Review Part II, "The Art of Facilitation," especially the section on "Facilitating Human Rights Education," p. 29, which offers guidelines for making a presentation that not only conveys but also embodies human rights principles. Review also Part III, "How? Building Blocks for Human Rights Education," p. 45, which emphasizes the importance of including four principal components: thinking, feeling, learning skills, and taking action.
1. All Presentations
In addition, the following suggestions apply to presentations of any length and for any audience:
Don't assume any prior knowledge about human rights, but try to relate to what participants already know;
Emphasize the enjoyment of rights, not just the violation of rights. Too often human rights presentations alarm and upset by emphasizing violations without showing how human rights law establishes norms and standards for the people of the world;
Provide opportunities to link personal experience with human rights principles.
Focus on at least one human rights document. Give participants a copy and if possible engage them in an activity that uses the document. They need to know that a framework of international law defines and guarantees human rights.
Offer options for taking action, either during the presentation or afterwards. These might be as simple as signing a petition or writing a letter or more complex and long-term actions to address a concern. By doing so, you are modeling the importance of taking individual responsibility for human rights.
Give people something to take home, to read later or share with others. This might be a fact sheet that summarizes information on an issue or dispels myths, or a resource list of readings, Internet Web sites, or organizations working on a particular issue. If the participants are teachers, offer them lessons or handouts they can use with their students.
2. Short Presentations
Human rights educators are sometimes invited to make presentations that are ludicrously short for such a complex subject, yet no opportunity should be lightly rejected. Even a talk squeezed between the main course and the dessert at the monthly meeting of a civic organization may provide the audience with a valuable introduction to human rights.
Even when time is very limited, try to observe the points mentioned above. If you have a half-hour or less, don't take questions from the audience, but remain afterward to answer questions. Make a particular effort to leave people with something to read and reflect upon.
Workshops are by definition brief and "hands-on." However, with careful planning they can include all the points mentioned above and in Part III.B, "Building Blocks for Human Rights Education," although each may be very brief. Save time by conveying some information in the form of handouts to be read later. Prefer one in-depth activity to several short ones. If you have less than three hours, avoid showing a video. Keep participants focused on the issue, the document, and the activity. Some workshop models can be found in Part V, "Workshop Models for Human Rights Education," p. 118.
Conferences and conventions are a principal means for learning, exchanging views, networking, and affecting social or institutional change. However, they cost time and money for both organizers and participants. The following suggestions are intended to make conferences more enriching and participatory.
a. Conferences are for conferring!
Make every effort to help people
get together, meet the people with whom they share interests, and catch
up with old friends. These techniques can facilitate such interactions:
b. Panels can be deadly.
Panels usually model a TV interview format, which provides no dialogue between speakers and cultivates superficialities. Three or four "experts" speak to the audience but not to each other and then respond to a handful of questions from the audience, often intended to show off the knowledge of the questioner rather than probe the issue further. See Part IV, "Method 21: Presentations," p. 71, for some alternatives to panels.
c. Papers can be deadly.
Where experts come together to share papers, these papers should be distributed in advance so that the group meets to discuss the papers, not hear them for the first time. Questions or responses can thus be much more thoughtful and reasoned, even submitted in advance. When people are together, they need to be able to exchange ideas and ask questions, and debate, not just sit in respectful silence.
d. Corridor conversations are as important as keynote speeches.
A half-hour break, a communal meal, or a reception immediately following a presentation helps participants seek out those they want to engage further. Otherwise people easily grow frustrated. Also breaks, especially with food, fresh air, and natural light available, help raise everyone's blood sugar, good spirits, and attention span.
e. Most people think they are the only strangers at the conference.
Provide a way for participants to meet people and find their peers. At a really interactive conference, people are urged from the first day and given time to set up their own sub-groups (e.g., "Everybody who wants to talk about police brutality, meet at Table 3 for lunch"). Organizers can further facilitate by announcing these groups, posting their meeting times and places, and helping them find meeting places. Given the opportunity, such groups usually choose to meet more than once in a three-or-four-day conference and often lead to important alliances and professional collaborations.
f. Participants appreciate an opportunity to contribute.
Some of the best conference openings and closings occur when participants are invited to contribute (e.g., to read something that they liked and thought suitable). Organizers may be nervous not knowing just what is going to happen, but the songs, stories, and poetry that result are seldom disappointing.