An “Aha” Moment in Community Forum

All semester long, our Community Forum class has worked on trying to plan three outings for the YA group. The only real stipulations that I placed on these outings was that one had to be cultural, another had to be physical (moving our bodies in some way), and the third had to be a service project. Today, we ran out of time in class, so rather than jumping right back into planning, I decided to facilitate a conversation that encouraged the participants to reflect on why we have yet to plan an outing… when we started planning in January and it is now March.

The group had some great answers right away, including: It’s hard to compromise with this many people, we all have our own ideas about the right outings, and “we suck at planning”. One of the participants also talked about how the group members are always going off on tangents about other things- and as the group reflected on this observation, they began to realize that they go off on tangents and avoid planning because it is so hard for so many of them. It was a magical moment to have them say, “This is hard and I am avoiding it because of that.”

But there was still one thing that the group hadn’t noticed about why they were struggling. We have had classes like this in the past, but the one big difference is that this semester, the other facilitator and I have done nothing to help the group. In times past, we took the group’s ideas and then made them reality. When I pointed this out to the group there was an eruption noise- some of it blaming me for their failures, others having an “aha” moment, and others wanting to know if they were in trouble or worse at planning than I had anticipated.

As we processed this, one of the participants spoke up to share that the reason the staff has stopped helping them is so that they can all become more independent. He then listed off the things he wants to do that he doesn’t know how to plan out. I agreed with him and we went on to talk about all of the times in life where planning and compromising with a group is valuable- particularly in career settings. I shared stories of meetings I have been involved in in various work environments where the group avoided the task and got nothing done.

I could see the wheels turning in their heads and suddenly, they were all on board. They understood the point of our Community Forum, no longer saw it as an annoying way to teach them how to plan, but as an exercise in improving their ability to function in the real world. It was beautiful and exciting and they left class with more fervor for the task at hand, some of them claiming they would do some research for potential outings before our next meeting.

Kim Evans

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