The SEL activities helped the learners identify key strengths and weaknesses in affecting change. Learners had an opportunity to identify those changemakers they know and what characteristics they have that make them effective. The learners were encouraged to apply this to themselves and look for ways to improve.
In the Media analysis unit, learners had the opportunity to explore how messages are spread online by mobilising an “army of haters” and then considering how this can be “flipped” to mobilise an army of activists.
In this Media production unit, learners will explore the structure and use of counter-narrative campaigns as a means of disrupting hate speech and influencing an audience.
These questions are provided as examples to initiate and guide discussions around the topic in this focus area.
- What is a counter-narrative strategy?
- Have you ever seen any examples of a counter-narrative? Where did you see it and what was it in response to?
- If someone was saying something that you knew to be untrue, how would you go about convincing everyone else of the truth? Would calling that person “a liar” work?
- What skills/qualities would you need to make a counter-narrative work? (e.g. calm demeanour, logical thinking, determination, clear communication skills, etc.)
The SELMA project short definition of hate speech is:
“Any online content targeting someone based on protected characteristics with the intent or likely effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination.”
Create a counter-narrative campaign
Explain to the group that they are going to attempt to create a counter-narrative campaign combating online hate speech.
Note that this activity is open ended and learners could spend a long time developing their plan. The purpose of this activity is not to develop a fully-formed plan, but to introduce learners to the broad concept of counter-narrative plans. Some learners may achieve more than others in the time available to you and some may wish to translate their ideas into actions. While this may be the natural conclusion for this activity, caution should be exercised and only learners with a sufficiently developed idea and good levels of emotional resilience should be permitted to take action. A good way to manage this would be to collect the plans back in afterwards and act as a “gatekeeper” only allowing those ideas with a strong plan and resilience to proceed into action.
According to The Counter-Narrative Handbook from the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a counter-narrative is:
“...a message that offers a positive alternative to extremist propaganda, or alternatively aims to deconstruct or delegitimise extremist narratives.”
Explain (and, if you have time, explore with the learners) that many grassroots organisations have been actively targeting online hate speech and that these have been growing in recent years. These tend to be focussed on an issue that is personal, local and relevant to the members of the organisation.
Share this film introducing what counter-narratives are from Against Violent Extremism on YouTube.
Then split the group down into smaller groups; 3-5 learners is a good size.
Provide each member of the group with a copy of the Create a counter-narrative - Planning sheets.
Explain that each group needs to design a counter-narrative plan and all learners should complete a sheet.
Highlight that all learners should ensure that there is relevant information in every provided box of the template and explain that the purpose is not to completely plan the campaign in intricate detail.
To guide the planning process, provide learners with a range of scenario cards - ask them to select one scenario and plan their counter-narrative strategy accordingly using the planning sheets. (Alternatively, learners may wish to use an example they have witnessed online.)
Depending on the groups selected, some learners may benefit from selecting a “response card”; this will focus their attention on a particular style of response that their counter-narrative plan should adopt and use.
Learners may find it useful to view the Creativity in Counter-Narratives and Social Media and Counter-Narratives from Against Violent Extremism on YouTube before starting work. This story from Germany about how a far-right party’s advent calendar was mocked online is a great piece, showing how humour can be used as a counter-narrative.
Once learners have sufficiently developed their plans, draw the group back together.
Where time allows, ask some/all groups to share their plans as developed. Discuss and ask the remaining learners to provide constructive feedback.
Collect in all the plans and ask if learners feel they would consider using their plan if they had the opportunity to do so.
If time allows, you may wish to provide an opportunity for groups to create some of the content they wish to use in their campaigns. This may take the form of video, text, image, brochure/poster/infographic, audio, comic, and so on. (If learners have previously completed activities from Theme 4, they may already have memes or other humorous messages that could be repurposed for their counter-narrative campaign).
Learners may therefore require access to technology and a variety of online tools to create their content. This should be facilitated wherever possible.
Understand how to develop a counter-narrative campaign. Demonstrate understanding of the strategies individuals can use when countering online hate speech.