Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Teamwork among artisanal diamond miners in Smith Town, Liberia is not a common practice; however, the diggers (those who dig for diamonds) usually work in small groups/gangs of three, four or five people. They believe without this kinds of team work it is almost impossible to recover diamonds as an artisanal diamond workers. This is because the work is very hard and they are only using simple tools (shovel, cutlass, digger, etc.). There are several small groups of diggers in mining communities and the members of each group work together as a team for shared benefits. DFP became aware that despite the teamwork there are still challenges for the artisanal miners given that they don’t have the basic skills to effectively work together in order to make bigger progress.
One of the goals of our project is to help the artisanal diamonds workers improve their working conditions and social status through organizing themselves into cooperatives. We understand that the workers in the artisanal diamond mining industry are not used to working together with others; therefore, DFP understands bringing them to work in a cooperative for common goals can be a challenge. To assist with this we included team building training into our technical support program, to help the stakeholders to understand what it means to work with others, the benefits associated with team work and skills required to work effectively with other people.
Why team building training in Smith Town
Smith Town is not a DFP project community yet, but the team building training was conducted there nonetheless. Because the DFP team building training manual is still being developed, we felt that following the conduct of the training in Weasua, it would be beneficial to also conduct the training in another community in order to finalize the manual development. At the same time, we saw the need for the stakeholders in Smith Town to receive the training because they had some issues with the cooperative such as the cooperative not operating democratically, the leaders making all the decisions and the other members with limited rights and participation in the cooperative activities. The cooperative in Smith Town had been dormant for many years for the above reasons, so they needed to learn the skills in team building to improve their ability to work together successfully.
Nature of the training
The team building training in Smith Town focused on the playing of many entertaining and meaningful games; all that was required of the participants was to listen carefully to each game instruction, participate in the playing of the games and discuss the meaning of those games. They did not have to write anything throughout the training. The trust fall is one of the games that was played; the reason for this game is to teach that team members must be reliant on each other in order to gain success, by doing so it is required for team members to build strong trust in each other.
Beneficiaries of the training
In Smith Town there is an established cooperative that has been dormant since 2009; however, they have been trying in recent time to get the cooperative reactivated but have not succeeded yet; however, the structure still exists.
There is also a structure of diggers association established by the diggers through our encouragement. The training targeted the members of the cooperative including other miners; the members of the diggers’ association and other diggers; and the leadership of the community. We targeted these three groups because the miners and diggers are the main groups we seek to assist. We included the community leadership because their support is highly needed to help the project achieve its goal and the community also is expected to benefit from social developments that would positively affect the lives of all the community dwellers.
How is the training beneficial to the stakeholders?
This team building training was very important to all the stakeholders, but most especially the cooperative. The cooperative has been facing serious challenge with its operation, the members were not attending meetings, they were not paying membership dues neither were they buying shares; in fact some of the members did not even understand the purpose and importance of buying shares and paying the membership dues. The leaders had thought that the members were not interested in the cooperative activities but the truth is that the members and other miners have not been motivated about the cooperative because they did not see the benefits and they knew nothing about the affairs of the cooperative.
During the training, while a series of team building games were played and interpreted, people began to understand that team work requires that the members listen to each other, respect each others’ views, strategize together, communicate with each other regularly and trust each other. When the truth circle game was played, there were some ill feelings especially amongst the leadership, but the facilitator quickly succeeded in calming the situation. He reiterated that the purpose of the game is to teach the lesson that it is important for the leaders to listen to the issues their members have against them without trying to counter argue. They need to carefully listen to those claims and have dialogue with the members to address the issues amicably. At the end of the training the leadership of the cooperative realized their errors (not working as team with the other members) and they along with the other miners came up with action plans to organize a regular monthly meeting with all the members; have the miners register their membership with the cooperative, explain clearly to the members the purpose and importance of the dues and shares and discuss what should be done with the due and share funds. They also planned to reorganize their record keeping system.
The training was interactive, the participants enjoyed the games played and they participated actively, they were fully involved with the discussion asking many questions and responding to many as well. They showed their interest and promised they will implement the knowledge they acquire from the training.
Voices of the training participants
– We are happy that this training was brought to us; it has helped us understand many things we didn’t know before, and we believe it will help us to improve as we work together in our different teams.
– The training was very helpful; it has given us the skills to successfully discuss and find solutions to the issues affecting us in our different groups and the community at large.
– The training helped us to understand the power of communication in building a successful team.
– Now that we have benefited the training, we will use the skills to strengthen our ability to work with our friends in the cooperative and the diggers’ association. We will begin to hold and attend regular meetings. We will encourage the other miners and diggers to become members of cooperative and the diggers’ association.
As it is often said “two heads are better than one” working in a team with others is better than working alone. This can be very effective when the members of a team clearly understand their purpose as a team and work collectively with shared responsibilities. In this way, the team can make tremendous progress more than what they would achieve by working individually.
Front photo: A group of participants demonstrate the human knot game while the others watch the process (c) Diamonds for Peace