This step is all about coming up with a set of criteria that the group will use to decide which of the topics is best for them to make into a piece of media. Developing selection criteria can be a great way to ground the decisions that the group makes. A set of criteria that everyone has agreed on helps participants justify why they are arguing for one idea to be taken up over another, and helps to give the decision-making a degree of objectivity. A major pitfall in topic selection can be people clinging tightly to ideas that they (or their friends) have suggested, and a good set of criteria can help a group come at a complex decision with a shared set of values.


  • Develop a set of criteria to evaluate topic suggestions with.


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  1. Revisit the long list and remind the group that the goal of this process is to end up with a topic to focus a media production on, AND to have a crew to make it that are still speaking to each other.
  2. Be transparent about the reasons for using a set of selection criteria:
    1. They help us stay focused on what we’re trying to achieve
    2. They help us look at each other’s ideas fairly and openly
    3. They could help outsiders that we bring in for advice give us clear feedback
  3. You don’t want the selection of criteria to turn into another type of topic selection, so this stage needs to be a bit more directed by facilitators. You might start by throwing out a couple of obvious suggestions for criteria to get started. Or, if time is really a major concern facilitators could pre-determine criteria for the group.
  4. Some examples of criteria that groups use:
    • Do-ability– Can we pull off this concept with the equipment, contacts, and time that we have available?
    • Urgency – Is this an important, current, high stakes issue?
    • Relevance– How does this idea relate to the people in this crew?
    • Originality– Do we have a fresh perspective to bring to this topic, or has this already been done to death?
    • Impact Potential– Can our media affect the situation that we’re talking about?
    • Fun Factor– Do we really want to spend a big chunk of time thinking about this?
  5. Note that not all groups will want to include all of these criteria and some may have their own that don’t fall into these categories. Also, it’s not about checking of boxes that projects fall into in a mechanical way. Each project could accomplish a range of criteria depending on how it’s carried out. These criteria should help ground the crew in their shared values and intention in the media production process.
  6. Affirm a set of criteria that everyone can live with.
  7. Return to the long list and ask the group to start thinking about which topics they’re most drawn to and how the criteria relate to them.


This model was developed by Dan O’Reilly-Rowe, benefits from his collaboration with a number of educators at Global Action Project in New York City, and builds on practices common in many youth media organisations. The model was first recorded and refined as a part of the Youth Media Learning Network Fellowship , 2007-2008.

Storytelling Prompts | Finding Topics to Explore

Morgan Sully, 2010.  Coming up with a worthy topic for a story can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be.  Here’s a few prompts to get you started. Participants Can work for small or large groups.  Not much technology is needed for this activity. Skills/Technique This...