Exploring emotional development for strengthening community resilience
Toolfaire is a word that always goes mocked when a friend or a colleague who is outside the world of lifelong non-formal learning is hearing about it in a discussion. I always needed to explain what is it, why developing and testing learning tools is important, how it is serving the work that we are doing within the development sector, how it is transferable and applicable to different realities.
Personally what I like in the Toolfaire is the fact that having over a hundred person who is dedicating their time to create, test, develop, and adopt tools for learning. There is a tremendous amount of creativity there. Having a group of a practitioner who is willing for learning, exchanging and reflecting is what characterise the work we are all doing and contributing to through the Erasmus Plus program and in other areas where we have organizations and individuals who are adopting similar approaches, advocating for the non-formal learning and for the recognition of the youth work.
In the 13th edition 2018, the Toolfaire that took place in Croatia with the title #PowerUp which will be the word that we will all use and be motivated with until next year edition. What matters with the learning tools it is not to create them from scratch, or even to invent new ones… we have so many learning tools, we are already using them, some of them are becoming like classics and sometimes you hear the trainers discussing among themselves in a certain activity, let us facilitate “a new mosque in Sleepyville” after we “cross the river” or do “Stella”. Our work is growing and we are developing ourselves as well. If you are already involved in this then, this would be for 10, 20 or even more years of experience.
The amount of knowledge that we are exposed to is tremendous. The level of reflections and which “questions” we are developing for the debriefing, the whole mindset behind running the series of inter-related activities and building up where the learner is the center of this whole process. Even the design of the room and how to place the chairs in a circle and without tables are involved. All the details seem to matter very much and they are an integral part of facilitating learning and ensuring the learning process to take place in a fun, relaxed and most importantly safe way.
In the section of “Tools to Explore” I found a great space to present a series of interrelated activities related to unleashing –as we like to call it at my organization- the youth agency through raising awareness about the importance of having emotional growth and development. There are so much I need to explain here, and we need to start by the Positive Youth Development model first. The model looks into 6 aspects that are important to ensure having well youth development, these are; Competencies, Confidence/Agency (self-worth and efficacy “positive identity”), Connections, Character (morality: sense of right and wrong, spirituality and integrity), Caring/Compassion (sense of sympathy and empathy), and meaningful Contribution. At I Dare for Sustainable Development we focus very much on the aspect of youth agency. For us, this constitutes the foundation for our work in the area of Preventing Violent Extremism or as we prefer to call it “strengthening community resilience”. We believe that all individuals have their own agency and with enough awareness and self-consciousness, we would be able to unleash it. Check this video to have some understanding of the approach:
Video title: recommendations toward local interventions for Preventing Violent Extremism (PVS)
By supporting the youth to unleash their own youth agency and is very crucial in establishing their own intellectual autonomy and ownership of their decisions. Therefore, having a program that is designed to cater for unleashing the youth agency among the youth we work with whom their age varies between 18 and 30 years old is crucial for why we are doing our work. We need now to move into having an understanding of what makes up a “youth agency”? it is better to be understood by having individuals who are taking ownership of their life, who they are and taking the lead. Also, it is individuals who are enjoying having a positive identity, self-efficacy, ability to set their goals, who are diligent and beliefs positively in the future.
For that we will be looking at 2 C’s from the above C’s mentioned in the Positive Youth Development model; there are Compassion and Competencies:
- Compassion: by understanding the feelings and the emotions that we go through; to be able to identify it, to name it and to be aware of how that is affecting our behaviors and actions. For that, we use the emotional wheel chart to aid us in understanding the complex set of feeling that we have. There are a number of ways for how to work with or to understand the emotional wheel. First of all; by looking at the names of the different feelings we have and they are grouped into 6 main categories; those can be viewed as the negative and the positive emotional categories. For the positive feelings’ side of the wheel: joy, power, and peace. And, for the negative feelings’ side of the wheel: controlled, feared, and abandoned. You might look at those emotions from inward to outward. And, you may also consider looking at each feeling category and looking at it is opposite and how to reverse the negative feeling into a positive one. Fear versus power, controlled versus peace, and, abandoned versus joy.
The emotional wheel
Being able to recognize what sort of feelings/emotions we have, to name it, to know where it is coming from and how it really feels, is a very important step towards developing our own understanding of who we are and how those emotions are shaping us and influencing our decisions making process. We need to always remember that what hinders us from growing emotionally is having share and fear. Only with the forgiveness and the unconditional love we would be able to move from one side of the wheel to the opposite side… from the negative to the positive. When fear can be regarded as something standardized globally, the meanings and manifestations of what defines shame and forgiveness are bound to a greater extent with the locality of the local culture, context and social norms that we have.
- Competencies: through our work in I Dare for Sustainable Development over the past 4 years in the area of strengthening community resilience and working with youth. We were able to identify 13 competencies that we need to work on with the youth. These are; open-mindedness, adaptation to change, sense of responsibility, learning to learn, self-awareness, teamwork, sense of initiative, intellectual autonomy, sharing knowledge, time management, proactive creativity, empathy, self-esteem/confidence. In order for competency to be acquired or developed then we need to take into consideration three important pillars; knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Nothing is better than having a triangle to show the relationship between the three pillars and to see how the attitude would be forming as a result of the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills around a certain competency.
All of these identified competencies could easily identify a set of emotions and relate to it. This is what we need in order for us to be able to not only to identify with our emotions but, also, to be able to grow and to develop emotionally. It is crucial for us to start building our vocabularies list around the different emotions and feelings and to be able to associate them with the status that you might be in. little by little and with the practice, this will help you in better understanding who you, how you are affected with all of this, how your actions and decisions are being impacted. By understanding ourselves, what do we feel and why we are feeling this way. This will also increase our empathy towards the other and help all of us to be into this state of consciousness as a whole community. This sort of awareness behavior is often gone unnoticed and we assume that there is no place for such a thing and that we are rational. But, believe me, for being rational we for sure need to be emotionally grown and developed first.
According to Erikson’s Stages of human development; individuals need to undergo eight stages of development from infancy and adulthood. The stages start by establishing trust through the establishment of positive emotions with caring adults. And this would lead to the next stage of having the establishment of strong self-sufficiency. Then, to move into the ability to be initiative, and with that comes the person confidence in their abilities to master interpersonal skills to navigate our own realities. Then this would lead to developing the personal identity and thus, the individual desire to become productive and contributing to the future. The last two phases in the development process would be developing our abilities to experience true intimacy and finally, to establish our own strong sense of personal integrity.
These eight stages of human development are deeply rooted in the essence of who we are as individuals and each phase already seems tougher than the previous one. Without understanding the emotions and their complexity, our development and growth as “human beings” would only be a challenge!