|Trainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)|
|Part II - Getting prepared for elected leadership training|
As a trainer interested in conducting workshops for elected officials, you may be thinking, "So, what's left to prepare?" The 12 handbooks that make up the series on elected leadership are complete enough. They have been carefully designed by experienced trainers, have they not? Isn't it true that each handbook has been field-tested and subsequently revised based on thorough participant review? Well then, what's left to be done other than carefully follow the script - do the training exactly as intended by UNCHS (Habitat) and the authors of this series?
Wait a minute! There is a bit more to conducting a successful training workshop than being able to read a script. Workshops don't just happen. Planning and preparation are necessary to ensure that everything needed to conduct a successful workshop (space, facilities, equipment, handout materials) are there when participants arrive.
In Part II of this guide, we discuss many things that you will need to know as you make preparations for a workshop based on materials contained in one or more of the handbooks in the Elected Leadership series. Included are such things as meeting the client's expectations, location and physical facilities, training equipment, participant materials, and so forth, and important skills needed by the trainer as workshop designer.
Part III of the guide reviews the various types of training exercises (case studies, role plays, instruments, and so forth) that can be found in the 12 workshop designs, what contribution each is designed to make to workshop goals, and how you can use each of them with the greatest possible effectiveness.
In Part IV of the guide we turn attention to the actual on-site delivery of training and some practical techniques that, when used as suggested, can make a profound difference in the outcome of a workshop.
Finally, in Part V we present workshop scoring keys, and other materials that you will need are conveniently cross-referenced by workshop and exercise.
At the risk of repeating some of what you read in Part I of this guide, we want to review several factors that will be important to you in preparing to train councillors in one or more of the subjects included in the 12 handbooks on Training for Elected Leadership.
1. Participant expectations
Perhaps the most important factor in ensuring the success of a workshop is to narrow the expectation gap between yourself as the trainer and the workshop participants. The subject matter shown in the handbooks is far more likely to be effective if the participants who come to a workshop know ahead of time what they will be learning and the process to be used to facilitate their learning. For example, you might develop a training calendar and circulate brochures to client organizations announcing the training and when workshops on various topics will be available, their length, and location. Or you might negotiate a contract individually with one or more local authorities on topics of specific interest to their councillors. Individual training contracts allow the trainer and the client organization to be much more explicit about training content and scheduling. In any case, it is important that information on training content and approaches is specified beforehand so that participants know the learning opportunities being made available to them.
2. Duration and timing
The number of workshops to be conducted, their duration, and the sequencing and timing of training events (exercises) depend on a number of considerations. Elected leadership training that is scheduled as a single programme (e.g., seven to 10 days in length) for participants from many organizations gives the trainer considerable control over content and schedule. A two-day or weekend programme presents the trainer with a different design and scheduling problem. This is particularly true when the training programme is for a group of councillors from the same organization. Programmes to be conducted over one or two days would mean omitting some of the topics (handbooks) and including others, or it might mean choosing to omit some exercises, shorten them, or substitute new exercises in order to cover more of the topics in less time. While considerable flexibility in the use of training materials included in this series is recommended, the trainer should be particularly careful to include enough time for participants to process the information being covered in one exercise fully before moving on to the next.
3. Location and physical facilities
It is important to create an environment that supports learning, one that removes participants from everyday distractions and encourages them to consider new ways of thinking and acting in their various councillor roles. It would be unwise, for example, to conduct a workshop in the facility where a council holds its meetings. In fact, training for elected leaders is best done outside the community in which they serve It is often possible in a remote setting to capitalize on the development of norms of openness, sharing, and experimentation with new ways of thinking and acting. Being away can encourage councillors to be genuinely resourceful to one another, particularly during free time periods.
Physical facilities are critically important. Normally, the trainer will want to ensure meeting privacy, movable furniture, and adequate space for several small groups to meet concurrently. Auditoriums and large, open buildings are usually not flexible enough and lack the intimacy needed for effective group interraction. On the other hand, a recreation building or school or educational facility might be quite suitable. Of course, most training institutions have facilities that are designed and equipped with the learning requirements of participants in mind, and these should be used whenever possible. It is also important to arrange things so that participants are not interrupted by nonparticipants, telephone calls or other annoyances during training sessions.
