Teamwork, Leadership, and Community Engagement

by Joe Horn
Co-Founder/Co-CEO

As the fiery leaves of autumn linger, drop, and are replaced with hard frosts and dustings of snow, out in the midwest of our country indigenous peoples of the world and their allies have been peacefully rallying together to defend the environment on which we all depend. As the days grew colder, the tension rose. When such conflicts seem worlds apart geographically, it can be hard to figure out one’s own place in such a struggle. That isn’t so this fall for a handful of youth near the easternmost point of our country, over 2000 miles from Standing Rock. This group of young people is made up of Migrant Education Program students and their peers from the Passamaquoddy tribe at Sipayik and Motahkomikuk who are studying teamwork and leadership in order to envision and enact a plan for local personal and community resilience.

Mano en Mano’s Migrant Education Program (MEP) has teamed up with MOS to provide a five-part series for these Passamaquoddy youth. The goal for this series is to facilitate the exploration of teamwork and leadership dynamics while simultaneously helping the students brainstorm a specific and actionable project that they can develop and implement in the spring.

How do these students keep themselves focused on making change in their local communities while being inundated with troubling national news about Standing Rock? They have been leveraging both Appreciative Inquiry and Spheres of Influence techniques.

 Spheres of Influence. We can only control what we do and think.

Spheres of Influence. We can only control what we do and think.

The Spheres of Influence (see left) teaches these students that they only have true control over their own actions and beliefs. Their own actions and beliefs may directly influence their peers, which can have an indirect influence on the larger community, state, country, or world.  So, rather than getting stuck in a self-defeating struggle of how to have a direct influence at a global level, these students readjusted their focus to what project they can develop and implement (direct control) to leverage their own direct influence over their communities.

 Student brainstorm: "What does my community look like when it is at its very best?"

Student brainstorm: "What does my community look like when it is at its very best?"

To help them refine an idea of what specific project they want to devote their time to, these students asked the critical appreciative question: “What does my community look like when it is at its very best?” The students created a beautiful mind map (see right, and banner) of preconditions for this ideal state of their community. These facets of their ideal community ranged from healthy fisheries and hunting grounds to community suppers, people having open minds to new ideas, and having an extensive playground.  Interestingly, there was no mention in their mind map about “smart” technology, computers, or TV.

Stay tuned as these inspiring youth refine their vision and take action.

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