is running - how to coach it?
Racism, anti-Semitism, xenophobia,
homophobia and other related forms of intolerance
are forms of prejudice and discrimination. Dealing
with these issues can be a challenge and at the same
time a great opportunity for learning and sharing.
Dealing with these issues can raise very sensitive
and emotional issues. Grief about suffering from discrimination
might surface; rage, anger, shame and tears might
be shed and shared. Much the same can happen as it
does in AIDS-prevention or alcohol-prevention peer
group education projects.
For all the participants the peer
group education project itself can become a process
of learning much about life and about themselves.
As in any on-going process it is natural that there
will be times of stress and difficulties that might
not have not been foreseen at first thought.
They can vary according to:
• the nature of the project
• the phase it is going through
• the subject being dealt
• the number of people involved
• the environment
• the structure of the peer
• leadership among the youth.
In the examples of good practice
quoted in this book (section 5) some of the most difficult
moments were described by those who contributed.
The following core problems can be
cited (and surely some more may be found):
• confrontation with unfamiliar
• pressure of administrative
• financial and funding problems
• growth of project into unknown
• not enough assistance provided
• leadership problems, in-group
quarrels, team problems
• gender problems
• dealing with strong emotions
in yourself and in others
• need to help and comfort
people; limitations to do so
• confrontation with expectations
• disturbing influences from
outside groups or authorities
• risky or dangerous situations
• dealing with the media
As youth worker, school master or
trainer involved in a peer group education project
you may be happy and proud to have launched such a
project in your environment. You will want the project
to become a success. You will want the young people
to feel comfortable with it. You want to coach them,
but in a very unobtrusive way, leaving the peers to
their own devices as much as possible.
How do you go about this in a creative
It is useful to bear in mind
the starting points of your peer group education project.
As a coach you will want to empower
• by encouraging them to identify
• by helping them to make
• by teaching and practicing
the necessary skills
• by fostering mutual support,
tolerance and emotional healing in the group
• by creating a positive environment
for their activities
• by defending their rights
• by assisting them emotionally
• by expressing faith in their
• by creating structures and
systems for decision-making that bring in diverging
view-points, heighten perception and lead to effective
use of information and experience
to promote the message against
racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism:
• by providing useful materials
• by helping to network some
other similar or adjacent projects
• by making yourself more
knowledgeable about racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism
and other forms of intolerance
• by learning from the day-to-day
experience of young people
• by recruiting a diverse
team of youth
• by respecting diversity
and diverse needs
• by treating everybody equally.
More practically speaking you
might consider the following suggestions:
12 Points for the
supportive and non-authoritarian coach
Different coaches have different
styles. But there are a few key points for coaches:
• They support the team spirit
• They must recognize the
skills of the different partners involved and put
them in the right positions.
The team will sometimes not act as
planned or expected. The coach helps the peers reflect
on their experience so they are ready to act better
next time. During the practical work, the coach is
on the sideline. At practice, the coach plays different
Identify leaders in the group and
help them before and between meetings to plan meetings,
develop strategy proposals, lead meetings, and anticipate
problems. Youth leaders need support and training
so that they can lead other youth. Without training
and support they risk 'burn out'.
Discuss the establishment of a routine
of weekly or bi-weekly meetings where brain-storming,
re-considering, re-evaluating can be done in a quiet
setting. Set up flip chart or black board where everything
that happened, can be continuously noted down in an
easy way, what worked, what didn't work, what could
be improved . Keep findings; "What went well?",
"What could be better?" "What needs
further discussion/evaluation?" as the barometer
of the development of the project and as the basis
of group discussions. Always start with a positive
feed-back "What went well? What have we/you as
the group and you as individuals achieved?" Be
prepared not to be needed when you might want to teach
something, but be always there when you are needed.
2. Expectations and aims. Activism
and burn out.
The coaches cannot achieve
the aims themselves. The team will have into work
to achieve the aims. do that. The coach should inject
realism in the project without breaking idealism.
Burn out is a common result of activism.
To prevent this working suggest; cherishing each other,
taking a rest, bringing in more people, delegating
tasks, setting realistic aims, finding enough resources
(helpers, money, etc). The topic of your peer group
education programme, fighting racism and xenophobia
has to be treated seriously. Working on projects and
programmes can be fun and rewarding for young people
and their coaches.
3. Administration and planning
Assign a person that is ready to
assist the peer group with administration matters.
The person should offer regular visiting hours every
week which can be used without pressure of other work.
Make office space and office equipment available at
certain times of the week.
Organise a session with the peer
group dealing with planning instruments. Make an exercise
how to use annual and weekly planners. Have a 'pro'
and 'contra' discussion about 'planned' versus 'spontaneous'
action. Ask the group to decide who will be in charge
with keeping up the agenda. Discuss what the prospective
phases of the project will be, i.e. for organising
a camp, an event, creating educational materials etc.
4. Finances and funding
Offer a session to the peer
group on the topic 'money' and its value in our society.
Discuss volunteer and paid work engagements. Discuss
what funding means and how funds greatly determine
the size of the project. Discuss prospective sponsors.
Use 'role play' to develop skills
in convincing a potential sponsor and getting across
the importance and uniqueness of the project to him/her.
Explain different options of budgeting, i.e. that
even without huge funds a great deal can be achieved.
Work on methods for drawing up budgets. Help looking
for sponsors and promoters of the campaign.
5. Growth of the project
Discuss how the project went
so far. Until now, can distinctive phases be named?
• What are the implications
when a new phase of the project development is reached?
• What needs to be done next?
• Who looks forward to the
new challenge, who is a little scared about it? Why?
