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Investigation is Collaboration: How to Make it Work

This workshop introduces participants to practical ways of finding common ground for working together while navigating and addressing key aspects such as ethics, motivation, context, experiences, goals, etc. Through various exercises, participants will become aware of, and help manage situations where varying reasons and differences can make it hard for people to collaborate, with the aim to understand the collective methods that would enable a team to contribute to the project to the best of their ability.

Workshop Overview

Topic: Investigation is Collaboration: methods, tips and tested practices on how to form a team and manage a collaboration process.

Aims:

  • To introduce participants to practical ways of finding common ground for working together while navigating and addressing key aspects such as ethics, motivation, context, experiences, goals, etc.
  • To raise awareness on and help manage situations where varying reasons and differences can make it hard for people to collaborate.
  • To address individual needs and understand the collective methods that would enable a team to contribute to the project to the best of their ability.

Learning Outcomes

  • Know how to set up a collaborative (investigative) project from start to end.
  • Address challenges in a collaborative project.
  • Discover ways to protect individual and group needs and interests in a collaborative project.
  • Identify and address risks when working in a team.

General guidelines for trainers:

  • This workshop is highly collaborative, focusing on facilitated group activities and discussions rather than trainer's presentations. You can intervene with advice and tips all throughout the workshop, using the activity introductions or debriefing sections to sum up main points.
  • The timeline can be divided into 40-60 minute long activity units / sessions. Between sessions a short break or a quick energizer activity can be added.
  • For small group activities, divide participants into groups of 3-5 people. You can assign roles within each group depending on the number of participants and type of activities. The roles can include Facilitator, Recorder/Note-taker, Timekeeper, Presenter, Artist (if a visual presentation is required.)
  • For online workshops, we recommend sharing a timer on the screen during energizers and small group activities.
  • Whenever possible, adapt the workshop examples to the context of your audience.

Mode of delivery: online / in-person workshops

Workshop duration (without breaks): 4 hours and 40 minutes

Number of participants: 6 to 24

Note for trainers:

  • The final duration of each exercise might vary slightly depending on the number of participants and practice groups / teams. This will influence the time needed for teams to share their input with the overall group.
  • Aim to keep the same teams throughout the entire workshop. Practicing different tasks together will foster collaboration as well as save time over introductions or coming up with new topics and scenarios.

Related workshops:

  • This workshop can be combined with the "Crowdsourcing" and "Safety First" workshops.

Related Exposing the Invisible articles, guides, videos:

Workshop activities and templates, to download:

Learning Activities

Opening (15 minutes)

Workshop Introduction

Read Watch Listen | 5 minutes

Instructions

  • Grab attention by posing a question or commenting on a relevant topic, image, etc.

  • Introduce yourself and the goals of the workshop.

  • Optional: Introduce the source of the workshop material (Tactical Tech.)

  • Explain what links and material will be available at the end of the training.

  • Suggest ground rules for the workshop. Ask participants whether they would like to modify your suggestions or suggest other rules. Ensure that everybody understands and agrees with the ground rules. Specific suggestions about setting ground rules are available in the Facilitator's Guide, section on "Delivering the Workshops".

Participants' introductions / Icebreaker

Produce | 10 minutes

Instructions

  • Make a quick round of introductions by asking participants to answer to a couple of questions about themselves, their work, their workshop expectations, etc.

  • Alternatively, you can pick an icebreaker exercise that encourages participants to get creative by drawing answers or ideas on an online whiteboard or, if off-line, stand up and perform some tasks. Check the Icebreakers section in the ETI Facilitator's Guide for inspiration.

Setting the Stage for Collaboration (1 hour)

Finding a common ground

Collaborate | 30 minutes

Aims:

  • Participants find common ground for working / investigating together as a team, related to shared ethics, motivation, experiences and goals.

  • The exercise can also raise awareness of any possible reasons or differences that would make it hard for them to work together.

  • Groups should have the option of saying if they won't be able to work together for some reason. This will help clarify their "non-negotiables" (differences they cannot overcome), and also prepare them to say "no", which is not always easy.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Finding a common ground" (online or printed.)
  • A shared cloud space with editable files or a digital whiteboard with the templates: Miro, Mural etc. (if online.)
  • Online break-out rooms / separate room areas, tables (if offline.)
  • Individual sheets of paper, sticky notes, post-its, pens (if offline.)

Instructions

  • Divide the participants into small groups of 3-5 members.

  • Assign a note-taker and a presenter for each group; these role should rotate within a team in the next activities.

[15 minutes]

Group task:

  • Each person in the group shares with the other members:

    • three ethics of investigation / research important to them
    • three methods of investigation / research they like to use
    • three investigations / research projects they have done in the past (if someone is a new investigator they can share other kinds of work they have done)
    • three results they hope to achieve as investigators
  • A note-taker writes the answers.