4. Equipment and training aids
You need to have access to materials and equipment that can be transported easily or can be relied upon to be available at the training site. Essential items of equipment include flipcharts, easels, numerous pads and markers, and an overhead projector or other audio-visual equipment as presentation aides. Be sure that equipment is in good working order and that spare parts are on hand in the event of a breakdown. Participant handout materials including instruments, questionnaires, checklists and worksheets, particularly those that require extensive assembly, should be prepared in advance. Of course, it is useful to have access to duplicating equipment at the training site. Many trainers who want to compile data on site are taking advantage of the convenience and portability of computers, sometimes equipped with communication devices (modems) and supported by fast printers.
5. Participant experience
The use of warm-up exercises, sometimes called "ice-breakers," will vary depending on the familiarity of councillors with one another and their experience as participants in interactive training programmes such as this one. These activities are intended to speed up the process of getting acquainted while exposing participants to the training methods being used. If may be possible for you to exclude warm-up exercises when participants have served together on the same council or have participated with one another in other workshops of this kind. On the other hand, sometimes participants know one another but there is an unequal acquaintance ship within the group (e.g., councillors from rural areas mixed with councillors from large cities). In preparing for a workshop, you will want to take into account any natural groupings of participants based on social acquaintance outside the training. This information can be useful to you in assigning participants to small groups and in selecting activities for beginning and closing the workshop.
Whether or not participants are experienced with interactive types of training and have taken part in such training before is important. Some participants may have taken part in other workshops in this series or other training events similar to the one being planned. Knowing the training background of participants ahead of time can have a bearing during workshop design on pacing the programme. It can be of help to you during the workshop in selecting small group leaders and asking participants to volunteer for a presentation of their reactions to a new concept or observations about the value of a particular learning experience.
6. Numbers of participants
A reasonable question for you to be asking at this point: What is the limit on how many participants can take part in a workshop on elected leadership? This question is important for a couple of reasons. First, there may be an implied maximum participant number beyond which the workshop is not feasible. Not so. Any number of participants can take part. The issue is to be able to anticipate how many there will be far enough in advance to prepare adequately. For example, a single trainer might be able to work effectively with a group of up to 30 in size (although we recommend co-trainers, even for groups of less than 30, particularly if several half-day or day-long workshops are to be conducted in sequence). As a general rule, should the participant group exceed 30, additional trainers will be needed. As you can see, the number of participants who can be handled is limited only by space and the number of trained trainers available.
The participant count is important for another reason. In preparing for a workshop, the number of people to anticipate will affect the amount of space needed and the number of small group meeting rooms that must be available. Numbers will determine the number and copies of handout materials that must be prepared and equipment that must be available in each meeting room for processing of data. Finally, numbers will have an influence on the number of training institution staff who will be needed to handle registration and other administrative or logistical matters before, during, and at the close of a workshop. The size of the task will depend, of course, on the extent that the training unit is involved with the housing and transportation of participants.
7. Follow through
When developing a plan for a workshop or workshop series, it is important to know beforehand what is going to happen when the programme is over, that is, how much and what kind of follow-through will you be doing with the workshop participants. As you know, each workshop concludes with an exercise designed to encourage participants to apply what they have learned to their present challenges as elected leaders. When the programme is attended by a large number of councillors from many local authorities, completion of this exercise may be the only practical way to encourage learning transfer.
With smaller groups of councillors who work together or who serve in neighbouring communities, it may be possible to do more. For example, you may be able to offer trainer-facilitated follow-up meetings within a few weeks or months to discuss participant experiences in using workshop [earnings and how to overcome transfer obstacles confronting them. Or councillors with past successes in using workshop materials might be asked to volunteer to serve as guides and mentors to less experienced councillors who are ready and willing to accept their help.
In summary, before developing a design for a particular workshop or workshop series, you will want to explore what you have to work with in relation to time, training staff, space, money, and materials. Careful consideration of all these factors will help you decide if the programme can be carried out successfully. If not, you may want to rethink the design, renegotiate the contract, adjust the fee schedule, or find additional financing for the programme.
In this section we will be discussing some general considerations to guide you in customizing the councillor training you do based on the general workshop designs contained in the 12 handbooks on Training for Elected Leadership.
1. Keep them busy
In designing a workshop for councillors it is important to avoid having a passive group of participants. Have something for them to do all the time. In a presentation, stress that they work hard at being active listeners. In an exercise, be sure that each participant has something to do or think about that contributes to his or her own development within that particular council role. In other words, make it clear that each workshop participant is responsible for managing his or her own learning and, then, give them ample opportunity to act out that responsibility through participation.
