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Update from IDEA Armenia training
Submitted by IDEA London Staff on 1 February 2012
The Youth In the 21st Century media and debate training camp, organized by IDEA and the Open Society Foundations, has reached its 8th day. A multinational team of teachers and coaches have spent more than a week providing intensive training in journalism and debating to some of Armenia’s most promising scholars and young activists.
An hour outside Yerevan, at an elevation of 6000 feet, veteran journalists Vanitha Nadaraj, Goran Igikj, Mite Kuzevski, Artur Papyan and Suren deheryan have been introducing their students to the complexities of journalistic ethics, digital documentary making, and interview technique. Participants were eager to take advantage of the camp’s satellite internet service, and the program’s courses on digital activism proved to be extremely popular.
Meanwhile Lublin University’s Sergey Naumoff, Anna Merkurievia of the St Petersburg debating association and IDEA UK’s Alexander Cavell, in cooperation with Armenian nationals Lucien Arakelyan and Anahit Galikyan, have been running exhaustive, high-impact lessons and exercises on every aspect of parliamentary debate. Over the last seven days IDEA’s trainers have drilled the Youth Camp students in logic, public speaking, structured speaking, rapid research, team building and public advocacy.
Many of young people accepted on to the program have a background in online content creation; a sizable number operate their own blogs or have careers in digital marketing. Having the drive and insight to set up complicated service-sector businesses in a developing democracy where 26% of the population lives below the poverty line is no mean feat. IDEA and the OSF have taken on the task of transforming this drive, passion and talent into a focused set of skills that will help these students to become the next generation Armenian leaders, innovators and business people.
In common with many of the other countries participating in the Youth in the 21st Century program, Armenia has no developed culture of university-level or post-graduate debating. Cooperating with Anahit and Lucien - who are already involved via the YES scheme in bringing debating to Armenian schools - IDEA’s trainers are attempting to establish a beachhead for structured, competitive debate among Armenia’s young adult population.
At the time of writing, camp participants have received lessons in almost every major aspect of debate theory with Alexander providing instruction in manner, style, interjections and rebuttal; Annahit and Lucien leading classes on case-building; and Sergey and Anna taking debaters through elementary logic, negative cases and role fulfillment. With practice sessions well underway, the participants have already formed into teams and are currently littering the camp’s class rooms and lecture halls with draft speeches.
The program’s debating component is proving to be the perfect complement to its journalism track. At every stage in the learning process IDEA’s debate trainers have striven to emphasize the underlying connections between public speaking and public communication.
The camps participants have reported that the note-taking techniques taught by the camp’s journalism trainers have improved their ability to record flows and rebuttals during debates. Other participants have found that regular practice debates have significantly enhanced their critical skills, allowing them to ask more insightful, engaging questions when recording practice interviews as part of their journalism-track assignments.
Above all, the program’s participants are gaining a new appreciation of the fluidity and flexibility of knowledge, and of their responsibility as future politicians and opinion formers to ensure that they communicate with their peers and the public in an open, empathetic and accountable fashion.
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