  • The group discusses if common ground can be achieved based on the listed individual priorities and experiences.

[15 minutes] Debriefing

  • Ask a representative of each group to summarise their answers in maximum 2 minutes, focusing on:

    • The group's conclusion: can they work together as a collaborative investigative team, or not?
    • If yes, what are the factors that led them to this conclusion?
    • If not, what are the reasons the group cannot be compatible as a team?
  • Wrap up the activity, provide feedback and facilitate discussion among groups as needed.

In addition, facilitate the formation of new groups for the next activities, in case major incompatibilities have been identified in the current teams.

Common working agreement, code of conduct

Collaborate | 30 minutes

Aim:

  • Address individual needs and understand the collective methods that would enable the team to contribute to the project to the best of their ability.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Common working agreement, code of conduct" (online or printed.)
  • Same as previous session.

Instructions

Prepare in advance and share a slide or a pre-filled flip-chart paper (if offline), with the following details regarding a Collective Working Agreement or Common Code of Conduct (the slide/paper should be visible throughout the activity):

  • A Collective Agreement comprises a team's decisions on issues such as:

    • ways of decision making,
    • ethics,
    • frequency of communication and meetings,
    • rules of communication – no shouting / name calling / cutting another person off when they're speaking, etc.,
    • non-negotiables – saying no to things like sexism, racism, arbitrary decision making, etc.,
    • desired aim and impact of the investigation,
    • dealing with crises – e.g. sitting together to understand what happened, why it happened, and how to fix it without getting into a blame game,
    • safety – sharing risks, prioritising individual/collective safety over collection of evidence, etc.,
    • any additional factors that help each person give their best to the project, from taking proper weekend breaks to personal check-ins.
  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

If new groups need to form because of possible incompatibilities identified in the previous exercise, it is recommended that the new teams remain the same from here on.

[20 minutes]

Group task:

  • Discuss the conditions that would make it an ideal working environment for the team. This could comprise both individual preferences and collective concerns.

    • For example, it could be an individual preference to end each working day at 18:00 CET. After each team member shares their ideal working hours, the collective could arrive at a common schedule that suits everyone, whether working in the same space or remotely.
  • Draft a Collective Agreement that can comprise the team's decisions on issues presented above, and other issues they might come up with. – Teams can use the template provided or create their own

  • Each team member should take time to think about their non-negotiables and share them without hesitation.

  • The team lists all their conditions and collective agreement items on a large sheet of paper or an online whiteboard / cloud document, etc.

[10 minutes]

  • A representative of each group summarises main points in 1 minute, to the larger group.

  • If the workshop is in-person/offline, sheets can be hung on the wall and participants walk around to read other teams' materials (gallery walk activity).

  • Wrap up the activity, provide feedback or facilitate discussion.

Working Together During an Investigation (1 hour and 40 minutes)

Planning a collaborative project

Collaborate | 30 minutes

Aim: To understand the importance and impact of the investigation, and make a general plan of action and funding.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Planning a collaborative project" (online or printed.)
  • Same as previous session.

Instructions

[20 minutes]

  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

Group task:

  • Each team chooses one investigation topic and draws a chronological plan for the execution of the project, emphasizing the main steps / stages of the project.

  • The topic can be hypothetical or a concrete case that someone in the team has worked on (beware of sharing any confidential details!)

  • Based on their topic, each team answers these questions:

    • What does the investigation hope to reveal?
    • Why is the investigation important?
    • Who would benefit from it and how?
    • What is the expected impact?
    • Why is this team best suited to implement the project? What are the team's individual and collective strengths?
    • What is the dissemination plan? What formats and platforms would the investigation results be available in?
    • If others in the past have also worked on the topic, what are the new / unreported aspects the team would address?
    • What are the logistic and financial needs for the project?
    • Summing up – What are the main aspects that would make the project a strong candidate to receive funding for the team's work?

[10 minutes] Debriefing

  • A representative of each group summarises their team's topic and answers, max. 2 minutes each.

  • Wrap up the activity with feedback and facilitated discussion.

Varying skills, different kinds of impact

Collaborate | 40 minutes

Aim:

  • To understand and utilise the unique skill set and experience of each team member, and to identify additional skills that the team might need to outsource.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Varying skills, different kinds of impact" (online or printed.)
  • Same as previous session.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

  • Encourage teams to assign a Facilitator and a Note-Taker in each group – ideally a different person should be assigned as a Note Taker in each activity.

Group tasks:

[15 minutes]

  • In their teams, participants take 1 minute to reflect individually about their abilities and limitations and how to utilize their skills and experience.

