This section deals with the criteria we use to select training participants, how we form the training group, why it is important to include members of minority and marginalised groups, what the optimal size of the group is, how we inform potential participants about the training and who decides on the applications and how.
Composition of the Group
For the interactive and participatory training and workshops that we run, the best option is a very heterogeneous group. A heterogeneous group has potential not only for conflict but also for exchange and learning owing to a wealth of diverse experience. For peacebuilding and dealing with the past training, it is crucial that the participants come from different parts of the target region and from sides that are “enemies”. It is important to include participants from smaller or neglected places so that the group is not made up of only people from economic, educational and political centres. We pay special attention to regions without active peace organisations from which we rarely receive applications for training.
Of course, we aim to have the same number of women and men. In patriarchal contexts, such as the Balkans, it is not recommendable to compose groups with more men than women, but a slight predominance of women usually does not cause difficulties.
It is also useful for the group to be diverse in terms of age, with participants from different generations. Although balancing different needs can be a challenge, it is worth making an effort because the value of intergenerational learning, broader views and mutual inspiration is immeasurable. CNA training is for adults over 21 years of age. The exception is training tailored specifically for young people (university or secondary school students).
Professional diversity (where there is potential to transfer knowledge) is another bonus for the group. Peace work would have to be done in different sectors, so this is another opportunity to create links between sectors and potentially facilitate cooperation. In our experience, professionally diverse groups are much more conducive and inspirational when it comes to working together. For us the priority groups are activists from non-governmental organisations and political parties, reporters, educators, people from local authorities, social workers and war veterans. In our assessment, they have the most opportunity to apply and/or transfer the knowledge and skills they gain so that the wider community may benefit from their participation.
Criteria for forming the group:
participants from different parts of the target region
diverse ethnic/national belonging y equal number of women and men y different ages (over 21)
members of minority and marginalised groups
Including members of minority and marginalised groups is not important only in terms of positive discrimination, but because they provide a unique opportunity to learn from their experience. Their participation can be crucial for developing sensitivity about existing prejudices, discrimination and structural violence. Members of the majority group are often not fully aware of the inequality and discrimination present in their society, and this lack of awareness in turn often leads to denial. Within such a set-up, members of minority and marginalised groups can help shed light on the depths of the problem and offer ideas about possible changes.
An important criterion for CNA training is that the participants volunteer for the training, that they participate because they want to and not because their superiors delegated them. This is why we do not accept candidates on behalf of organisations, but only people who apply individually. The greater the personal motivation for participating in the training, the better and more effective the training will be, meaning that the energy and resources invested in the training will not be wasted, but will truly go towards building capacities for social change.
Candidates are required to fill out a questionnaire when applying for the training.
Examples of questions from the application questionnaire:
- First and last name
- Contact (address, phone, email)
- Date of birth
- Are you active in an organisation? Which one?
- Why are you interested in this training? What made you want to apply? What expectations do you have of the training?
- Describe in brief how you would like to be socially active. What social issues do you see yourself working on?
- Have you already participated in a peace education programme? Which one?
The group should have no more than 20 participants. The regular Basic Training of the CNA brings together 20 participants, the trustbuilding training Mir-Paqe-Мир (done in three languages with consecutive interpretation) numbers 18 to 20 participants, and the war veterans training brings together about 16 participants. Since the training is participatory and interactive in nature, meaning that everyone is expected to participate actively, having more participants would considerably narrow the space for active exchange and equal participation. Care should be taken particularly when the training covers more difficult topics that give rise to strong emotions, which is always the case when the topic is peacebuilding and dealing with the past.
On a few occasions, we have been involved in education or dialogue programmes where the group size was over 25 and even up to 40 participants. The organisers wanted to make the most of the funds received or the training opportunity, so they sought to get as many participants as possible. However, increasing the size of the group means reducing the intensity of exchange and straining the attention span, and tends to involve over-long plenary sessions. Most topics would then be treated only superficially, at a theoretical level, and the training team, participants and organisers would come out of the training frustrated by the lack of space for susbtantive group dynamics and processes to develop.
Larger groups also require more time to build trust, which is a precondition for tackling the more difficult topics. Furthermore, there should be sufficient time for difficult topics and potentially enough room for everyone present to give their feedback on the newly created situation, where necessary. Individual feedback in groups of 20 people can be especially useful and contribute to stronger trust between people, better understanding, mutual connection and to building a very strong group that can then tackle the most difficult topics and tasks. However, in larger groups, it can prove counterproductive because it requires a lot of time and patience. If the process takes too long, it tends to exhaust people and make them frustrated with the group dynamics and cooperation. In our experience, it is almost impossible to do meaningful interactive and participatory work in larger groups, which is why we do not recommend groups of more than 20 participants. The minimum number of participants depends on the type of training, target group and context, but we believe there should be at least 8–10 people in order to ensure a sufficient level of interaction.
Finding Potential Participants
We publish the call for applications about three months before the training. It is posted on our website, and we also send it to a host of associations, media outlets, schools and political parties, as well as to the numerous individuals who subscribe to our training information mailing list. Quite a few people apply at the recommendation of someone who has already participated in our training. We receive between 80 and 250 applications for each training, which means that we are not required to search for potential participants.
The exception to this is the training for veterans, where we do not publish a call for applications but instead invite people directly, having met them before or based on recommendations. We are continuously looking for potential participants by visiting various veterans’ associations, presenting our work with veterans and motivating them to participate in the training.
Who Selects the Participants and How?
The training team that conducts the training organised by the CNA selects the participants. The selection is made about a month before the training. The first criterion is the motivation stated in the application questionnaire. Applications assessed as having a high level of motivation are shortlisted and we then proceed to balance the group in line with the criteria mentioned at the beginning of this section. A rather lengthy waiting list is also formed from all the applications that passed the selection stage. Cancellations are common; in our experience, at least a few of the waiting list applicants will be invited for the training.
Assessing motivation is no easy task. Some people are more eloquent and clearly articulate their thoughts and visions, while others find this more difficult and submit rather scant applications. However, it may turn out that the former are not as interested in becoming active in peacebuilding and want to come for the training out of mere curiosity or treat it as an opportunity to do some travelling. Similarly, someone who sends in a scant application may actually be highly motivated to dedicate themselves to peacebuilding. After a few rounds of selection, you may find you get more skilled at reading between the lines.