Training policies, volunteer contracts and the never-ending capacity building

Most of the above mentioned training and capacity-building workshops and processes that EMPOWERHOUSE offers include advice on how to go about the need for capacity building during the different phases of the life of a station and how to deal effectively with community volunteer broadcasters.                                                                                                                           

In a community radio station capacity-building is never completed. Due to the nature of the radio and the fact that most of the programmers, technicians, managers and mobilisers are working on a volunteer basis, a natural, continual cycle of people leaving and new volunteers appearing will be the order of the day. While the initial influx will be almost automatic and spurred by the novelty of the community radio station, the continued renewal of the volunteer base — and securing its representativeness of the community — will require some strategic mobilisation efforts as described elsewhere on this site.

While some volunteers will manage to match their engagement in the radio with their work and private life on a longer-term basis, an important share of volunteers traditionally is young people. These people may move away from the community when one phase in their schooling ends, or when they realise that a volunteer position in the radio did not, after all, result in a paid job and formal training.

In any case, there will be some movement on an ongoing basis. And while some will lament the disappearance of a trained and capable volunteer community programmer, technician or manager, training a new one simply means that the radio station adds to the number of community members receiving a lot of skills and experience that can be of use far beyond the role in the life of a community radio station.

The continued loss of trained volunteers does, however, also mean that for the radio to continue on a sustainable basis, capacity building and training has to be an ongoing exercise. This is tackled in different ways. One of them is to have a community radio coach who can support the radio station on an ongoing basis, by running introduction training sessions with regular intervals, and by providing ongoing training of the corps of volunteers.

Ongoing training for all volunteers and staff is often integrated into a weekly or fortnightly planning-cum-evaluation session. This provides a forum for regular evaluation of areas identified as needing improvement. These sessions also provide opportunities to run crash-courses, short lectures by the coach, and for the sharing of advice by more experienced colleagues, etc. Based on this, the group can plan how to move forward with issues, themes, community challenges and volunteer development in the coming week or fortnight.

Training in this broad understanding becomes an ongoing, cyclical event, where all are learners and all have the potential of becoming trainers and ‘sharers’. This is lead by the station manager or a coach and adds one more aspect to the meaning of ‘empowerment radio’. 


Training, coaching, mentoring, interning, or?

Thousands of community radio training courses have been carried out and the results vary significantly. Many courses are organised on a national or regional level, bringing together perhaps one or two people from a number of different radio stations. These courses have the advantage that they can focus on very few thematic subjects, with which all of the participants work in their stations. They also often provide positive personal experiences and exchanges for the participants and offer them a broader sense of perspective on their own work situation. However, one of the core experiences over the past ten to fifteen years, on several continents is that such courses usually achieve very limited impact in the station, as returning participants find it difficult to apply newly acquired skills or changed attitudes in their ‘old’ environment, where the majority of people has not been exposed to the same training experience.

By contrast, coaching and ad-hoc or crash courses carried out at one radio station at a time with all station staff and volunteers usually have a powerful impact, provided that time and coach quality and background are adequate. This has the added benefit that coaching is usually more cost effective.

The best results will normally be achieved by a good mix of forms of capacity building activities. As always the specific choices to be made will depend on the specific objective of the capacity building, the target audience, the topic, the budget and feasibility. The following section provides brief introductions of the most commonly used ways of building capacity in community radio. The purpose is to provide an overview of their most important features, and to point out the various aspects that should enter into the specific consideration as to which (mix) of these tools would be the most appropriate for the given situation. Such considerations can be made on an ad hoc basis, or they could be included in an explicit training and capacity building policy (see further below). For more detailed descriptions of the various forms of capacity building, reference is made to the chapter on further reading.

Training policies, volunteer contracts and the never-ending capacity building

Contact EMPOWERHOUSE for advice on how to address the capacity building challenge you are facing: