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.

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