Thursday, January 31, 2008

Results of Assets Based House Focus Experience

I facilitated an assets mapping experience with those interested in working on improving the living village through houseparent orientation and houseparent staff development. This is the summary of that experience.

1.Asset Mapping for What

We want to establish some way to orient houseparents. Through developing an approach to orientation, we hope to develop ourselves. We have no idea yet what should be included in the orientation nor what form it should take. Now's the time we're going to look at what the assets suggest.

18 staff freely chose to work in this group today. All are on house teams and all 6 houses were represented. Only one house did not have its houseparents in attendance.

Rather than allow them to self-select smaller groups based on affinity, I had them count-off to create four groups. I wanted to increase the chances folks would connect with new folks and new assets.

I introduced the entire agenda and provided context for why I had decided to use this exercise when thinking about how to best help houseparents and think of orienting houseparents in the future. At this point, I had a couple of people who didn't understand why we were talking about assets. N. asked, “I don't see how this has any relevance to houseparents.” However, the majority seemed to either understand or be willing to go along with the activity.

Recognizing Our Assets
I used prompts from the following categories: individual, physical, associations, organizational (in place of institutional) and resources (in place of economic). I also made the final prompt a version of the “needs transformation” exercise. Had them think of needs and modeled finding the asset at the core of that need.

Approximately 200 assets were generated and posted on walls. The space wasn't great. Lots of furniture in the way of walls. People actually got on chairs and taped some assets to the ceiling. Others interesting spaces included podiums, windows, and a piano.

Connecting the Dots
Some confusion – J. asked, “Is this specifically for houseparents or can it include students?” My struggle here was trying to avoid censoring while maintaining some generally connecting towards the target of houseparent staff development and orientation.

One thing I think I did well here was use an example of something that has already happened at the school that was already an example of connecting assets: Current Events class on Saturday connected with the Science teacher = Science based current events that lead to meeting graduation requirements. The person was in the room who had thought of that, so I thought it made the connecting real. I also pulled together two random assets and asked folks to brainstorm an action. Classic Rock knowledge + Resiliency Skills teaching = putting a band together with resiliency lessons woven into meetings.

20 minutes later 14 actions had been generated. Tough to see them because they were somewhat buried within a sea of 200 other sheets of paper. I promoted noting where things were during the report out.

Here my only concern was that some of the actions were less within the locus of control of those suggesting them. For example: assets were that three different groups of people live on campus. These were connected to the action: “more staff presence in the houses.” When questioned, it seemed that they were thinking we “should” have more staff presence given these assets rather than “I want to take action on being more present since I live on campus.” I thought this was worth redirecting to what was within their control. I had to do that two or three times.

Another comment was “It's almost like these directions are limiting. I see one asset and it stimulates many ideas but I don't know what to connect it with.” I suggested that the participant share his idea with the small group and see if they could make any connections or suggestions.

Voting with your feet
With direction, folks moved to 5 actions out of the 14. Some actions were combined.

Some asked, “what if I can't decide or I want to do more than one?” I said for now just pick the most engaging and we'll revisit this work in the future.

While everyone moved into actions, I didn't feel there was the kind of energy described in the consultant's journal on p. 24: “...people would come out of the ...experience smiling, laughing, and bursting with new energy.” This did not happen. It was more slow movement to actions, some low level buzz of conversation. Nothing negative but definitely not what I would call uplifting.

Debriefing the experience
I asked (1) taken together, can you imagine the contribution these 5 actions will make to the houseparent body, (2) what do you need next and (3) what feedback do you have about the process itself?

About a two-thirds of the comments were “creative, liked it, good starting points, can imagine benefits, etc.” The remaining third were split between, “when will we do this or how will we do this” and “I'm confused...why did we do this?”

3.Readiness for next steps
I think EVERYTHING that follows depends very much on my ability and follow through to support the actions suggested. I feel like I need to find time in the schedule for the action groups. I also think I need to help some get clarity on how these actions are tied to the support of houseparents. As I've mentioned before in other threads, I did a full day Appreciative Inquiry Summit with design groups generated and no one ever met again after that day.

How do I best support follow through?


Al Sylvia said...

Sounds like a cool time, Michael. How long did it take, all told?

Here are some random thoughts (that I'm using as work avoidance -- I don't feel like writing my TGIF for Big Picture :)

I'm interested in the feedback that you got from questions 1 and 2 of your debrief. It feels like your report of responses was only to question 3.

I feel your dilemma at the end. I think I need more info. Did individuals take responsibility for moving their generated actions forward? Was there a feeling of ownership by the group about taking the five actions? Was there any planning around the actions generated? Did the actions relate (in some way) to the purpose you set out in #1 (establishing some way to orient houseparents)?

Maybe you need to connect the dots a little more -- identifying some path that might start with the actions taken and lead back to creating an approach to orientation and taking that back to the group.

At any rate, I think that there should be some sort of report out of "how it's going" once the actions get rolling.

Keep writing, dude. This is pretty fascinating stuff.

Michael said...

Al -

I didn't do the things you suggest but they are great ideas and the kind of feedback I am seeking.

What I'm doing now is my classic set of one on one conversations. Over the next few days, I'm checking in with everyone individually and asking, "If I could support this work through schedule and PD, is this something you're really interested to keep working on?" Three down, 15 to go. The three said yes.


BGJeff said...


From your earlier posts in appears that idea to orient/train houseparents is coming from Admin at ERS/PDC. Even though Houseparents stated that they didn't feel they were particularly good at the job, do they feel it necessary to change/get better? Is it possible that they are stuck in the Status Quo and don't see the need to work on their skills as a HP or an orientation program for HP?

Michael said...

Jeff: Before choosing HP staff development, I asked the HPs if this would be something they are interested in. Most said yes.

The HPs might be used to the status quo but more like beaten down dogs rather than lazy staff. That is, I think they want to be better, have energy to get better but do not have much hope that they can get better give the past history of little houseparent support.

So, if I fail and do nothing - they will probably take it in stride. Almost like it is expected. If I can hit upon something that resonates, I think they will use it and love it.