  • Each member then takes 2 minutes to share/write down their skills and abilities related to the investigation , such as:

    • their relevant past work experience, interest areas, languages they speak, etc.
    • one skill they feel most confident about, and how they can use that skill for the benefit of the investigation (for example, an artist can propose a set of drawings they could create to present a summary of the investigation).
  • The note-taker and facilitator keep track of notes and timing.

  • After everyone has shared their abilities, the note-taker or facilitator can read the list of skills and experience, emphasizing what would be most useful for the investigation.

[10 minutes]

  • Still in teams, members list and divide the roles they would fulfil in the collaborative project.

  • For instance, if there are four members, in addition to conducting research, they could allocate roles as follows (the list is not exhaustive):

    • coordinate project admin, timeline, and communications with external groups, funders, etc.;
    • find and coordinate all the tools and knowledge the team needs in order to complete the investigation, for instance: verification tools, data visualization techniques and tools, learning guides, additional training;
    • manage all the data collected by the researchers, including gathering, indexing, cleaning, sharing the data within the team;
    • create and manage a distribution plan to broadcast the results of the investigation.

[5 minutes]

  • Each team tries to imagine the advanced stages of their investigation, and at least one kind of skill / assistance they might require that currently does not exist within the team.

    • For example, the project might need someone with experience using GPS and mapping for investigations, or analysis and verification of video evidence.

Depending on the size of groups and time available, for the purpose of this exercise, you can also use the interview technique to diversify some activities. For example: form sub-groups of 2 in each team, where each person assumes the role of an interviewer and an interviewee. Keeping the tone of an informal conversation, X interviews Y about their past work experience, interest areas, the languages they speak, etc., taking notes (5 minutes). Then, they switch roles and Y interviews X (5 minutes). Then each member shares within the group the skills and experience they noted about their partner, which would be useful for the investigation.

[10 minutes] Debriefing

  • A representative of each group shares findings with the others, max. 2 minutes each.

  • Trainer provides feedback and facilitates a discussion.

Tackling challenges as a team

Collaborate | 30 minutes

Aim:

  • To prepare the team for working together in crisis.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Tackling challenges as a team" (online or printed.)
  • Same as previous session.

Instructions

  • Prepare in advance a set of cards (online or printed) with each card mentioning a possible challenge an investigative team might face. These could be:

    • You are at a crucial stage of your project and have run out of budget.
    • A team member has decided to quit the project.
    • Your investigation is finalised but none of the media organisations you have contacted is willing to publish your results.
    • Powerful interest groups are threatening one of your team members against revealing the findings of the investigation.
    • You need to communicate with a team member but are not able to access them because of their remote location / an internet shut-down in their area, etc.
    • ...
  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

[15 minutes]

  • Each team picks a card, discusses, and arrive at a consensus on how to proceed in the face of that challenge.

[15 minutes] Debriefing

  • Each team then shares their decisions with the bigger group, max. 2 minutes each (sharing with the bigger group is valuable because there could be a lot of learning from each other.)

  • Trainer provides feedback and facilitates discussion.

Managing Risk as a Team (1 hour and 30 minutes)

Collective risk assessment

Collaborate | 40 minutes

Aim:

  • Knowing the kinds of risks the team could be exposed to before, during, after the investigation.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Collective risk assessment: A. / B. / C." (online or printed.)
  • Other necessary tools: same as previous session.
  • A pre-designed short trainer presentation / slides summing up main points related to risk assessment and risk management.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

[5 minutes]

  • Each team writes on their sheet of paper / shared file online, using the template provided:

    • the topic of the investigation,
    • the locations involved,
    • the sources / interviewees involved,
    • the people / organisations who would be impacted by the investigation results.

[10 minutes]

  • Every team member lists the risks they might be exposed to individually during the investigation because of their identity, present / past affiliations, location, health, etc.

    • for example, person A, who belongs to a location outside of the site of investigation, could risk raising suspicions as a foreigner.
  • Each member then reads their list aloud to their team.

[10 minutes]

  • Teams create another list that enumerates all other possible risks involved.

  • The risks to the team as well as all the people involved (sources/communities) should be taken into account.

Debriefing

[15 minutes]

  • Each team shares their list of identified risks with the larger group, max. 2 minutes each.

  • Wrap up the activity by sharing feedback.

  • Prepare and give a short presentation summing up important considerations regarding risk, including:

    • bring up the concept "risk is inherited" to highlight that the risks of one team member or source influences the risk levels and safety of the entire project team, and the other way around;
    • encourage participants to think of risks in categories: emotional, mental, physical, legal and logistical (e.g. getting overwhelmed with huge data sets) and find ways to address each risk on its own as well as holistically;
    • refer to examples addressed by groups during their activities to illustrate your points.

RESOURCES for a presentation / discussion on risk and safety:

Facing risks as a team

Collaborate | 30 minutes

Aim:

  • Preparing for the worst and the unexpected.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Facing risks as a team" (online or printed.)
  • Other necessary tools: same as previous session.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

[15 minutes]

  • With the above-listed risks as the premise, teams list the resources they would need to counter their risks.

