This past December, Global Synergy Group brought together a delegation of local government leaders from Boryspil, Ukraine and a group of journalists from the Twin Cities. The group came to SPNN for a forum on government and media relations. We asked Joanna Kohler of Kohler Productions, who led the discussion, and Irina Fursman of Global Synergy Group, to talk to us about what brought the group here and what they learned from this unique forum. Click here to watch the complete forum.
What brought this group from Boryspil to the US?
Irina Fursman: The three elected officials and two advisers came to pay their respects to the city of Hopkins volunteers and host families, who hosted a group of 18 youth from Boryspil in the fall of 2012. The delegates from the City of Boryspil were invited to the Appreciation Event for the volunteers. The City of Boryspil and the City of Hopkins have agreed to continue the relationship (like sister cities) to create opportunities for their localities to engage in the community building activities, cultural exchanges and educational programs that will further the development of both communities as well as introduce creativity and innovation to their development efforts.
Why did you want to set up this forum on media and government? What kind of understanding and insight did you hope the participants would gain?
Irina: In preparation for the visit, the Minnesota hosting team at Global Synergy Group asked the visitors what would they like to see, learn or experience while they are in Minnesota. One of the areas of interest was media relations. I was hoping that the participants from Boryspil would be able to explore the various roles of media, as well as the relationship between the media, government and local community.
Joanna: As I talked with Irina about this project, it became clear to me that creating an open conversation, one filled with curiosity to learn from each other and keeping a healthy self-reflection about our own media practices in the US would be a good approach for the participants. Global Synergy Group and I share a value for creating learning communities, and this approach takes time to build relationships (which GSG has been doing for a few years) and it takes a feeling of team building, that reflecting on the context we are all working in is not meant to determine if it is good or bad… but to be honest about what it is, in order to move forward more effectively. It was my hope that individuals and groups here in Minnesota and in the Ukraine gained a better understanding of their own media practices and that of the other and therefore are better able to work together.
What was the most illuminating thing you learned?
Irina: There is a lot of passion for freedom of speech in both countries, but there are different contexts in which media operates.
Joanna: GSG and Irina have a very deep and determined passion for this cultural exchange and knowledge sharing. Working with GSG is a reminder that persistence, adjusting constantly to new information and relationships, and co-creating goals are powerful ways to accomplish good work rooted in a sense of community. The Media and Government conversation is just an extension of this work, and it was a real honor to be asked to lead the panel, and I am grateful so many experts volunteered to join the panel and broaden the depth of the discussion. All of us were thrilled when SPNN Community Productions brought their professional expertise to this event, allowing the conversation to be shared both here in MN and back in the Ukraine.
How does the current political situation in Ukraine affect your understanding of the conversation, and how the issues of media and government will develop there in the future?
Irina: That is a very interesting question,…given the current events in Ukraine, where the journalists are targeted by the government at both national and local levels. The hope is that the delegates who visited from Ukraine understand the importance of free press as it relates to the political and economic components of social process.
I think this article, about a journalist who was beaten and left to die by her attackers, is very helpful to understanding why media relations and the conversation about speech freedoms and press are so important. I would like to continue this conversation with the Ukrainian people, so they demand reforms and laws that will protect the journalists.