2. Balance and sequencing
The arrangement of exercises and presentation should proceed naturally from the more known to the less known, from the less complex to the more complex, from the less interactive to the more interactive. Moreover, every component of the workshop should contribute to the attainment of workshop goals. Even the tea breaks, meals, and free times should be placed strategically in anticipation of subsequent exercises (e.g., schedule an intensive, highly interactive group exercise immediately after a meal to avoid the mental and physical sluggishness that could accompany a presentation). It is important also to have the same theme running throughout all the components of a workshop as a basis for learning continuity. The various workshops that make up the 12 handbooks are designed with learning continuity in mind.
Every effort possible has been made to provide councillor-relevent materials in the various handbooks. This is vital inasmuch as the content of a workshop will have genuine learning value only to the extent that it parallels the kinds of leadership concerns and problems that councillors ordinarily face in their work. As an aim in furthering the relevancy of these materials, several of the exercises have been designed to gather on-the-spot data from councillors about their own experiences. Participants, in several instances, are asked to pair up or, in small groups, to gather data about a topic central to the workshop. These concerns may be compiled on a sheet of newsprint and even rank ordered according to urgency, importance, or other considerations. In several instances, participants are asked to perform independent rank ordering, establish their own points of view, and then, in small groups, to develop a consensus ranking of the material. Questionnaires employing checklists, rating scales, and open-ended questions are used to gather individual data for comparison with small group and even total group results. You can take advantage of these data collection devices to help participants process data and to take responsibility for analysing the results, perhaps as a group self-portrait.
As mentioned previously, it is imperative that everything possible be done to encourage the transfer of learning from the workshop environment to the realworld working life of councillors. Processing is an important key to successful learning transfer. By processing we are referring to efforts made to talk through and interpret data arising from a training event. It is imperative that you as a trainer provide sufficient opportunity for participants to sort out and share reactions to what they have been experiencing. This cannot be overemphasized. Processing data can be encouraged in several ways:
· You can use observers to report on the process or outcome of an exercise.
· You can ask participants to serve as consultants to one another to stimulate thinking and problem solving.
· You can divide the participant group into several smaller groups for rapid processing of data and structured so that reporters give a brief synopsis to the total group of what occurred during the small group discussion.
· You can encourage back-home application by having participants contract with one another to do various things on return from the workshop, hopefully supported with planned follow-through as described earlier.
We have already stressed the importance of avoiding boredom and passivity by keeping people involved. On the other hand, you might design a workshop that moves at such breakneck speed that participants leave with an information overload. Time is needed during the workshop to give participants a chance to sort out what they have been learning. Free time is needed to give participants an escape from the heavy cognitive demands of the workshop.
At times things can begin to drag in a workshop. When this happens, you can point out your observation and ask for confirmation from participants. Sometimes a simple ventilation exercise (e.g., on a scale of one to five, with five being high and one being low, how do you feel about the way things are going right now?) is a useful way to get participant feedback on their feelings individually and as a group. In other words, the pace of events in a workshop should be dictated by evidence of fatigue or boredom, the necessity to provide plenty of time for processing data, and the need to get responsible and accurate feedback on the process from the participants themselves.
Each of the workshops in the series is introduced with an objective for the exercise. Achieving these objectives should guide you as you introduce and facilitate the various exercises that make up each of the workshops. It is also important to help participants clarify the relation between these stated objectives and their own reasons for wanting to master the content of a workshop.
An important trainer value is to stimulate participants to exercise more freedom in thought and action than may be customary for them. A demonstration of this value during the workshop is to avoid doing anything to force anyone to take part in any activity that would cause them to feel threatened or intimidated. This is particularly true if people are attending a workshop involuntarily or with strong reservations. It is important for you as the trainer to be sensitive to the feelings and needs of all participants and not to expect participants to involve themselves with equal enthusiasm in every single activity.
While each of the workshops in the handbook series has been designed so that it can be presented without modification, this does not mean that we intend them to be used this way. Quite the contrary. We want you to look for and consider any design modification that would cause the workshop to reflect more accurately the learning needs of a particular group of elected leaders. This is particularly true when you are asked to custom design workshops for councillors who serve on the same council, councillors who may have teamwork as one of their goals - learning how to get along better with each other. In other words, we want you to consider more than one design option for each workshop learning objective; in fact, we want you to view this as a personal goal anytime you are engaged in the design of training activities.