Participants discuss a wide range of options that could be proposed to the group for both topics and media-making techniques. In an effort to encourage expression free of the self-censorship and social inhibition that group discussions can feature, participants then propose topics anonymously. The idea at this point is for facilitators to encourage the generation of as many ideas as possible that will later be narrowed down to a short list, and ultimately to a single, focused concept.


  • Brainstorm topics and media production techniques that interest the group.
  • Participants anonymously propose topics.
  • Introduce an outline of the topic selection process to the group.


1 session (2-3 hours)


  1. In a group discussion format, recap the various media topics and techniques that the group has looked at in the program, and any others that they can think of. Record responses on a piece of butcher’s paper or whiteboard.
  2. Recap anything fundamental to the program that would limit the range of acceptable proposals (ie if it’s a photography program, there’s not much point proposing a song, and if it’s a program focused on issues facing muslim youth, no point suggesting a video that doesn’t address some aspect of the issue at hand).
  3. Broadly lay out the topic selection process that is described in this module:
    1. First a large number of ideas will be generated.
    2. The entire group will develop a set of criteria that they’ll use to evaluate which idea is the best for the group to take on.
    3. The long list will get narrowed down on the basis of the degree of interest that the group has in them, producing a short list.
    4. Teams will then explore the short list topics and prepare pitches to present to the whole group.
    5. The group, with the advice of outside advisors if they like, will then use the criteria they have developed to select a topic, and potentially some techniques for making it into a piece of media.
  4. Distribute sticky notes or index cards to each member of the group. Give them ample time to write down some ideas privately. Encourage them to do this in silence and to be true to their own ideas and interests.
  5. Collect all idea suggestions, and secure them for processing after the session is complete.
  6. Explain that in the next session, a long list of ideas will be revealed, but that if they want to add any topic ideas, next session is probably their last opportunity to do so.
  7. Close with a strong team-building activity.


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...