the training can be adapted to each unique context but key modules cover the basics of reporting, finding sources, conducting interviews, verification, triangulation, use of mobile or digital tools, along with appropriate guidance in safeguarding, privacy and data protection.
Where does the power come from to find your voice?
In a society where the dominant narratives are shaped by elites, the voices of marginalised groups and individuals are routinely ignored. When people don’t see themselves reflected in the media, or find they are routinely demonised by the press, it can erode a sense of self worth. Boosting skills can help to raise self-esteem but there is a deeper level of work needed to undo cultural and social messaging and ensure that each person feels able to claim their space and raise their voice. This can be done through group work or individual mentoring and requires time built into projects to listen and respond to a participant’s unique circumstances.
Confidence building requires boundaries that bring clarity to the roles and relationships, and what everyone might expect from a collaboration, while retaining the flexibility to be able to respond with humanity when challenges arise. This does not all have to be held by one person. Working with a referring partner is critical here, as they should have services and support infrastructure in place to help. Finally, feedback plays an important role in building confidence. Seeing work published on a well respected platform can give people a real boost so it’s vital to build in time and budget to ensure participants are given a chance to see the final publication and hear the reactions of their audiences.
Coaching and mentoring
Establishing a mentoring plan involves allocating time and resources to listen to participants’ experiences, and, when invited, to share your own knowledge, skills and experience. A participant may want guidance on how to frame their story for a particular audience, or get some creative feedback on their reporting. They may come across ethical issues that they need to discuss or have been told a difficult story that has left them feeling overwhelmed.
Choosing the right mentor and the right channel for that process is important. The mentor could be an internal role, or held by an external trained professional, or perhaps facilitated by a local partner. Equally it could be a peer-to-peer relationship held by someone who shares lived experience with the participant, in which case the value added is less of the professional skills and more about the confidence that comes with a shared history. While mentoring can be a challenging part of the process, it has the potential to significantly enrich the depth and quality of any collaboration as well as leaving a legacy of self-development for those involved.
Do participants have barriers to digital engagement and, if so, what tools are they using already to communicate?
It is a myth that the whole world is online and digitally literate - there is often an assumption that the majority of communities across the globe have access to the internet yet those who are ‘end of the line’ communities, living in remote rural regions, are often out of range, while certain demographics, such as women and girls, older people, the very young or those with disabilities are less likely to have independent access due to financial constraints or power imbalances.
Even among those who live in connected areas and have access to a handset, it can be a challenge to afford data packages or phone credit, or even find reliable electricity to charge a device. During crises or periods of extreme weather, connected communities can find their internet access controlled or cut off leaving them with little or no way to share information.
As the world becomes increasingly digitised, there is a crucial role in ensuring those in the least connected spaces are not left without a means to share information. The increasing prevalence of mobile handsets offers a brilliant opportunity to draw a significant proportion of the global population into public conversations.
Short text (via SMS) and voice technologies (via phone calls) offer a ‘common denominator’ as they are available on every handset, compatible with most media platforms, and many people already feel comfortable using them as communication tools. Alongside this, the increasing use of chat apps among previously offline groups, mean that more and more people have the option to share audio visual content from their phone.
There is a role for platforms and tools that consolidate and manage incoming messages for newsgathering. On Our Radar has a community insight and storytelling solution called Radius which does just that.
Do participants have the necessary technical skills to deliver media that is of broadcast quality or ready to be shared internationally on digital platforms?
Despite the advances in audio visual capacity within mobile equipment, there remains a high barrier to entry into the mediasphere. Someone wanting to share a public story is likely to find their lack of production skills can result in a discerning media outlet turning down content. While the rise of citizen content during the Arab Spring shifted this somewhat, the relaxation of the ‘rules’ that allows for grainy mobile footage to be aired on prime time TV is reserved for humanitarian and political crises and not for the more entrenched social issues that underpin most marginalisation.
There is therefore a valuable partnership between those with professional experience and editorial networks and those with lived experience and community networks to collaborate. While it can take a great deal of training to genuinely raise production standards among communities, it is just as valid to negate that barrier by offering legal, editorial and production skills as a service to communities and working with them as equal collaborators.
Co-production is the realisation of that co-designed process, whereby professional production skills can compliment community knowledge and access, and the raw insight of lived experiences. When this works well, reporters come away from a project with enhanced skills and improved confidence, and refreshed levels of trust, having truly participated in the process. They should have something they are proud of to share. For broadcasters, having the voices and perspectives of those most affected by an issue present as both the storyteller and as an advisor to the production process, is invaluable.
The key in co-production is to build a collaborative space - finding ways of telling a story that reflect the experiences and attitudes of the community that can be packaged in a way that will work for your audiences, harnessing the access and authenticity of communities as narrators.
A note on consent
Consent is the starting-block for all collaboration. It goes well beyond a signature on a form. Holding an open and honest conversation about expectations and potential consequences of sharing information is critical to establishing a genuinely consensual collaboration. Vulnerability and dependence on a person or a service can greatly influence someone’s decision to engage, particularly if they fear that non-consent will lead to loss. Some conditions cloud judgement and impact on decision-making. For very young participants, there are additional layers of concern. Establishing genuine consent at the start of a collaboration, and returning to it during longer collaborations, is essential but not always easy. Take the time needed to get it right.