This week started off with a two-day team-building training involving most of the staff members of the SST office in Padavedu, animators and CDOs from both the rural and tribal areas, the Field Director, Mr. Krishnan, and the SST Deputy Chairman, Mr. Parthasarathy. Representatives from another district called Tiruvannamalai conducted the workshop. It was motivating to first observe the activities before we were invited to participate in the team-building exercises. I watched the patterns of the SST team’s strategies; trying to conceive of how I would contribute to my peers in order to complete the challenge.
Easier said then done. When asked to partake in “squash the bomb”, with all my confidence, I floundered on one of my first turns. The game was set up with numbers strewn on the floor from 1-40 in no order. The teams were randomly selected so that staff were not in their usual group work settings. Together, team members had to tap on each number in order as fast as possible. Players were not allowed to step on the same number twice, step on a number out of sequence, or have two members hit the same number at once without delegating who should take the move. This activity instilled a lively spirit that brought on friendly competition and collaboration. In some cases, teams created a division of labor assigning roles to “squash the bomb.”
As we debriefed after the exercise, staff members were asked to consider creating a target for one particular area of difficulty in their social work with a specific timeframe to achieve this change. Positive group dynamics is a key factor to SST’s successes. On my site visits with the staff, I constantly observe an equality and respect between the CDOs and animators, and also how they work with community members (even though hierarchy is implicit by position and uniform). Just as there was no clear hierarchy in place with the game during training, I can see how this application can be brought back into their work on the ground. The trainers implemented their teachings to exemplify what actions they wanted to encourage staff members to take into the field. Community members can emulate SST staff when participating in community actions.
I considered how this staff, whose professional responsibilities are multi-sectored, come together as a team to learn how to integrate talents and skills that are needed when practicing in the field. Animators act as multi-disciplinary actors in their environment, which gives them strengths and benefits to meet different group dynamics in a variety of settings.
After the training, I was reminded of the second semester of my first year of social work school at Columbia University. Each of my five classes required group work. In my assignments, I recalled how group collaboration can be a major challenge when contributions vary based on the degree of each participant’s interest. For example, during the mock capstone project at the end of the semester in my Human Behavior in their Social Environment class (HBSE), we examined a case study to design interventions based on clinical, advanced generalist practice and programming (AGPP), policy, and social enterprise administration (SEA) levels. A student who is bound to the clinical track may contribute more to the bio-psychosocial elements of the case where his/her interests lie, whereas as AGPP student may speak to the mezzo level problems that exist due to structural deficiencies in the organizations that failed the individual. The SEA student may analyze the system in which the case exists. However, this does not mean that an SEA student cannot have an opinion or contribute to the analysis of the micro level assessment. Therefore, imperative to positive group dynamic is making sure there are no gaps in assessment of a situation, that each person is attentive to their teammates contributions, and that different skills are highlighted for a multi-focused approach.
Group work means that there are many perspectives on how to address a project, which can be an obstacle and an opportunity. On the one hand, varying opinions can lead to a thinning of the focus of the task at hand. Yet, a positive association to team efforts is the strength of differing skills and personal and educational background, leading to several solutions to manage one situation. Just as Southern Indians’ boast over 500 different types of mangoes; social workers are also inclined to a multitude of interventions.