Step 2 - Context and Risk Analysis

Credits Daniel O'Clunaigh, Carol Waters, Ali Ravi, Lindsay Beck, Chris Doten, Nick Sera-Leyva Last Updated 2016-03

This multi-part resource details the basics of the event planning process, built from the documented experience of several experienced trainers - among these steps are gathering inputs, analyzing these inputs, and their subsequent impact on the design, preparation and orientation of a training event.

Cultural, Social, and Political Context

Before planning the training event, and especially if it is in a region or country other than your own, it’s important to carry out some research into the cultural, social and political realities of the operating environment. These findings will enhance and clarify your own understanding of the operational realities involved, be highly relevant to the design and execution of the training, and inform your own operational security protocols and approaches in preparation.

Some key questions to consider during your research would include:

  • What type of government does the country or region have?
  • Who are the dominant groups in this society?
  • Who are the underprivileged or marginalized groups?
  • How does social conflict express itself?
  • Which are the points of conflict that divide the society?
  • Which are the uniting points that bring it together?
  • What is the human rights situation in general?
  • What is the situation for your participants (as journalists, activists, a certain ethnicity?)
  • How does society perceive foreigners?
  • What etiquette are foreigners expected to observe?

Activities and Actors

Having established the answers to (some of) the above questions, take these findings and begin applying them to your knowledge of the activities and actors involved in the training. This may include your participants, local contacts, and the act of conducting the training itself, but could also include other activities and actors of which you may not be initially aware. This is a vital next step in the planning process, that will lead to a more holistic understanding of your operational realities.

You may wish to consider the following in relation to this information:

Who are you training? Who are you?
  • Who are the people that will be trained?
  • What kind of work do they do? Is it dangerous?
  • Where do they fit into society?
  • Who are you?
  • How will you be perceived by the trainees? Their antagonists?
  • Is your intervention contributing to the division or unity of society?
  • What do you have to keep in mind to have a positive impact?
  • What do you have to avoid to have a positive impact?
  • How should you behave given what you have learned?
  • How should you structure the event given what you have learned?
Who are their adversaries, and who are yours?
  • What kinds of threats have participants been subject to in the recent past?
  • What kinds of threats have those with similar profiles been subject to?
  • By whom, and why?
  • Do they arise casually (e.g. petty crime)?
  • Are they politically targeted?
  • What kinds of threats have others like you faced in this region?
  • By whom, and why?
  • Are these threats motivated by your demographic, nationality, or profession?
  • Do they arise casually (e.g. petty crime)?
  • Are they politically targeted?
What are their capabilities? How likely are they to have an impact?
  • Given answers to the above, what kinds of threats does the event itself imply?
  • Which are most probable? Which would have the most impact?
  • If something is very probable with a very high impact, should the training go ahead?
  • What would need to change in order to make it more secure?

Practical and Logistical Parameters

Finally, having first mapped out the operational landscape of your training location through its socio-political and cultural realities, then applied that understanding to the activities and actors involved, you can begin considering the practical and logistical parameters at play in the planning process. What are the timing, resource, and even spatial restrictions, imposed either by circumstance or deliberately, upon the training?

In exploring this question for your planning, you may wish to consider the following:


How much time do you have to lead this training? If there is a hard limit, what is the motivation behind it?

Your Skillset

What can you offer participants, and what can you not offer them? Particularly in terms of technical support?

Number of Participants

What is the ratio of trainers to participants? Will you have support in the form of co-trainers/other qualified persons?

Participant Bandwidth

Are there other events or competing demands on participants that will interfere with their ability to participate in the training? If so, can you reschedule the training or find a way to diminish the interference?

Location and Connectivity

Do you know where the training will be physically held? Is it the office of a known contact or organization, or is it another, off-site location? Will internet access be problematic in either case?


Do you speak the same language as your participants, or will translation be required? Should you consider finding a qualified trainer who speaks the requisite language to lead the training instead?