Social change through Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles — Part 4: Collaboration

Learn how the principles of 4-H relate to collaboration.

Example of a sticky wall generated by members of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council.
Example of a sticky wall generated by members of the Michigan 4-H State Youth Leadership Council.

In the first article of this series, “Introduction to the Social Change Model for Leadership Development,” we introduced the seven C’s that help frame the Social Change Model of Leadership Development from three different levels: individual values, group values and societal or community values. This next set of articles will further explain each of the seven C’s, how it fits with the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles and share some Michigan 4-H examples of programming, activities or probing questions you could exercise to engage youth in the Social Change Model of Leadership Development.

To learn more about the Social Change Model of Leadership Development and the seven C’s, check out “A Social Change Model of Leadership Development” by the Higher Education Research Institute.

The next set of three C’s of the model—collaboration, common purpose and controversy with civility—are specifically related to group process values. Let’s discuss collaboration as it relates to the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles.

Working with others towards a common goal consists of group leadership effort by empowering yourself and others through commitment and trust. Collaboration utilizes others’ talents and perspectives by harnessing the power of diversity to generate effective and creative solutions. Coming together across difference to combine strengths, perspectives and efforts is the fourth C of the Social Change Model for Leadership Development: collaboration.

Collaboration is directly tied to the sixth Michigan 4-H Guiding Principle: youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism. Michigan 4-H defines this principle as the respect of differences among groups and individuals of diverse backgrounds. Youth develop skills and competencies that help them foster social justice in their communities and their world.

Some general elements of effectively practicing this guiding principle and helping youth develop the fourth C of the Social Change Model for Leadership are:

  • Exploring and valuing diverse abilities, skills, interests and cultural backgrounds is supported and acknowledged.
  • Opportunities for exploring diverse people, places and ideas are facilitated.
  • Participants with diverse upbringings, experiences, perspectives and worldviews are included at the decisions-making table, as well as in leadership and planning processes.

There are many ways Michigan 4-H helps youth develop and practice collaboration across difference. One example of programming that employs related concepts and helps youth practice tools for collaboration is teen facilitation training. This training aims to empower youth with tools to facilitate groups, ensure all voices are being heard and problems are being approached from multiple perspectives.

Two examples of tools taught in teen facilitation training are:

  • Sticky wall. This is a brainstorming tool that helps collect all ideas, even from individuals who need more time to think, are less likely to share verbally or experience fear in group participation. Ask each member of the group to write a single idea per sticky note and put the sticky notes all up on a wall. The group can work together to sort the stickies into themes and have further dialogue about each of the themes.
  • Rotating flip charts. Using three pieces of flipchart paper spaced around the room, split the topic, problem or idea at hand into three different but related headings (see example below). Split the large group into three smaller groups and have each group go to a flip chart to start brainstorming related to the heading on that flipchart. After a few minutes, have all the groups rotate flipcharts. This should be repeated twice so each group gets to be at each flipchart. When a group arrives at their new chart, they can read the comments related to that heading from the groups before them and work to further those ideas with their own. At the end of the process, every group has contributed to every heading while collaborating with the previous groups.
    • Example: A group a teens have come together with a commitment to creating an inclusive space in their community. The group has dedicated flipcharts for the following headings and are dividing up to brainstorm and collaborate on each one—religious inclusion, LGBTQ+ inclusion and differently abled youth inclusion.

Another great example of the overlap between this Michigan 4-H Guiding Principle and the Social Change Model is the Ready to Go: Mentor Training Toolkit. This toolkit has a specific section dedicated to valuing and honoring diverse perspectives. Activities included are meant to help youth and adults understand their own unique social identity, challenge some of the assumptions they might have about others and build skills to help work together across differences. Ready to Go recognizes diversity is an asset and builds competencies so participants can willingly, and effectively, collaborate with one another.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities in 2016, can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

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