Pak Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF) in collaboration with the Institute of Regional Studies (IRS) launched and organized a Public Digiplomacy Workshop; kick starting the first “Of Discourses and Narratives: Digiplomacy, Stratcom, and Stoytelling” in the series. With two sessions, led by Mr. Umar Sheraz and Mr. Salman Javed respectively, the purpose was to build the understanding regarding the narration of our indigenous tales and to make sense of what Singer and Brookings refer to as, “how a new kind of communication became a new kind of war” in their “Like War: The Weaponization of Social Media”,
Deputy Spokesperson, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pakistan and Director General Stratcom, Ms Saima Syed was the guest of honor. Young scholars and researchers working in different think tanks across Islamabad attended the day-long workshop.
The aim of launching this series in general and this first workshop in particular was to inculcate an understanding of narrating our indigenous stories and to enhance the sense of digital interaction in the youth that is specifically working in roles of building and furthering narratives and discourses. It was also intended to deliver hands on knowledge to the audience regarding how sentiments are used and manipulated and how vulnerable we are to being used as contributing to a certain narrative or agenda.
In the first session, Mr. Umar Sheraz, Futurist and Senior Research Officer at CPS, Comsats, elaborated how our assumptions are a hurdle in the way of not just imagining a future but also insightfully seeing and predicting what future holds. As a futurist himself, Mr. Umar told the audience that there is no right or wrong future, and that any early helpful statement about the future may seem ridiculous at first. Questioning our assumptions can be out first step to building a future.
The second session, following the lunch break, focused specifically on storytelling. Mr. Salman Javed, Director Pak Afghan Youth Forum (PAYF), took the audience to a journey of how mediums of storytelling transformed over time and how they are so capable of creating new realities. Through different interactive activities, this session focused on making the audience understand what stories do to us and how a story told differently is a history written and re-written, in a way that it dictates a peoples’ perception of themselves.
Throughout the workshop, the audience were divided into four groups to take part in activities as teams. Active engagement from the groups made the workshop a huge success, and the young audience left with key takeaways on digital diplomacy, strategic communication and storytelling.
In the concluding session, President IRS – Ambassador Nadeem Riaz, pointed out that over the last decade, diplomacy has become more challenging and demanding for the diplomats and policy makers.
DG Stratcom and Deputy Spokesperson MoFA, Saima Syed, in her remarks, talked about the journey of the Ministry from conventional ways to digital and strategic communications. She also discussed the challenges of narrative building.
Certificates were distributed among all the participants at the end, and Director PAYF thanked all the participants and the Guest of Honor for their presence.