Fourth Workshop for CSOs in Germany The New Neighbours project completed its third Media Skills Training for CSOs in Berlin, Germany during the dates of October 10-12, 2019.
One of our project partners, Media Diversity Institute (MDI), organised the three day workshop, which trained German civil society activists in how to more effectively create campaigns, and communicate with journalists to spread constructive stories about migrants and refugees.
Many of the participants worked closely with refugees and migrants, in legal, cultural and economic development capacities. According to Media Diversity Institute trainer Dasha Ilic, their expertise was apparent:
“These participants were among some of the strongest I’ve worked with. Their level of understanding context in which anti-migrant sentiments are created, and how to counter them was extremely high and provided me with new insights to bring to future trainings.”
However, while they are used to working closely with refugees, they were not as used to working with journalists to get their message out—which is what the workshop focused on.
At the workshop, participants discussed issues such as how to discuss the far right’s hateful narrative without spreading it, and how to include more migrants’ voices in the media. They also discussed practical tips, such as how to contact, approach and maintain positive relationships with journalists.
During the “hands on” parts of the workshop, participants brainstormed campaign ideas that journalists could more easily translate into news stories, worked on pre- existing campaigns, and practiced being interviewed by journalists.
“The flexibility of the workshop agenda and trainer allowed this workshop to best suit the needs of the participants, who benefited greatly from spontaneous practical exercises such as practicing getting interviewed by a journalist and editing existing campaigns,”
said Sophia Burton, who helped organize the workshop and attended it representing the CSO Migration Matters. She also mentioned that although all of the participants work in the same field, many of them did not know each other previously.
“The workshop provided a valuable networking space for future collaborations. “The diverse group of participants, coming from communications, PR, marketing and advocacy were also encouraged throughout to share what has worked well for them and where they have been struggling,”
“This facilitated an exchange of knowledge and allowed the participants to make important contacts for future projects.”
Many participants expressed that the workshop inspired them to build their network of contacts with local journalists, with hopes of having their work represented more in the mainstream media. One participant is looking forward to reaching out to local journalists to help her spread a video series she has been working on about refugee entrepreneurship in Berlin. Another said that she looks forward to following up with a local journalist that trainer, Dasha Ilic, put her in contact with—and is further inspired to establish a good relationship with many journalists. Most everyone is empowered, knowing that they can reach out to journalists, instead of waiting for journalists to come to them.
“I can definitely say that we are all going to work with journalists in a whole new way after this workshop,”
said Christoph Buerglen, who works for the organization Kiron, which provides open higher education for refugees. He continued:
“Before the workshop, we thought we had to wait for journalists to reach out to us, but now we know that we can reach out ourselves, and establish an ongoing relationship, I also personally learned a lot from the interview training—body language, strategy and an overall insight into the world of journalism.”
Germany is a particularly important country for this workshop, given that it is home to the largest population of refugees and migrants in the European Union. While the media narrative was quite positive in 2015, particularly after Angela Merkel suspended the Dublin convention allowing huge numbers of people to claim asylum in Germany, the recent rise of far right parties such as the Alternatives for Deutscheland (AFD) party have lead to more toxic narratives in the German media, and a need for strategies to combat them.
Many of the workshop participants have watched this sea change happen first hand, and would like to get the positive messages of what their CSOs are doing with migrants into the media to combat these negative messages.
By learning more about the media ecosystem, participants were empowered with the knowledge that they can effect change on some of the negative coverage that greatly affects their organisations and beneficiaries. Over the next few months, a few of the participants will have the chance to further develop their own media campaigns, with the goal of showing how “new neighbours” can have a positive impact on German society.
New Neighbours has run similar workshops in Italy, Croatia, and Spain and will do an additional workshop in Belgium over the course of the project.