• How can we support each
other? Do we need more people in the project, more
participants, or more support from the outside?
6. Leadership problems, team problems
What do you as coach do when
you disagree with the group? How quickly do you show
opposition? Which mistakes are learning experiences
for the youth? Which ones endanger the project? Are
you sure you know better? How can you communicate
your information in a way that is not 'adultist' ("When
you're older you'll know that..." or "Have
you considered what will happen if...").
Generally give support to the youth
leader and do not allow the leader to be heavily criticised
or oppressed. Accept criticism from the group for
your work as long as it is not destructive. Ask for
respect just as you would be respectful to others.
Use a variety of educational tools;
questionnaires, dilemma boards, newspaper cuts, etc.
for exercises that deal with the following questions:
• What does leadership mean?
• Who wants to fulfill that
role? Why? Who does not want such a role? Why?
• Are there only advantages
about being a leader (admiration, power, fulfillment,
pride) or can there be disadvantages as well (workload,
leading eats up energy, exhaustion, burn-out).
• Can there be alternative
leadership models? Shared leadership? Leadership on
• What is a team? Why are
we a team? What are our goals? Why could we be divided,
which are the disturbing factors?
• How do we deal with divisions
early and openly in a healing way?
• How do we say good-bye
to disruptive people?
7. Gender problems
Use educational tools to tackle
the following questions:
• We have launched a project
against racism and intolerance. Does racism and intolerance
have anything to do with sexism or (vice versa)?
• Racism and intolerance also
touches our individual feelings. How do young people
in our group feel about their individual identity
and about their role in society? How did we, as girls
and boys, learn about our life roles in childhood?
• Do girls of different ethnic
groups feel differently about their position in society?
• Can we fight discrimination
on the outside of our group if there is discrimination
within our group?
Consider breaking up the group in
a female and male sub-group. Let them first work separately,
then together. Let them discuss if such a separation
would be the right thing for ethnic groups as well.
8. Dealing with emotions
Use different educational tools
• What are emotions? How
do they influence us?
• What does society (family,
friends, lovers, teachers, TV, movies, our boss) tell
us about emotions?
• Are there situations when
emotions are "allowed" and when they are
• When we look at other cultures
- are emotions lived in another way?
• Who finds it easy to show
emotions? Who doesn't?
• Do boys and girls express
emotions in different ways?
• Why could emotions scare
• What do emotions have to
do with discrimination?
• What does discrimination
do to us?
• How does it feel to be
discriminated? Do we know this feeling?
• When we felt bad about
something in our life, who was the person that would
comfort us? How? In the past? Who is it now?
• How can we comfort somebody
who expresses sorrow, pain or sadness?
• Can we exercise how to
comfort and soothe? Do we go about it in different
ways (For boys and girls, taking on board the need
to respect a persons sexual orientation, cultures,
9. Dealing with outside pressure
Institutions and individuals - this could
be the parents of the young people taking part, a
funding body or other groups - might try to disturb
and cut short your peer group education project. What
can you and the group do to counter this outside pressure?
As the coach you will defend your project and your
group in the best way you can. This could be done
by making a presentation to an important board or
an influential individual or with your superior or
At the same time it might be useful to discuss with
your group power, pressure and counter-pressure and
the role of pressure groups. It is important that
young people know their rights and can exercise them.
• Who has power in our society?
• How is power connected to
• Where can we make out counter-powers?
Or where is there a balance of power? How can a compromise
• What are the expectations
that we have to other sectors of our society? (Institutions,
school, youth club etc).
• How far does the group want
to yield? What are the conditions for compromising?
• How can one be diplomatic
- and reach most of your goals
• Do the members of the group
have less rights than adults because they are young?
10. Risky or dangerous situations
Your peer group may encounter
resistance or aggression of racist, anti-semitic or
xenophobic groups or individuals. Discuss what is
considered to be risky or dangerous. Discuss what
could be the outcome of an encounter with racist or
• Would it be useful for the
project to encounter such a confrontation?
• What would help to reach
our goals without too many risks?
Maybe you want to add a discussion
about violence, what is violence in its different
forms. How does it relate to racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism
and other forms of intolerance?
11. Contacts with the media
Contacts with the media are
important for your project and for the group members
as well. Discuss the role of the media.
• How do the media influence
our perception of the world?
• Why is media coverage important
for our project?
• Do we need to appoint a
'media specialist' in the group?
• Do we need a policy on working
with the media?
Offer exercises in how to write a
letter to the editor, how to answer at an interview.
How will the answers be reproduced by the media?
12. Drop-outs and how to ' keep
the flame on '
There might be moments when
some people want to leave the project. Discuss and
explore with the group through exercises the impact
of people dropping out. Maybe you want to use role-plays.
• How do different members
of the group feel about it?
• What might be the reason
to stop with the engagement? Burn-out? Other new interests?
Do they have anything to do with the project?
• Is this a natural thing
that happens, or are the drop-out somehow considered
to be traitorous to the group?
• How can the project live
• How can successors be found?
Could it be negotiated that people leave from the
project only when new persons are ready to come in
• Do new-comers offer new
chances, new insights?
How can you and the peer group
measure the success of your project? You might have
reached other people, you might have shared stories
of discrimination, you might have stood up against
racist jokes and slurs, you might have organized an
event, you might have embarked for further goals and
activities, you might have built a network, you might
have changed the atmosphere within your group or youth
club, or school.
As the Taoist say: the way is the
Everything that happens by doing
such a project can be a worthwhile development if
• it does not destroy or endanger
the project or burn out the young people or yourself
• it does not go against the
aims you have set for the project
• it does not hurt people
involved in an inadequate manner
• the group learns by mistakes.