Archive for July, 2009

One week to go….

July 28, 2009

… and Talk Together is gathering momentum.

Press interest in the course is continuing to mount, and we have a couple of TV crews and several journalists lined up to come and report on Talk Together. And we have today featured on the Forced Migration Online blog:;

In other news, the last minute places which have become available for UK and Norwegain participants are generating a great deal of interest. The Talk Together phone has been ringing incessantly, inundated with eager young prospective participants.

In other news we’ve received our first online donations.  The idea is not to raise heaps of money for Talk Together (although that would be a fantastic byproduct). Rather we would like a large number of people to make microdonations (£1 each), as a way of pledging support to the principles of Talk Together. And these are…

1.    It is always important to keep talking, to keep learning, to keep trying to understand.
2.    Young people are the future, and they may have interesting new ideas for the future.
3.    Sharing new ideas leads to greater understanding, and perhaps a better future for everyone.

Do you agree? If so, you might like to put down a £1 to show your support.;


Two weeks to go…

July 23, 2009

…and the draft schedule for the course is in place. Course director Andy has been wrestling with the logistical conundrum of slotting in the various contributors, and it’s quite a task. These are busy people. Some are presenting papers in person, others are going to be our virtual guests, hooking up with the Talk Together participants over Skype.

I’m looking forward to the Model United Nations session where the participants will be using what they learn about Western Sahara, flexing their newly developed negotiation skills, and debating the situation at hand. They’ll be challenged to argue positions that they do not agree with. Difficult in one’s mother tongue and even more tricky in a second or third language.

The film crew will of course be poised to capture what happens. The full team’s now  in place and the plans for technical set up are forming. The crew will be on site a couple of days before the participants so they can familiarise themselves with the site, and walk through their plans with the course facilitator.

Meanwhile the Talk Together team’s been working with an organisation called Achordus, which is generously providing a fully supported online discussion space for Talk Together. In the interests of encouraging engagement, from Monday the Talk Together participants will be able to communicate with each other for the first time.

They’ll share their hopes and expectations about the course and begin to establish the understanding on which the course will be based. The dialogue will continue after the participants have returned home. They will report back on how their new ideas and experiences have been received by their families and friends, and work together to determine the best way forward.

And from the infrastructure underpinning the fundamental principles of the course, to the tricky little details of funding considerations. I’ve been checking out the obligations we have in order to secure our full 40,000 euro grant under the EU Youth In Action programme.

We have to provide evidence the course has taken place as proposed. Alongside the comprehensive reports and feedback, we need to hand over the flight boarding cards of all those travelling by air to the UK. Making sure all those important little bits of cardboard survive the excitement of the journey and end up in a neat pile in Oxford is a real test of leadership for the Talk Together team. It’s not only the participants’ communication that’s being developed this summer.

Three weeks to go….

July 17, 2009

… and our participants have started preparing for the course in earnest. They are making films of their everyday lives to share with other participants. Life in Morocco and life in Tindouf and life in Layounne (and in the other participants’ countries) are all very different. Understanding where everyone else is coming from is an important part of the course.

Some of this footage may end up in the documentary we’re making of the project. The idea is that the highly personal and edgy nature of this material, interwoven with professionally shot material, will bring the film to life.

The students are also writing blogs, detailing their feelings as they prepare to leave their homes and travel to Oxford. It’s going to be interesting to read their perspectives on the course, and – for some of them – their first trip overseas. They’ve also been asked to bring an object with them that says something about themselves or their homes.

This week also saw the completion of a preview trailer for the course. It was fascinating to see the creative ideas behind the film take shape.

Johnny and Ade on the film team have been recruiting their crew of camera people, production assistants and runners. The more I learn about the film process the more complicated it seems. There will be dozens of students, and thousands of inactions, both in class and out of class. The film crew need to make sure they capture all the important and telling pieces of the action and then keep track of them. They ordered 300 DV tapes this week. That will be a lot of footage!

On the logistical front, the first tranche of students’ flights has been booked, leaving a big smile on the face of course director Andy. He’s been putting the finishing touches to the course schedule. There have been some inevitable last minute changes with glimpses of a few exciting new additions on the horizon.

And our website has undergone an overhaul. Check out the UWC Talk Together livery. Or have a poke around in the news section and find links to the feature that was published in the Oxford Mail’s education handbook recently. Let us know what you think.

(Website hint: If you aren’t seeing the UWC interlocking globes logo at the top of each webpage, you need to go into Tools in your browser and hit ‘clear private data/cache’ or similar.)

Four weeks to go…

July 6, 2009

……. and the final pieces are slotting into place.

The Talk Together film crew looked over the site last week and were pleased with what they found amongst the quads and cloisters of St Edwards. On a sunny day in Oxford it’s a striking environment and a real contrast to the vast desert flatlands of Western Sahara, and refugee camps in Algeria where some of our students will travel from next month.

These highly contrasting environments are highly photogenic for wildly differing reasons. I wonder how the students from North Africa (whether living in Morocco, Western Sahara, or Algeria) will react to their new temporary home?

The team’s now on the search for an Arabic speaking camerawoman. Have you seen one hanging around lately? The Talk Together film crew is hatching a plan on how best to capture the action during Talk Together fortnight. While much of the action will take place in the classroom (or dance floor – during the tango for conflict resolution sessions), it’s likely that some of the most telling interactions will happen in the corridors and students rooms. Hence the preference for a female camera operator. And if she speaks Arabic then so much the better.

In other film news, the team’s just heard their latest funding application has gone through to the next round. Fingers crossed.