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Steps for Life Skills Success

How to motivate your stake-holders to get the most out of our Life Skills program:

What are motivational strategies: actions that will inspire a desired response by stakeholders (The students you are working with/ Head teachers/Librarians/ Art teachers/Parents/ DIL staff/ CAP Life Skills consultants/ Donor community/ Outsider activists interacting with your students on Community Action).

Steps for success:

1. Assessing the preferences and personality characteristics of the individual or group to be motivated. Every class will be different. Remain flexible in your perception of what you want to achieve. First learn about your group. Is your group urban or rural? Are you aware of the problems that plague their community? Are they from a particularly conservative group? What discussions are they exposed to at home/ what kind of opinions or feelings have they developed towards other ethnic or language groups. Before you motivate anyone to let go of anger/ prejudice/ bias, you have to be able to identify what kind of feelings and ideas or unresolved tensions are percolating among the community. Find the school officer/ project manager/ head teacher who has known this community the longest (we interviewed head teachers who have been with DIL between 10 and 17 years over tea and biscuits) and ask for a fifteen-minute window of their time. Keep the meeting short and your questions structured.

2. Outline motivational strategies that will grow the discussion in your student group. Consult CAP Life Skills officers and Gateway manager about the sorts of activities that create a safe space for students to express ideas, ask for methods that have worked in the past, or try some new ones. Keep a diary of questions and strategies that work to be added to a facilitation manual for new trainers.

3. Impose sanctions for dismissive behaviour and the expression of hate speech, ask to speak privately to those who display outward bias towards members of other ethnic or language groups, and show them the negative consequences of such behaviour

4. Keep in mind that this program is designed to scale: the more people it will reach, the more it will help them, the faster and more effectively you will reach your target. So make notes to train others to do what you do, or avoid the pitfalls you encounter.

5. Communicate incentives, benefits, or consequences. This allows you to give the group something positive to look forward to. Create a way to incorporate this into yearly or quarterly reports. Head teachers are particularly concerned that if their schools are evaluated on academics alone where does Life Skills come in? They must be shown the evidence, they must chart how their students are able to flourish academically when they are able to be more confident/ more resilient/ better able to cope with outer pressures of poverty and conservatism in their communities.

5. Address problems or obstacles that are limiting success as you go through each module and identify potential or current obstacles as they arise (keep a weekly record of these obstacles and how you surmount them.) Make them available to CAP Life Skills consultants and Gateway manager.

6. Publicly recognise those who speak up, those who champion the underdog, those who think creatively, or those who support others, those who help nurture and grow ideas and give credit where it is due. Leaders aren’t always the vocal the ones, learn to identify those who work industriously in near-anonymity. Recognise the leaders and those who enjoy following and picking up tasks that no one wants to do. Recognise the ‘spare-wheel’ mentality that is inherent in leaders: “put me anywhere, I will plug in and concentrate on task at hand.”

Tips on running a dynamic Life Skills program:

  • Focus on ways to learn from rather than punish mistakes like the articulation of prejudice, bias, expression of ethnic tension in a negative manner, or sarcasm directed at a group. This cannot be condoned or tolerated. But the object must remain to bring offenders back into the fold rather than alienate them.

  • Allow team members problem-solving autonomy instead of micromanaging them.

  • Assigning interesting/ challenging projects to students and involving staff/ teachers/ head teachers/ school officers who are highly engaged.

  • Awarding a performance-based recognition for the staff and students who achieve the right results. These could be certificates, or special mentions, or we could look into developing other incentives through our donor community.

  • Discuss, in a constructive and non-judgmental manner, teacher/parent concerns.

  • Continually recognise the contributions of students and staff members and parents depending on the scope of the community action project and the involvement levels, and conveying recognition and appreciation.

  • Hold a regular training or community consultation that allows everyone to air concerns and build support structure. Think of this as scaffolding: you should be able to pull this support structure away and leave a robust network of relationships still standing across staff. This will encourage interdependence, interconnectedness, nurture collaboration, and build a shared sense of mission. 

  • Develop a public tally board (in the headquarters) to record comparative project results by different community actions. Have a way of evaluating this. Most engaged teams = teams that have managed to use different mediums of spreading awareness, along with reaching different demographics and sections of community stake holders: Parents, community leaders, policy makers, media (via letters to editor), other city activists, students and teachers. Show this to trainers on quarterly basis.

  • Keep track of staff/ parents/ students/ alumni/ donors who show a keen interest in Community Action and connecting them to CAP or inviting them to trainings.

  • Mentor new staff personnel/ keen alumni or parent group in an engaging and supportive fashion. If they are showing an interest in Community Action Projects and Life Skills, show them they impact of their interest.

  • Noticing and quietly thanking peers for unsolicited acts of both project / work initiative and of interpersonal kindness.

  • Scheduling team-building/ problem-solving workshops to increase collaboration, mutual respect, and project ownership.

  • Regularly recognizing the contributions of key skill-donors in public communications.

  • Yielding control – and ownership - of various project stages to students and staff who are showing great ability in leading others.

  • Film Community Action in three segments: initial session, session where students identify community problems, and implantation of final community action to solve those problems.

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