The last event of the Regional Voices project – CSO Forum – gathered in Frankivsk the representatives of civil society organizations that are concerned about media outreach and media relations. Unconventional format of discussion which is generally typical for the trainings of the project not only made it possible to discuss serious issues but also to hear the views of each participant.
Angelina Soldatenko, IRMI Director:
– The final forum of the project gathered activists and journalists, since developed media and CSOs are an essential condition for sustainable development of civil society. The Regional Voices project had been teaching the journalists to work to professional standards, be factual, learn up-to-date media tools, look for relevant topics, use sources of information to keep citizens better informed and enhance their awareness level of important events in the country. CSO activists had been trained on effective communications, media literacy and advocacy tools. The project is finished. However, the work is underway and Forum in Frankivsk was a good proof of that.
Both journalists and CSO representatives had a number of topics to discuss. CSO experts quite often think that the media are not interested in information CSOs have to offer. Journalists in their turn think that CSOs are not capable of coming up with interesting events and often offer topics that will not be of interest for the audience. “Despite the fact of our theatre being an underground one, we need newsworthy occurrences and they need to be unconventional. No long press releases, boring texts or mailouts,” Kateryna Tyahlo, PostPlay theatre director, comments. “We are not afraid of voicing our problems, even though we are often told that we provoke the audience with uncomfortable issues we raise. The bottom line would be such: there are always people and institutions that will not comprehend what you are. However, it is possible to liaise with them.”
Yurii Fylyuk, one of the founders of Urban Space social restaurant, shared his experience of establishing and supporting urban projects. According to Yurii, it is possible to get the media interested if the projects you create are truly important for the community.
Mark Webster, Thomson Foundation:
“The CSOs now have an understanding of how to develop their communications skills. During the Regional Voices workshops we did our best to provide the CSO participants with professional assistance, show them what the needs of both sides are – the media and CSOs – communication-wise. Certain level of mistrust will always be there, however, it’s with the good work one does, one makes the level of credibility grow. I recommend that CSOs should improve their media outreach skills as well as text writing and on camera presence. They really need a better understanding of hoe the digital world works and social networks. CSOs should see themselves as professional part of civil society. The same refers to the media.”
Volodymyr Kudria, Spilna Diia, CSO (Kropyvnytskyy):
“Regional Voices workshops helped me better formulate my tasks and professional aims, effectively mitigate conflicts among IDPs and authorities and prepare texts for the media that cover IDP –related issues. I also took on board information on advocacy campaigns and can now elaborate on my propositions for activities within such campaigns. The realization of importance of exchanging practices came to me. By the way, I am still in touch with colleagues that I met during the project. We share ideas and best practices.”
Lyudmyla Chaplyhina, Obiednannia Pereselentsiv Ukraiiny in Kamianets Podilskyy, CSO (IDPs Union of Ukraine in Kamianets Podilskyy):
“Regional Voices workshops were really hands-on. I must say most of the trainings we are invited are oversaturated with theory. With that, I was lacking practical training. During the project we learned how to prepare press-releases, work on camera and had a chance to play back and review the results in small groups. We found out about technical details of such activities. To be honest, I am sorry the project is over.”
Larysa Bieloziorova, DonPress reporter (Kyiv):
“ I regret not having joined the project at its very start. However, since 2016 I attended project workshops in four different cities. Production – a new format – was a highly useful idea. The stories that we produced after some days in the field were interesting and relevant. Moreover, it was important to hear colleagues and trainers feedback. Because usually the feedback I get is from viewers or readers. Professional feedback was important for professional growth and development. I had experience in profession when I joined the project but back then we just launched our online platform and (RV) workshops for online media were as timely as ever. I learned how to edit short videos. Trainers’ assistance and our own practical work showed that everything was not as complicated as it’d seemed to be if one mastered new skills under professionals’ guidance, which used certain methods and approaches. For a freelance reporter it is very important to be able to learn and to work at the same time.
Brussels trip was also great.
A network that emerged thanks to the trainings is really important. I can now turn to colleagues if I need something for my work and they do help.
CSOs and journalists have to understand the needs of their communities, believes Angelina Soldatenko. CSOs should learn how to work together, joining efforts and taking into account the needs of their audiences. Professionalisation does not mean bureaucratisation. The message is for CSOs to learn to be open and transparent in order to get community trust and support. The media should challenge their own prejudiced attitude towards CSOs, which may be a source of socially useful important information. “We hope the skills the participants acquired during the workshops, ideas developed during the forum and best practices shared will become an impetus for sustainable development for the good of civil society.”