African Civic Engagement Academy's opening feature of Course 3-Media as a Bridge Between Civil Society and Government.    

Cox International Center Develops One Of Three African Civic Engagement Academy Courses

In the midst of the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research began its work in creating one of the three courses for the African Civic Engagement Academy (ACEA). The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of State's Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) program. It began in early 2020 and went live in September of 2021.

The Cox International Center is the international outreach unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The ACEA is a free online training program and networking opportunity offered to selected mid-career non-governmental organization (NGO) and public sector leaders across sub-Saharan Africa, who demonstrate leadership experience in NGO, non-profit or public sector roles. Potential participants must meet certain criteria in order to apply to the ACEA. The criteria include being between the ages of 30 and 45, serving in a leadership role with a civil society organization or a government unit responsible for engaging with the public, and demonstrating that they have led civic engagement efforts to advocate, engage and communicate in an all-inclusive way.

The three courses of the ACEA are: Course 1 - Principles of Civic Engagement, Course 2 - Political Inclusion, and Course 3 - Media Management. The Cox International Center designed and developed the third course, which explores the role of traditional and new media as a bridge between government and civil society.

This course that examines the role of media as a bridge between civil society and government contains five modules: Providing Accurate Information and Monitoring Government Activity; Fact checking and Combatting Fake News; Communicating with and for Citizenry; Visual Storytelling and the Use of Social Media; and Communication Ethics.

Each of the modules is available in English, French and Portuguese. The modules have a written script component, an audio part (recording) and a visual component that provide multiple ways to access the course for those who may not have a variety of internet options.

Creators of the content of the five modules in Course 3 of the ACEA are: Dr. Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center; Ms. Laurie Anglin, administrative specialist of the Cox International Center; and Mr. David Hazinski, emeritus professor of Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Instructors (the voices and translators of the content) for ACEA Course 3 modules are: Dr. Andreea Mogos (French instructor), Associate Dean at the College of Political, Administrative and Communication Sciences, Babes-Bolyai University, Cluj-Napoca, Romania; Dr. Luis Antonio Santos (Portuguese instructor), Journalism professor at Universidade do Minho, Portugal, and a researcher at the Communication and Society Research Centre; and Dr. Brandy Walker (English instructor), Associate faculty at the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, director of the Cox International Center, conducted interviews that add an important visual and audible component to the modules in Course 3. The first module contains an interview with Shamsuddeen Magaji, Special Assistant on Universal Basic Education to the Governor of Kaduna State, Nigeria. Magaji is a lawyer, writer, public commentator and social activist. The conversation with Vlad and Magaji encompasses principles of effective communication, government communications and the consistency of information, empowerment of women and children through education and societal help, traditional media’s relationship with government and NGO’s, and the role of social media in promoting civic engagement.

Module 2’s interview is with Mr. Daniel Funke, staff writer covering online misinformation for Politifact and previous Poynter institute fact-checking reporter. Vlad and Funke cover such topics as The Poynter Institute and its International Fact Checking Network (IFCN), Politifact and how it measures reported items as true, mostly true, mostly false, false or pants on fire, fact-checking possibilities for journalists, government communicators and NGOs, and utilizing fact-checking to combat fake news.

In Module 3 Vlad interviews Mr. Joseph Watson, the Carolyn Caudell Tieger Professor of Public Affairs Communication, Advertising & Public Relations at Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. Topics discussed were communication features of corporations, governments and NGOs, mistakes made by public communicators, the role of traditional media in communication with the public, risks and advantages of utilizing social media to communicate with citizens and how to be effective when communicating with the public.

Vlad interviews Dr. Wunpidi Fatimata Mohammed in Module 4 and discusses various aspects of visual and digital storytelling. Dr. Mohammed is an assistant professor at Grady College and teaches global media industries and entertainment. Vlad and Mohammad’s conversation includes areas such as bringing the story to decision-makers and citizens through storytelling, how citizen journalists, other bloggers, NGOs and media organizations with only limited resources bring important stories to the public, utilizing social media and other platforms to tell stories and reach those who read different languages and dialects, and internet connectivity risks and challenges.

Module 5’s conversation is with Vlad and Ms. Valerie Boyd, a professor of journalism and narrative nonfiction writing at the University of Georgia. Boyd and Vlad explore such topics as code of ethics – necessary or not, comparing ethics taught in journalism education to real world job ethics – similarities and differences, social media as the Great Equalizer, and combatting fake news and the manipulation of information in social media and other platforms.

Participants of the ACEA will also learn leadership development and strategic planning concepts. They will develop a peer-mentored Civic Engagement Action Plan where they identify steps to bring a civic engagement project to life in their community or government unit.

Those who successfully complete the ACEA coursework and submit a Civic Engagement Action Plan will receive a Certificate of Completion from the University of Georgia. In addition, up to 60 participants will be selected for an in-person African Civic Engagement Summit in 2022.