Working with other people in groups to achieve common goals is effective. It has lots of advantages because when people work together in a group it can be easier to overcome common challenges. The group can achieve many things and its individual members can also get benefits more than they could get if they were to work individually. However, there are challenges associated with working with others. Those who work together as teams need to understand those challenges and have the required skills that can help them work with others effectively; otherwise, it would be difficult, if not impossible for the team to achieve anything.
In our fair diamond project, the artisanal diamond miners and diggers will work together as a team. Therefore, the artisanal diamond miners in Weasua, the targeted community, have organized themselves in a cooperative while the artisanal diamond diggers also organized themselves into a diggers’ association. They organized themselves because they have realized that working individually has not helped them for many years in the past. They now believe in the power of team work and have decided to work together through a cooperative.
Why Team Building Training?
We designed the team building training based on the expressed needs by miners and diggers. When we assessed their needs, we found many of them complained that some people don’t know how to work with others. People come from different backgrounds with different orientations and ideologies, so how do the individual members’ ideas benefit the team if they are not coordinated well? Some people in teams can believe so much in themselves and think their ideas are the best, and if those ideas are not followed, they get angry and don’t want to be a part of the group any more. Others think because they are the leaders, they should have absolute control over everything in the team; most times they consume what belong to the team including funds collected without accountability. Then the other members feel inferior and disenchanted and lose trust in the leaders. This way of running group activities is very common especially in rural areas in Liberia; as the result, many persons lose interests in working together with other people to achieve common goals and the groups collapse. Thus, it is very important for people with the desire of working together for common success to have the necessary skills that can help them run a successful team.
Program of the Training[1st day]
- Introduction incl. setting up the rules for the training
- Get to know you game
- Team games: Human knot, Trust falls, Charades
- Evaluation Responses
- Small talk session
- Follow the leader game
- Truth circle with leaders
- Truth circle with miners and diggers
- The perfect square game
- Action plan
- Closing evaluation
- Certificating and closing
Nature of the training
The whole of the lessons in the training were presented through the playing of entertaining and education games. Throughout the training the participants didn’t have to write anything, and this was a very good learning experience especially for / the illiterate ones (note: about half of the participants are illiterate). The facilitator explained each game clearly and the participants listened keenly; they played the games with great excitement. At the end of each game, there were sessions of discussion to find out what the participants have learned. One of the games that was played is the human knot game; the focus of this game is to stress the importance of communication and the need for sharing ideas amongst team members. This exercise helps team members learn how to communicate and share ideas to overcome their common challenges as a team. It also helps the participants to understand that in order to overcome challenging situations; the team members need to keep trying again and again until they are successful finally.
Benefits of the training
A cooperative needs to function democratically, and one of the main components of democracy is equal rights for all; this means equal participation in all cooperative activities including decision making, equal access to the benefits generated from the cooperative activities, the right to be heard especially when expressing dissatisfaction and the rights to have access to all information about the cooperative activities. With respect to Weasua, our targeted community, the miners and diggers had previously complained that they lacked these skills; therefore, they were glad to receive the team building training.
One of the exercises that interest the participants most is the “Truth Circle Game.” In this exercise, the participants were divided into two groups, one group consisted of all the leaders from the cooperative, the diggers’ association and the community that were in the training and the other group consisted of the ordinary members of the cooperative and the diggers’ association. The leaders sat in a circle with their eyes blind folded while their members surrounded them and spoke out the bad things each leader had done or is doing in the community, but the leaders were not permitted to say anything at that moment. The exercise was a two-way street; after the members have expressed their grievances, they also sat in the circle with their eyes blind folded and the leaders presented their charges against the members in like manner.
The participants found the exercise very helpful for the growth of the cooperative, the diggers’ association and the community because during the game, they were able to speak their hearts without fear and the leaders listened to them without trying to provide any justification until everyone had said what s/he wanted to say. Some leaders said that they were not aware of the complaints they just heard. At the end of the exercise, they all sat together and discussed the possible solutions to what they have each expressed in the exercise. The participants were happy to learn that when they all listen to each other and their problems are addressed.
In the wrap up session, the facilitator asked the participants what they learned from this training. Their answers were the following:
- “Communicate with one another”
- “Togetherness (coming together)”
- “Trust one another”
- “To be a good listener”
- “Love. If we love one another, we share info and work peacefully.”
- “Respect one another’s view.”
- “Listen to one another and understand”
- “This is the first workshop that has ever benefitted this community to give the right info to the leaders and the community people to change our ways.”
- “Patient with the people you lead.”
- “I have a freedom to speak out.”
- “We can tell leaders what we are really thinking.”
- “It’s my first to time to join a training like this. No writing but I received a good knowledge.”
The facilitator went on “what are you going to do differently because of this training?” Participants answered:
- “I’ll change my voting behavior. I won’t put a person in power just because I like him/her or I know him/her. I’ll vote for someone who has the ability to do the work.”
- “As a member of the team, I won’t wait for the leaders to come to me. I will give instructions to go on to work during their absence.”
- “It’s not what the community does for you but what you do for the community. I’ll work to improve the community.”
- “I’ll come to a meeting whenever it’s called. I didn’t do so before.”
The participants discussed about their action plans and came up with the following. Diamonds for Peace Liberia (DFPL) will monitor their progress.
- To organize a workshop to train the members of the cooperative and other miners who didn’t get the opportunity to participate in this training. We would appreciate if DFPL sponsors the training.
- To continue the cooperative’s farming project.
- To undertake a joint mining project to raise funds to support our cooperative activities.
- To start a small business (soap production) for income generation.
- To undertake a mining project for the diggers’ association.
- To start a small agriculture project.
- To start to have regular leadership meeting
- To have regular meeting with the community members
- To come up with a by-laws for the community.
- To call a mass community meeting to discuss the issues affecting the community and the way forward.
- To come up with by-laws for the community
- To have a water and sanitation project
The participants were fully involved with all the training activities; the training was full of life; everyone was willing to make contributions and was given a chance to express themselves. Participants said it’s their first time participating in this kind of training whose lessons they really understood.
The days of working in isolation should be gone as teamwork provides the opportunity to groups of people to break barriers and achieve bigger goals. However, this training is just the beginning. The members and leaders of the cooperative need to remember that it is a process to make their cooperative work in a democratic and accountable way. When they have a hard time or a challenge, let us remind them of what they have learned in this training.
Diamonds for Peace is planning to conduct this training in another community in Liberia. We will revise the training manual after that and publish it as creative commons document so that anyone who wants to conduct it can do so in his/her community.