Training suggestions

Learning outcomes

At the end of this module, trainees… 

  • … can describe how journalists/media can encourage constructive dialogue.
  • … can describe how to approach divisive issues in a constructive manner.
  • … can explain why audience engagement is important and what the benefits are.
  • … can identify ways to collaborate with civil society.
  • … can compose social media posts that engage audiences. 


Face-to-face: laptop, boxes, projector / video screen (trainer), laptop, smartphones (trainees)
Online: laptops and smartphones (trainer + trainees), headsets

Materials (face-to-face)
Board/whiteboard, flipchart stand and paper, cards (if available), markers.

Tools (online)
Video conference: Zoom (Back up: WhatsApp)
Visualization: Miroboard, JamBoard (Zoom offers digital whiteboards as well)
Quizzes: Slido, Mentimeter
Communication: WhatsApp, Email  
Documentation, shared documents: Google Drive folder

Training schedule

The importance of audience engagement (fundamental)
Brainstorming / 40-50 minutes
Trainees explore their knowledge about their audiences and reflect on the benefits of engagement.

Trainees assess their knowledge about their audiences as well as what they don’t know. They critically reflect on the importance of audience engagement and its benefits.

Brainstorming in small groups: 15 min 
Discussion of results: 10 min
Brainstorming in plenary: 15 min
Presentation: 10 min

Prepare task description for first brainstorming in small groups and charts on the (virtual) board: 4 categories: (1) Description (Name, age, sex, family status, profession), (2) actions, motivations, pains, (3) values, (4) information needs
Prepare one chart on board for brainstorming in plenary: Why do we need to know our audience? Why is audience engagement important?

Group work / Discussion, 40 min.
Divide trainees into small groups of two or three. In case there are 2 trainees from the same media outlet or from different media outlets but operating in the same region, put them together in one group. Invite trainees to describe one typical persona of their targeted audience, e.g. a farmer, a market woman, a hairdresser. They should think of their living conditions, their daily struggles and concerns, their values, their information needs and pain points. 

Ask trainees whether they are satisfied with what they seem to know already and where they see room for improvement. 

Then guide the brainstorming in plenary on the questions: Why do we need to know our audience? Why should we engage our audience? Then cluster and discuss the answers together with the entire group. 

Input / Discussion, 10 min.
What are the benefits of audience engagement
Presentation: PPT Constructive dialogue, slides 2-4

If needed, trainers can give a short input on persona development in design thinking before the brainstorming exercise. (slide 5) 

Ways to engage audiences on given stories/topics (fundamental)
Group work / 45 minutes – 1 hour
Trainees develop an audience engagement strategy on a story that has been produced.

Trainees can strategize and come up with a list of ways to engage audiences (and create social media posts that boost engagement – optional/homework).  

Group work: 40 min. 
PPT presentation: 15 min.
Optional Group work/homework: 30 minutes.  

Prepare boards for group work, choose examples of constructive stories where the audience has been involved.

Group work / Discussion, 30 min.
Divide the trainees into groups or 3 or 4. Give each group a story topic that you have found ahead of time and tell them they are going to be the reporting team working on the story. Give them around 10 minutes to come up with at least 3 ways they would try to engage audiences around the topic. Those can range from social media posts, calls for ideas,  information input, help with finding sources; scheduling events, discussions, and debates; co-authoring, co-reporting; feedback on the story after publication, etc. Once back in the full group, each group presents their story and how they would go about boosting engagement. Record the strategies on flipchart paper or Jamboard.  

Input / Discussion, 15 min.
Audience Engagement Examples

 Presentation: PPT Constructive dialogue, slides 6-11

Trainees are shown examples of CJ stories where audiences were engaged. 

Group work or homework, 15 min.
If you have time, you can put the trainees back in the same group and ask them to come up with 3 social media posts (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) that relate to the three ways they came up with before. They can create these posts and put them on a private workshop social media group that has been set up (Facebook, Twitter). This can also be given for homework. 

Ways to encourage dialogue with civil society
Group work / 1 hour
Trainees collect ideas on how to establish and intensify a constant dialogue with civil society. 

Trainees can describe ways to encourage and guide constructive dialogue. 

Group work: 30 min.
Presentation and discussion: 20 min. 
Trainer input and discussion: 10 min. 

Write down the task: Each group should work out three ways to encourage constructive dialogues. 
Prepare frames for each group on (digital) whiteboard. 

Group work, 30 min. / Discussion 20 min.
Divide trainees into groups of 3-5. Invite them to work out at least 3 ideas on how constructive dialogues could be encouraged, especially in polarized societies or on divisive topics. They should also think about what would be needed to implement them in their media outlets (equipment, qualifications, staff…).
Each group presents its results. The other groups give feedback and select the best and most practicable ways to encourage constructive dialogues. 

Input / Discussion, 20 min.
How to engage and collaborate with civil society
 Presentation: PPT Constructive dialogue, slides 12-16

Constructive dialogues on divisive topics
Role play / 1 – 1.5 hours
Trainees get familiar with methods to guide controversial conversations constructively.

Trainees can describe ways to create a constructive dialogue around a divisive topic and successfully moderate such a conversation.  

Presentations: 15 min.; 20 min. 
Introduction to topic, roles assignment: 10 min.
Moderated group discussion: 15-30 min (depending on how many rounds).
Reflection: 10 minutes 

Find a topic that is controversial or polarizing in the region where trainees live. (But not so controversial that it will cause polarization in the workshop.)
Familiarize yourself with the basics issues around the topics.

Input / Discussion, 15 min.
Encouraging dialogue instead of discord
 Presentation: PPT Constructive dialogue, slides 17-19

This PPT shows two examples of publications encouraging dialogue among people with very different opinions and gives tips on how such dialogue is facilitated. 

Input / Discussion, 20 min. 
Approaching divisive topics constructively
 Presentation: PPT Reporting constructively (!), slides 27-36

The PPT explains the SJN concept “Complicating The Narratives” and looks at interviewing and moderation techniques, some of which were discussed in the chapter Reporting constructively.  

Role play / Reflection, 25 – 40 min.
Divide the group into two groups. Each will be on one side of a polarizing issue. Set out guidelines: No name calling or personal attacks, avoid point scoring, keep a respectful tone, etc. 

Two options: 1. Trainers are moderators; 2. Trainees are moderators. 

The moderators, using techniques that were reviewed in the PPT, start a discussion that attempts to get the two sides to really talk to each other and exchange ideas about an issue without resorting to attacks or retreating into the usual corners and resorting to the usual talking points. Ask one or two people in the groups on either side of  the issue to occasionally step out of line (name-calling, getting angry) so that the moderators can practice dealing with it. 

Goals: To raise curiosity on each side about the other; to help each side see the other as human beings, not just opponents; to find out why beliefs are held, what fears or motivations are involved; to help each side really “hear” the other.  17


Write social media posts on a given story
If trainees have not yet done this exercise in group work, they could write these posts individually in homework.