Insight: After A Harvest of Takeaways from Training, What Next?
By Johanna Son*
“I find everything interesting!” Yama Socheata, a project coordinator at the Cambodia Communication Institute (CCI) said at the end of a July workshop on training needs assessment, organised by the Southeast Asia Media Training Network (SEAMTN) project of Fojo Media Institute. “I really hoped I (had) joined this training before the (last) training at CCI started. . .” added Socheata, who was the workshop’s youngest participant at 21.
For more experienced trainers like Naing Min Wai, a 45-year-old editor with 14 years’ experience in media, the July workshop was his third that touched on training needs assessment (TNA). But he says this workshop was the one that went deep into the nitty-gritty of TNA. “Here, I feel that we know deeper, in-depth about TNA and then especially on content analysis,” Naing Min Wai, a full-time trainer with the Myanmar Journalism Institute, said in an interview. “Now I know how to do it.”
Socheata and Naing Zaw were two of the 19 trainer-participants at the Jul. 9-13 workshop on training needs assessment held here in the Thai capital. It was the latest among the seven workshops organised by SEAMTN for participants from six media training groups from Cambodia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Vietnam since October 2017.
Their views above offer a glimpse of what trainers from varying media cultures, political and social environments – in this case from the set of Southeast Asian countries referred to as ‘CLMV’ – can take home from training events.
Apart from the discussions and exercises within the confines of workshop rooms, training events can get participants to think about what might (or might not) work in their organisations and settings, and how they can adapt these to their own needs and goals. Workshops can lead to ideas about what new ‘experiments’ might be good to make, or allow opportunities for introspection about trainers’ work away from their daily routines.
Interviews also show that the participant-trainers also pick up useful tips from how the SEAMTN workshops themselves are held, whether it is in area of themes and topics, exercises and icebreakers, or ways of organisation, coordination, teaching and training.
For instance, Vu Phuong Thao of the Vietnam Journalism Training Center (VJTC) said: “The (TNA) course helps me analyse what I have done at the institute, so I can improve my work’s quality.”
For Phouthone Bouttavong, deputy director of Laos’ Institute of Mass Media, Culture and Tourism (IMCT), both the workshop on TNA and the one on field and digital safety made him think of what training are doable in the Lao context.
Assessing training needs is often done informally, including through discussions with trainees, or usually through yearly officially meetings that every media house in each province in the country makes, he says.
“Sometimes they have opportunity to train, they just learn by mimicking - or learn from how others do (things). . . They just see the other people do it,” he said. In other cases, “the organiser did not know what they want in their work, like they didn’t know TNA, they didn’t know what skill or knowledge they want. They learn something that they did not use.”
But “by learning this (TNA at the workshop), we can have the process to identify what is the priority, what specific area we should give them a priority, to organise the training,” Phouthone said.
Asked which part of the TNA workshop might be useful to his work, he said “almost all” of its content - especially the methods of using survey, questionnaires, interviews and content analysis, or a mix of these, to systematically get information about training needs.
Additionally, “there is demand” for knowing how to have better digital security and digital habits in Laos, added Phouthone, who also attended the July 2-6 training workshop on safety. At the same time, he said that due to a lack of trainers, they might need to ask how to tap Fojo’s trainers on these matters.
To Vu Phuong Thao, the various TNA methods, especially survey, stood out. “I will propose the TNA guidelines to my manager and try to have better TNA with both quantitative and qualitative methods.”
“We can use almost every topic and the exercises we are doing here, but we need to convey all these messages to MJI,” said Naing Min Wai.
“The new thing I’ve learned is content analysis,” reflected Le Xuan Trung, deputy editor-in-chief of the Ho Chi Minh City-based ’Tuoi Tre’ newspaper in Vietnam. “I have not done that before preparation for the course(s) I had done. I think it’s very useful to know training needs from media houses.”
Training events are not only about the topics to be ‘taught’ or practised in, but also about the hows of organising them, and ways of teaching and training.
Naing Min Wai said he was struck by how, at the TNA workshop, it was possible to have three trainers but still see the workshop flow as a unit. “The three trainers were working together. . . . It is a new way of learning, to see the link between one trainer to another. It is not like one trainer says one thing separately, in isolation, and another trainer comes in and does (something) separately. There are links,” he recalled.
IN THE SAME BOAT
Bringing together a mix of trainers creates a shared space for these professionals in CLMV to compare notes, including during breaks or when they are pushed to break away from their language and/or country groups.
Saying ‘difficulty in getting trainees’, for instance, might not strike a chord in another media-related workshop, but is a familiar challenge in the circle of trainers that SEAMTN works with.
The multi-cultural context at the network’s workshops - and one might add different media habits, types, styles and levels of training in the four CLMV countries - made him think that such variety need not be a discouraging obstacle in journalism training, says Myanmar’s Naing Min Wai.
He found himself thinking that although media training in Myanmar gets to be a challenge given the variety of ethnic groups and languages, doing training with CLMV trainers involves even more differences across four different countries – and yet, is still doable. “The top example here is that in the four countries, we don’t have the same language,” he said. “But in Myanmar, we have the same context - so how do we discuss to convey the message across?”
Training events usually spark a harvest of rich ideas, reflections and plans, but they also raise questions beyond the event that are crucial to an assessment of the impact of such training and their utility to a training institution and to the professional journalism community, beyond the life of a project like SEAMTN.
In early August, for instance, VJTC - two of whose staff had attended the July workshop on physical and digital safety in Bangkok - conducted its own three-day safety training workshop in Hanoi. This was no doubt encouraging news, and will hopefully one that will prod other training institutes to develop their own training products, picking and choosing from what they have been exposed to at the training workshops.
If training is a process that goes beyond a single event, how can this process continue and be owned by locally grounded organisations? Some questions that come to mind are:
• Several trainer-participants at the different workshops say they will discuss what they learned with their training institutes and managers. How could SEAMTN encourage the institutionalisation of some learnings by individual trainers from these workshops ?
• How might training be viewed, and implemented, beyond the events and workshops they occur in? What ways could there be to allow interested institutes to design the actual and relevant use of, say, TNA methods, and get some expertise they could some help in, over a period of time outside workshops? How much would this do both for supporting quality contributions to the body of locally produced knowledge around media training in CLMV and to the organisational development and sustainability of training institutes, not to mention adding value-added skills?
• The series of workshops has and will continue to provide hands-on opportunities on topics ranging from gender to the training of trainers. Could a shared space be set up to help the network to develop and share resources that media trainers and media training institutes can use, after the workshops, and including research that SEAMTN conducts? How can a trainer access the richness of other workshops he/she may not have participated? How can media institutes in CLMV be empowered to produce more locally relevant and developed media training material, given the lack of these? Could an Internet-based space host and publish the diversity of knowledge thus, including from the set of workshops thus far?
(Translation assistance in the interviews came from Bouavanh Soukhathammavong, Nai Nai, and Vu The Cuong.)
*Johanna Son, an editor who specializes in Southeast Asian issues, was one of the trainers at the TNA and safety workshops by SEAMTN in July 2018. The lead trainer in the TNA workshop was Clare Lyons and the lead in the safety workshop was Naomi Goldsmith.