31 July 2009

Meet Vikki

This is Vikki Wright, an awesome American YWAMer working in the north of Uganda with her British husband and three kids. We first got to know Vikki and John through Tim's visits to their rural YWAM campus to teach on Discipleship Training Schools. It took us a while to realize that she has a love of writing, and a little longer to draw her into YWAM communication through the writing of stories from her region. Back in May this year, Vikki joined us for CRIT and her desire to incorporate communication into her ministry in a greater way began to take form.

This week, as we met at the East Africa regional staff conference, it became clear that Vikki really carries the vision for developing communication more effectively in the region. In addition to that, she is a respected part of her base leadership team and well-known to the regional leaders, which makes it easier for her than for others to dialogue with the leaders on communication issues.

With the blessing of the leaders, Vikki has expressed a willingness to be the coordinator for AfriCom East, which she will do with help from Sandra Merriman who is geographically closer to the group of communicators located in Jinja, Uganda. That group is also being ably facilitated by Agnes, one of the graduates of our 2009 School of Field Journalism. Together these women will make a great team as we keep moving towards the goal of building more effective communication to, from and around East Africa. Welcome to the team!

Growing AfriCom in East Africa

This week Miranda has been in Tanzania, East Africa. She's been enjoying the buzz of attending a YWAM regional staff conference, always a great opportunity to meet a lot of YWAMers from a number of countries without having to go to each location! Meeting together in Arusha at the foot of Mount Meru were staff from Ethiopia, Chad, DR Congo, Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, and Rwanda, not to mention those from Tanzania itself. There was a wonderful atmosphere of celebration as the crowd of around 300 recounted the faithfulness of God in all their myriad activities around the region.

But Miranda was not just there to enjoy the inevitable vibe of a YWAM gathering. She had an ulterior motive! This was an opportunity to follow up on the progress made at CRIT towards forming a regional Com Team, an AfriCom East if you will :-) Attending this conference was well-worth it ... together with the regional leaders and the staff with a interest in communication, Miranda helped to form both a structure and an immediate concrete goal for the team. She is hoping that this will help both those who are already keen to be involved and those who may be mobilized around the practical project that was decided on.

This project is one that could be adopted by other regions in the continent, or even by other parts of the world. It centers around gathering stories and historical information in preparation for YWAM's 50th anniversary celebrations next year. Communication teams globally have planned to produce a celebratory magazine to be made available at all the 50th anniversary events, an opportunity for YWAM International to tell their stories. So communicators (and others who don't yet know they are communicators!) in East Africa are all set to unearth a treasure trove of stories and to share them with the world ... what better way to launch a regional Com Team?!

07 July 2009

Com Teams and Training

Those of you who have been following the journey of our YWAM Communication Team know that in the first quarter of this year we ran a School of Field Journalism through YWAM's University of the Nations. This was a new experience for us, having focused up until that point on production projects as part of our communication service to the organization.

This morning we spent some time evaluating how well we felt the school had contributed to AfriCom's overall vision and purpose: was it worth the effort and resources required to run a 3 month residential course such as this? If so, is the School of Field Journalism the most appropriate school for a Com Team such as ourselves, or would a Communicating for Missions school be more appropriate?

The SOFJ had some great outcomes. In several ways running the school clearly benefited our coverall vision, which is to connect YWAM in Africa to one another, to YWAM internationally and to other interested parties. We recruited a communicator for the East Africa region and one for the core team in South Africa. We also had a number of YWAM-related stories published and saw graduates go on to get involved in helping to strengthen other YWAM ministries in the area of communication. By partnering our field assignment phase with a Basic Communication Workshop and a Communication Consultation we were able to maximize the impact of the school and help the students get a taste for strengthening the mission using their communication skills.

In addition to this, there were some outcomes that were beneficial to our broader goal of acting as champions of YWAM in Africa and of the continent itself. By running a journalism course we were able to introduce students to the African context and worldview, to develop connections with others who are experts in this area and to promote an engagement with the issues facing this continent in particular. One of our longer term visions is to become part of establishing a resource center for Africa and perhaps the School of Field Journalism could play a role in this?

When we think about training we believe that shorter, field-based training opportunities best serve the needs of this continent. Indeed we had a number of students who struggled to pay their fees throughout the School of Field Journalism; many others inquired about attending the school but were unable to do so because of a lack of finances. Running the Basic Communication Workshop in Uganda showed us, if any further proof were necessary, that taking training to the staff reduces overall costs to them and makes the training more accessible to a greater number of people.

So perhaps a training strategy that creates space for both longer and shorter training opportunities is called for? We are potentially looking towards running a residential school, such as the SOFJ,somewhere in Africa once every 24 months, in addition to running a shorter 6 week communication workshop in another location 12 months later. This would develop into a 24 month cycle, enabling us to invest in as many people as possible with the limited staff team we have available.

Our thoughts turn to other YWAM Com Teams around the world and we wonder whether some of the lessons we are learning could benefit them too. Perhaps in future we'll see more of a strategic partnership growing between YWAM's College of Communication and the field-based Com Teams such as ourselves? There is both a need and an opportunity to work together to see people equipped with communication skills and YWAM served through the use of those same skills.