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close this bookTrainer's Guide for Training of Elected Officials (HABITAT)
close this folderPart II - Getting prepared for elected leadership training
View the documentOverview
View the documentWorkshop preparations
View the documentSummary
View the documentTraining design skills

Workshop preparations

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.