Saturday, June 16, 2012

PJ-counterterrorism project seeks lasting impact in Uganda

This weeks's training the trainer seminar in Kampala.
The four of us who have conducted the peace media and counterterrorism trainings this last month or so in Uganda have begun ribbing one another about our lessons and presentations, poking fun at my PSA, for example. We’ve had the most fun lampooning a presentation made by John Hamilton wherein he talks about pebbles making tiny ripples in a pond while big rocks make large waves.

In the last day of our last seminar today, Carol Getty, in an act that can best be described as “yanking the chain” of myself and my other Park University colleague Ken Christopher, insisted on giving Hamilton’s pond/rocks lecture. While I was watching, as much as I hate to admit it, I realized that the presentation was prophetic.

Training the trainer, Kampala
As we wrap up our Ugandan courses, I realize that John, Ken, Carol and I have thrown a number of rocks into some Ugandan ponds during the last four weeks.

Some of these rocks have landed in ponds patrolled by Ugandan security forces, the army and police. They came to our seminars with distaste for journalism and individual journalists, and a disdain for the professionalism of reporters. They did not leave our seminars adoring the journalists, but I believe that they did acquire a better understanding about the needs of journalists and the business of the profession. I am hopeful that security forces left our workshops with a bit more respect for journalists.

We tossed other rocks in ponds overseen by local government officials, called LC’s here (Local Councils). They came to our seminars with the same negative attitudes about journalists. Like their security brethren, I believe they left with a greater understanding of journalism and of the need to cooperate with journalists to disseminate anti-terrorism messages.

Training the trainer, Kampala
As for the journalists, they came in with low opinions of both security and government. I’m hopeful they left with a better appreciate the awesome responsibility security and government officials have in keeping the public safe. And I believe the reporters, and the journalism trainers who we taught the last three days (training the trainer), have a better understanding now of their role in working with public officials to keep Uganda safe.

What we don’t know yet is how far our ripples will travel. Our project coordinator Gloria Laker of the Peace Journalism Foundation will be conducting a comprehensive survey in a few months to collect data about the impact of our U.S. State Department-sponsored project. But as I’ve implied, based on the positive, even enthusiastic response from the 110 or so seminar attendees we’ve trained in the last month, I will be surprised if our work here doesn’t have a deep, lasting impact.

On a Personal Note...

I’ve taught 50 or so seminars now in Uganda, but these last six with my colleagues Ken Christopher, Carol Getty, and John Hamilton have been, by far, the best—the best instruction, the best feedback from students, the best discourse, the best everything. I screw up fairly frequently, so I will pat myself on the back for selecting these three outstanding Park University professors for my Uganda team. They were terrific instructors and companions. Thank you, Ken, Carol, and John.

BTW, colleagues, I am already planning our next collaboration.

(Photo: Ken Christopher, front; Carol Getty and John Hamilton, behind; yours truly, back left. Photo stolen from Ken Christopher's blog).


  1. Carol's final addition of the pond ripples metaphor was a classic. But Steve is right - from my vantage point as a novice in understanding PJ, I can see through 6 seminars that we have been able to "make a few waves." At least 2 or 3 attendees have reached out to me persoanlly expressing their gratitude and their pledge to use this dialog in their future interactions.

    I appreciate Steve's reflections about the quality of this education over the past few weeks. Personally this experience has been rewarding on multiple levels. I made some new and I hope lasting friendships. I was able to work professionally, and also live, with my Park University colleagues, Carol Getty, John Hamilton, and Steve Yougblood. I met and worked with an outstanding peace journalist, Gloria Laker, a true role model for professionals in ANY field. And, I was able to live for just a brief time in a part of the world I thought I would never see. Thanks again Steve for the opportunity. As I said in my seminars, we yough people one at a time in life to make differences-- I believe this project is touching MANY people.
    -Ken Christopher 6-18-12

  2. It was classic Carol Getty sneaking in that final pebble/rock in a pond metaphor. But, Steve is right—our efforts do seem to be engaging attendees in Uganda into changing behaviors and using this dialog to advance PJ and conflict resolution strategies in productive ways to reduce risks of extremism growing into violence. I know personally several attendees have reached out to me to advance the dialog one way or another.

    I want to thank Steve again for this opportunity. The ability to work (and share daily life with) my professional colleagues from Park University, Carol Getty, John Hamilton, and Steve Youngblood, is priceless in terms of developing our collaborative energy and sharing ideas to advance education. Personally, I have made some new and I hope lasting friendships. Working with Gloria Laker has been a pleasure – she is a true professional—dedicated to her mission in Peace Journalism – what a role model for other Ugandans, and really anyone who wants to achieve a goals . Thank you again Steve for this opportunity and the work you are doing.
    Ken Christopher 6-18-12