  • These could be human or financial resources, or related to tangible objects, skills, etc.. For instance:

    • in terms of a legal risk, the team might need to find a lawyer (skill / experience) and money (financial resources) to pay them,
    • for a digital security risk, the team would need the services of an ethical hacker / coder (skill) and an external drive (material / tangible resource),
    • if a team member with a unique skill abandons the project, the team might need to find replacement, reallocate duties (human resource, skill.)

Debriefing

[15 minutes]

  • Each team shares their list of identified risks with the larger group, max. 2 minutes each.

  • Trainer provides feedback and facilitates discussion.

Exit plan

Collaborate | 20 minutes

Aim:

  • To be able to safely get out of risky situations.

Tools / Materials:

  • "Activity Templates" file, section on "Exit plan" (online or printed.)
  • Other necessary tools: same as previous session.

Instructions

  • Ask participants to return to their groups (same teams as before.)

  • You can assign each group to address one or more specific risk scenarios from the previously listed examples, or allow them to choose.

[10 minutes]

  • Each team draws a plan to exit unsafe situations.

  • The plan could contain elements such as:

    • a security question a member could virtually ask an on-ground team mate to check if they are safe, with one answer indicating they are safe and another answer indicating there is a threat,
    • emergency local contacts: names and phone numbers – e.g. ambulance / NGO / colleagues,
    • emergency family contacts: names and phone numbers,
    • strategy in case hostile actors ask / threaten members to give up their evidence – e.g. backing up data every day at a safe location so nothing gets lost in such situations, saving information about sites and sources in a safe cloud space in case the evidence needs to be rebuilt or retraced from scratch, etc.,
    • strategy if members face the threat of physical aggression – mode of transport to be taken during exit, name and phone number of the driver, etc..

Debriefing

[10 minutes]

  • Each team shares their list of identified risks with the larger group, max. 2 minutes each.

  • Trainer provides feedback and facilitates discussion, emphasizing any important risk assessment and risk management points to be remembered.

Closure (15 minutes)

Wrap-up Activity: Takeaway Poster

Produce | 5 minutes

Tools/Materials

  • Shared drawing pad / slide / whiteboard (online)
  • Whiteboard / flip-chart paper, post-its, markers (offline)

Instructions

  • Ask participants to create a takeaway poster by sharing their answers to the following question in the shared whiteboard / drawing board:

    • What are your main takeaways from today's workshop?
  • Give participants a few minutes to write and/or draw their thoughts and read the thoughts of others.

Debriefing

  • Highlight some of the points on the board.
Conclusion

Read Watch Listen | 10 minutes

Tools/Materials: No materials needed.

Instructions

  • Wrap up the workshop and sum up its contents.

  • Run a quick review of the session. Each participants would say:

    • one thing they found very good about the session and
    • one thing they would improve for the next time
  • Encourage participants to ask questions or give some final tips.

  • Share contact information if relevant and any follow-up details.

To keep participants informed about what is going on at all times, trainers can effectively sum up workshop contents following these steps:

    1. [in the introduction] tell participants what is going to happen;
    1. [during each part of the session / workshop] remind them what is happening;
    1. [at the end of the session/workshop] tell them what just happened. In addition, at the end, trainers need to make sure they point out which expectation have been addressed.

Contact Us

Please reach out to us at Exposing the Invisible if you:

  • have any questions about this workshop plan and facilitation guidelines,
  • use this workshop plan and want to share feedback and suggestions that can help to improve them,
  • adapt the workshop plan to a specific context and want to share the results with us,
  • want to suggest new activities, tips or examples that can be added to this workshop,
  • want to share your expertise and collaborate with us on developing and testing new workshops.

Contact: eti@tacticaltech.org (GPG Key / fingerprint: BD30 C622 D030 FCF1 38EC C26D DD04 627E 1411 0C02).

Credits and Licensing

CC BY-SA 4.0

This content is produced by Tactical Tech's Exposing the Invisible project, and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license

  • Workshop author: Ankita Anand
  • Instructional design: A. Hayder
  • Editorial and content: Christy Lange, Laura Ranca, Wael Eskandar
  • Graphic design: Yiorgos Bagakis
  • Website development: Laurent Dellere, Saqib Sohail
  • Project coordination and supervision: Christy Lange, Laura Ranca, Lieke Ploeger, Marek Tuszynski, Safa Ghnaim, Wael Eskandar

This resource has been developed as part of the Collaborative and Investigative Journalism Initiative (CIJI) co-funded by the European Commission under the Pilot Project: "Supporting investigative journalism and media freedom in the EU" (DG CONNECT).

This text reflects the author’s view and the Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

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