We think we speak for all of us in our sector, in our belief and hope that what we do changes things and helps to improve lives in the communities in which we work. Most of our energies seem divided between supporting the efforts in-country and communicating with our donors and funders at home. It can sometimes feel like an impossible task, bridging the realities our communities face to a British populace many thousands of miles removed. Particularly in the frame of COVID, overseas aids cuts and the undisputable poverty on our own shores.
So, at first, joining Hub Cymru Africa’s “Reframing the Narrative” series, felt like we were going to be posed with new hurdles we would have to adapt to overcome. We were a bit worried that the sessions might become a wrist-slapping exercise with no practical route of change. And no-one is terribly comfortable talking about racism or white saviourism! However, contrary to our fears, the sessions were enlightening, though a little uncomfortable at times! They really opened our eyes to some of the traditional ways we were doing things; that required change.
We both wrestled with what our small charity could do differently in the future to address the important issues raised, such as who is telling the story, the balance of power between funder and supported community, cultural insensitivities, and mistaken assumptions of Western superiority.
With Steve’s background at the BBC and, more recently lecturing at Cardiff University, teaching students journalism and technical skills, he realised he could do something practical to give our partners in Sierra Leone and Uganda a voice to frame, direct and tell their own stories.
After what felt like a lightbulb moment, Steve set about adapting lesson plans from his UK mobile journalism course to deliver in Africa. “I was determined to equip our small teams with the skills to help them tell their own stories effectively.” Students in both countries were excited to learn the technical skills enabling professional content to be recorded on their smartphones. We helped them with interview techniques to get the best from their subjects. We also explored safeguarding issues and how to plan their filming effectively. It’s been fantastic to see the level of enthusiasm from our partners and their teams, with many of them using these new skills within hours of finishing the course.
This is only one of the practical ways we’ve adapted how we operate as a charity in light of the “Reframing the Narrative” series. This series has genuinely helped us to do better in the sector. We are so grateful to Hub Cymru Africa and The Sub-Sahara Advisory Panel for facilitating a timely, pivotal and vitally important learning journey, helping us to work more in-step with our partners.