RECRUIT & TRAIN WITNESSES
As noted in the introduction, in a genuine Peace Child MCA, you train up a group of students and / or community members to be your “Expert Witnesses.” We strongly recommend that you mirror the intergenerational ethos of the MCA process by having witnesses of different ages. On a topic like the Global Pandemics – where there are multiple right answers – they can work as a team, sharing the fruits of their research and deciding who is going to present which parts. On a topic where there are “YES / NO” answers, like “Should your country join the TPNW?” or “Should we criminalise the use of fossil fuels?” – they should work in two teams being respectfully competitive in their searches for the most compelling arguments and evidence.
We suggest “no more than five” expert witnesses to each side. That is FIVE presenters on each side = total 10. That is already a large panel – and it means that, in a 30-minute witness statement section, each presenter only gets 3-minutes. Which is fine. But many more people can be involved in the preparatory work: we encourage schools and communities to involve as many students and community members in the research and analyse the data for each topic. That research can become a classroom exercise – or a project for different year groups. Or for a sub-committee of the PTA or Board of Governors. As we stress: the purpose of an MCA is to provide a rich learning experience for both presenters and audience – and the more involved in the witness training research, the richer the learning.
The most challenging part for the expert witnesses comes in the 45-minute Q & A section. No expert witness can ever plan for every question that a jury or audience member may throw at them. However – to minimise this challenge, we urge you to use our Application Forms to get every jury and audience applicant to ask ONE question before the MCA. In the pilot, this produced a list of questions which –
1) helped the expert witnesses prepare their statements; – and –
2) helped the Host by having some pre-prepared questions to fire at the Witnesses at the start of the Q & A – once she had seen which of the Jury / Audience questions the expert witnesses had NOT fully answered in their statements.
Finally, the Witness Training must include time to research and brainstorm what Actions the Experts would propose for the Next Steps section of the MCA. Not every MCA needs to bring back the Experts to this section – but it helps if they do. And, whether you have won or lost, or whether your priority recommendation has come top or bottom – it is important for the Experts to buy into the logic that this is the beginning of the journey to resolve the existential threats humanity faces – and that, thus, Next Steps are crucial.
How to Recruit? – First – make the decision on whether or not to have Multi-Generational witness groups. As teachers, we know it is much easier to manage a class in front of you – rather than a mixed group of students / outside community members. So – probably best to have the students lead on the research, as in an MUN – empowering them with the responsibility of seeking out parents, friends and relations who can provide them with the intergenerational element of the Witness Panel.
How to Train? – it starts with a Reading List – of physical books and websites. Again, to empower the witnesses and help them feel ownership of the MCA, get them to compile the Reading List – which should be a single one for the ‘multiple right answer’ MCA – but can be two lists for the “YES/NO” topics. Phone or Zoom conversations with NGOs, academics and other experts / professionals working in the field under discussion is also valuable. Again, get the trainees to prepare a Contact List – and decide on which group of researchers is going to do which interview. Require them to record notes – and write up the interview in some detail to share with the whole group.
Outside Experts: – it is equally possible to appoint outside experts – elders who are passionate and informed about the field. You may have some such individuals in your school or community – teachers, local politicians, NGO leaders, doctors, lawyers, retired people etc. – with a special interest / experience in the issue being discussed by the MCA. Talk to people – find out what lifelong advocates for environmental, peace or medical causes may exist in your community. Invite them in or go visit them as sources of research material and evidence as part of the Expert Witness training, Or you can use imported TED talk-style videos on the topic under discussion. And, of course, you are welcome to use the recordings on this website of the witness statements from the Pilot MCAs Peace Child Intl. has delivered. Please check these out anyway to learn how witnesses present their cases – well or badly!
Finally – take enough time on this section: at least a month or, better still, a school term – with weekly meetings of the Expert Witness team to share findings and build their arguments. It should be an exciting self-generated learning experience for both students and elders within your community. Don’t rush it!