Digital Press Trip: Overcoming Challenges of Travel Restrictions

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Caritas Asia invited Ms. Astrid Radner f Caritas Austria, in the third SHAPE Community of Practice webinar to share on Digital Press Trip as one of the options for the method of content gathering in the midst of the ongoing travel restriction.

The webinar, held on 15 July 2021, was a continuation of the Digital Press Trip general information presented in the first SHAPE Community of Practice online session that was held in May 2021. It caught the attention of participants interested in learning more about the methods of preparation, human resources and technical requirements, and lessons learned from previous projects.

Mr. Zar Gomez, Caritas Asia Regional Coordinator, welcomed 73 participants from 22 Caritas member organizations in Asia, and representatives of six Caritas global partner organizations and the Caritas Europa regional secretariat.

Ms. Radner started the session by explaining how Caritas Austria gathered pertinent content for communication purposes both before and after the worldwide pandemic was announced. As travel restrictions were imposed in many countries, Caritas Austria organized numerous Digital Press Trips to take journalists on virtual journeys to various countries to witness what actually happened on the ground. Caritas Austria also used this method of designing digital project trips to engage donors as part of their fundraising and accountability efforts.

As Digital Press Trips is a new concept for everyone, Ms. Radner emphasized the importance of allocating enough time to properly plan the trips. In her experience, it took at least one month to decide on the topics, set up the objective, prepare key messages and organize content on the ground. It was also crucial to rehearse the trip beforehand to identify potential issues and to prepare relevant backup plans, particularly if a technical problem arises that could be beyond their ability to resolve.

During the open discussion, Ms. Radner reminded participants that informed consent sheets should be properly prepared in advance to ensure protection of beneficiaries, particularly children, when using pictures, videos and interviews of the project.

Dr. Richard Win Tun Kyi, the Localization & Safeguarding Focal Point of Caritas Asia, added that we should pay attention to the safety and security, not only of the people we serve but of Caritas workers as well. Caritas staff and volunteers may not be professionals like the journalists, but they have the sense and understanding of the situation on the ground, particularly MOs working in a country prone to conflicts or other security issues.

Digital Press Trip is a great concept and it costs less than making an actual trip. It opens up wide array of possibilities to engage with participants in a creative way using available digital platforms. However, we also need to be aware that a high frequency of online meetings creates fatigue for staff and also for the journalists which would impact the quality of outcomes.

The webinar highlighted that the Digital Press Trip should be seen as one of the options amidst the current restriction and we, as part of Caritas, should continue travelling and meeting new people as virtual sessions cannot replace real emotions, real experiences and real stories.