Global community-building exercise brings goose bumps

Participants at a Global Media Forum workshop experienced community building through breaking into groups of three to discuss questions around their commitments, work, gifts and possibilities.

Participants at a Global Media Forum workshop experienced community building through breaking into groups of three to discuss questions around their commitments, work, gifts and possibilities.

When Chuck Peters saw news media colleagues from Europe, Asia and Africa in rich conversation and connection about community engagement efforts at a Global Media Forum workshop in Bonn, Germany last week, he got goose bumps.

Chuck co-facilitated the workshop on Day 1 of the Deutsche Welle Global Media Forum, held from June 30 to July 2.

Rather than fill the time with the facilitators sharing their work — a common approach at the event — the session’s five panelists each took just one minute to share what brought them to the room. For the rest of the time, participants experienced a community-building exercise that drew them into deep discussions in groups of three.

Workshop co-facilitators Travis J. Bockenstedt, Chuck Peters, Dr. Penni Pier and Peter Pula at the Global Media Forum.

Workshop co-facilitators Travis J. Bockenstedt, Chuck Peters, Dr. Penni Pier and Peter Pula at the Global Media Forum.

“I could not have asked for better engagement and development than occurred in those 90 minutes with people from all over the world,” says Chuck, CEO and president of The Gazette Company in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Participants encountered each other through questions including: Why did you come to this room at this time? What common themes do you see amongst the three of you? What issues are facing your community and how could journalists engage in those issues? What gifts do you bring to a global community trying to develop best practices on these issues?

After sharing in their small groups, the room came back together with an invitation to reflect their conversations to the large group. Then participants created new groups of three for the next question.

Chuck’s participation at the Global Media Forum was spurred by an invitation from Waverly, Iowa-based Wartburg College, which hosted the workshop, entitled “A blueprint for building communities: Applying community-building practices to a news media company.”

The Gazette Company is experimenting with how a community can create and share meaningful local information that creates needed change.

Flags outside the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany.

Flags outside the Global Media Forum in Bonn, Germany.

In addition to Chuck, facilitators included Travis J. Bockenstedt, a multimedia producer in residence at Wartburg College Department of Communication Arts (who moderated the workshop); Dr. Penni Pier, Wartburg College Department of Communication Arts department chair; Peter Pula, Axiom News founder and CEO; and Benjamin Smith, an applied anthropologist.

“It was a many-to-many conversation. That was symbolic, given that so much media is still ‘one-to-many’,” says Peter.

“It was only fitting that we partnered with Axiom News and The Gazette Company to engage in a conversation about community building,” Travis says. The college’s Department of Journalism and Communication deeply values relationships that help it engage in conversation about using news media to build local communities, he says.

Travis says he was impressed to learn more about the work of The Gazette Company and Axiom News. Thanks to their participation, he describes it as the best workshop in three years.

“It was amazing to watch the panel members work and engage the room. In 90 short minutes we had people from around the globe uniting in a shared voice.”

Benjamin Smith, one of the co-facilitators, interacting with participants at the workshop.

Benjamin Smith, one of the co-facilitators, interacting with participants at the workshop.

“If we can create a platform through media to help complete strangers engage in constructive conversations, it gives me hope that mass media can enable audiences to create positive social change.”

Penni says she was struck by the trust the workshop members put into the group sharing and co-creating process.

“It was humbling and inspirational to see the genuine interest those attending had in one another. Hearing stories of remarkable effort in communities around the world was truly a blessing to be witness to.”

The workshop ended with Peter inviting the group to stand in a circle and give a two to five word impression of their time together. Penni says it was a great moment, “so incredibility positive and reaffirming.”

The facilitators are hopeful that the connections made will continue to develop. Many participants shared their contact information with Penni, who will look to create a virtual connection space. She also plans to compile a document illuminating the gifts each participant is willing to share with the group.

“It is my hope that the workshop session continues to be a living entity with a goal of enriching the communities we serve,” says Penni.

Co-facilitator Peter Pula.

Co-facilitator Peter Pula.

Travis says he hopes to see more “community-building evangelists” emerge, and expose more people and organizations to this type of work. “The way we communicate with our audiences has changed. The opportunity for an institution of higher learning like Wartburg College to engage with organizations working to constructively disrupt journalism is important for our journalism program and our students,” he says.

A book Chuck and Benjamin are working on, called Patterns of Community, will be made available to the workshop members.

“I’m impressed by so many good people doing so many good things around the world,” Chuck says.

“We are just beginning on the conversation on how we can work better together to construct accessible, local knowledge — but there seems to be a lot of interest in it, a lot of affirmation it is a worthy activity.”

Read Related Story:
Chuck Peters to co-facilitate ‘experiment’ at Global Media Forum

Read AxiomNews.com’s related story on this workshop.

Writer: Jennifer Neutel

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These stories are part of an open exploration of the personalities and possibilities present in The Gazette Company and its partnerships. Articles appearing here are produced on behalf of The Gazette Company by a third-party communications company, Axiom News, and do not necessarily represent the products or the opinion of The Gazette Company. They are intended to amplify authentic voices as the company discovers anew its gifts and future.