Sunday, March 13, 2011

Introductory workshop with UMthathi facilitators

On Friday 11 March, Annie and I conducted our introductory workshop with the Umthathi facilitators.  The aim was, firstly, to foster a stronger relationship with the facilitators, by getting to know them better.  Secondly, we aimed to establish a shared vision for the project, informed by clear understanding of everyone’s roles. Thirdly, we hoped to set the ball rolling with regards to the process of generating ideas for content to include in the show. Our primary aim for this workshop though, was to draw out themes which would be covered in the gardening and healthy living radio show.

To initiate the process of identifying these themes, Annie and I initially planned to introduce a mapping exercise to the facilitators, in the process of generating content ideas for the show. We were going to instruct each facilitator to draw a basic map of their outreach area (where they facilitate), and include facets of their respective outreach area, and their experiences of facilitating in that particular area. They were to draw things such as schools and communal gardens in which they facilitate, the people whom they facilitate, citizens who play an influential role in the gardening projects Umthathi is involved in, in the respective areas; and key issues that can be taken out from the outreach areas. We had also hoped to enable the facilitators to identify what they have learnt in their experiences of facilitating in their outreach areas. We hoped to take this, and identify possible avenues which the show could follow, and use these maps as reference points for brainstorming show content ideas.
With these goals in mind, Annie and I had factored in time for explaining our plans for a gardening and healthy living show depth, including the role that Umthati would play in the process of producing it. We felt it was particularly important to ensure that the facilitators understood the distinction between their own role and that of Radio Grahamstown.
During the workshop itself, Annie and I realised that we would need to restructure our future workshops with the Umthathi facilitators, due to them being tired during the workshop. By the time Annie and I arrived for the workshop, the facilitators had already been part of a long workshop and we realised that they were not overly enthusiastic about having another meeting. Annie and I therefore decided that we would try and make our own session shorter than we had planned, but we agreed that we would have to do this in a way that would not compromise the workshop goals. We therefore started by outlining these aims, placing particular emphasis on the third one − that of generating reference points that would allow us to start planning content for the show. We explained that we had hoped to do so through a mapping exercise, which would allow us to explore  the  landscape in which the facilitators worked, pinpointing relevant  social issues, economic issues, and also identifying people with whom they had established strong partnership In this way, we would identify topics for discussion, as well as potential sources for stories.
At the beginning of the workshop, I noticed the difficulty some of the facilitators had in expressing their views, so Annie gave me permission converse with them in isiXhosa, and I would translate all that was said to her. The workshop commenced smoothly, and the facilitators added valuable input in the workshop. We also identified the personalities of each facilitator, which will aid our relationship with them, and our interactions with them.
The facilitators gave insight into their respective outreach programmes, and in the process of discussion and brainstorming, five themes which the radio show is most likely to follow, were identified. They were:
1.The benefits of gardening
2. Nutrition ─ a focus on eating healthily, and growing healthy foods in gardens
3. Traditional and medicinal plants
4. How to plant and different gardening methods
5. Creating an income from gardening

We had initially planned to make each radio show focused on one theme per episode, but after further discussions between Annie and myself we decided to arrange these themes differently. Each episode of the radio would focus on two themes, and they would rotate on a weekly basis. Since there are five themes, there would be a show dedicated to the theme of traditional and medicinal plants, due to the potential for this theme to generate extensive discussion.
All in all, I would say the introductory workshop was fruitful. Annie and I conveyed the roles each of the parties involved in the participatory project will play. They responded positively to this, and were excited to be in a partnership towards creating a long-term gardening/healthy living radio show. In our estimation, the themes we identified will prove of great value in providing terms of reference for the radio show. Most importantly, we strengthened our relationship with the Umthathi facilitators, as they collectively showed their enthusiasm for this project, and willingness to be part of a gardening/healthy living radio show. This response came at a good time, as in our next workshop, we will be meeting the producer and anchor of the planned radio show, who are employees of Radio Grahamstown. This would mean that next week, our audio production partnership will finally have all of its members together.

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