Story-telling in organisational development – A voluntary organisation

An Unfinished Case Study of a Voluntary Organisation.

This section was written by the consultant who ran the facilitator training day for the organisation concerned

The organisation

Greentown Youth Organisation (GYO) seeks to provide an ‘integrated youth work service’ by offering young people a range of facilities. Increasingly its money has come from funders requiring explicit focuses on, and demonstrated outcomes with, for example, ‘NEETs’, early school-leavers, marginalised and disaffected young people,  young people engaged in ‘risky’ behaviour and those at risk of becoming or actually homeless. Over the years it has recruited staff for much of this work who are not qualified youth workers and who often have limited youth work practice experience. Given the way it is funded, it has also had limited management resources for in-house training or developmental supervision of these workers’ practice.

All this has made it difficult for GYO to raise its workers’ awareness and understanding of its organisational commitment to youth work and thereby ensure in its face-to-face provision that this is their primary way of working with young people.

Strategy for using story-telling to achieve internal organisational change  

_MG_7161The initial prompt to considering using story-telling within GYO was an awareness amongst some its managers of IDYW’s book This is Youth Work: Stories from Practice and IDYW’s subsequent development of story-telling workshops aimed at clarifying and reaffirming the ‘cornerstones’ of youth work. (See Why story-telling? and Story-telling with experienced youth workers).Inputs from an external consultant led to a management decision to, in effect, pursue a three-stage strategy for embedding GYO’s conception of youth work more consciously and firmly in workers’ practice:

Stage 1: A day training session for appropriate senior and middle managers on the facilitation skills needed for running story-telling workshops, with the aim of starting to equip them with the confidence to facilitate these within GYO. (See programme below).

Stage 2: Internal work by middle managers on GYO’s own definition of the ‘cornerstones’ of the youth work it wished to support and promote amongst its staff, with draft proposals to be discussed and approved by relevant senior managers.

Stage 3: The ‘cascading’ of a series of story-telling workshops for youth work staff throughout the organisation focused on these agreed organisational ‘cornerstones’, to be facilitated by middle managers with the workers they managed and supported. These workshops were based on the model outlined in Story-telling with experienced youth workers.

Outcomes

Over a period of some six months, and again with external consultation and facilitation, Stages 1 and 2 were implemented.

Three ‘pilot’ workshops for youth work staff were then run within the organisation. These received some positive informal feedback from workers who participated, though no systematic evaluation was carried out, not least because the ‘cascading’ programme had to be suspended indefinitely while GYO undertook a major internal review and restructuring of its youth work provision in response to wider external policy and funding pressures.

Reviving the workshops is however seen as an important middle-term objective by GYO managers for ensuring that workers recognise the centrality of youth work. This will be particularly important as, following the restructuring, these workers take on new roles within new work settings.


“GREENTOWN YOUTH ORGANISATION”

Group facilitation workshop

Aims

  • Drawing both on prior reading and direct experience, to clarify the meaning and processes of small group facilitation and the skills required for the facilitator role – particularly in the context of GYO youth work story-telling groups.
  • To provide opportunities for role-playing this facilitation role in a safe, reflective and self-reflective environment.
  • To encourage participants, both individually and as a group, to identify key elements of the facilitation role needing priority attention in the GYO context and on which further work might be needed.

Preparatory work

All participants are asked to:

  • Read and reflect on the two attached articles1
  • Come ready (and willing!) to present a brief (10 minute) ‘story’ which is an example of them practising as a youth worker.

Programme

IMG_848010.00 – 11.00 What do we mean by group facilitation?

Introduction to the day (10 mins)

Identifying some defining features of small group facilitation

Small groups/plenary (25 mins) 

Identifying some key skills of small group facilitation

Small groups/plenary (25 mins)

11.00 – 11.15: Break 

11.15 – 12.30 From theory to practice: I

Full group

Presentation of a youth work story (10 mins max)

Analysis of story – facilitated by a group member (10-15 mins)

Analysis of story – facilitated by a different group member (10-15 mins)

Debrief – Reflections on the two approaches to facilitation 

12.30 – 1.30 Lunch

1.30 – 2.45 From theory to practice: II

Full group

Presentation of a second youth work story (10 mins max)

Analysis of story – facilitated by a group member (10-15 mins)

Analysis of story – facilitated by a different group member (10-15 mins)

Debrief – Reflections on the two approaches to facilitation

2.45 – 3.00 Break

3.00 – 4.15 From practice to analysis  

Reflections on how today’s workshop has been facilitated (15 mins)

What have I learnt about the skills needed for small group facilitation?

What does that learning mean for me personally as a small group facilitator?

Individual reflection (10 mins)

Small groups (15 mins)

Sharing the personal lessons (15 mins)

(Full group)

What next? (20 mins) (Personal needs/goals? Practice opportunities? Implications for this group: expectations; possibilities, etc.?)

4.30 (latest) Finish

1See Smith, Mark K. (2001; 2009) Facilitating learning and change in groups, Encyclopaedia of informal education and http://see.ed.ac.uk/~gerard/MENG/MECD/topics.html.

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