The Knack of Hosting
Teresa Edge is currently studying social entrepreneurship and is an MAES candidate in Local Economic Development at the University of Waterloo. She is a Project Coordinator at the LEDlab, working with Knack to grow their badging ecosystem.
Facilitation is fun and often inspiring. A facilitator draws out from the group their wisdom about a topic and builds a community of collective learning. Who better to lead this process than people who have been in the group themselves? In the most recent Knack cohort all three facilitators were past participants in the Knack program: Jenn (Winter 2016), Marvin (Summer 2016), and myself (Fall 2016) who joined to immerse myself in Knack as a new staff member. Knack is helping build an inclusive economy by connecting people facing barriers to employment to local employers. Knack includes an 8 week workshop series on soft skills employers have told us are valuable in any workplace. We call participants Knack Earners because they’re earning badges and want to be earning income.
Back when Jenn was in the Knack workshops, and before I was involved, she mentioned off hand one day, “wouldn’t it be great if there were peers helping lead this program?” Almost a year later the idea bubbled up again in Knack team discussions and it felt like the right time. Remembering her comment, Jenn was the first person we called. Next we called Marvin, who I’d talked to at the ‘Design a Better Hiring Experience’ event and thought he’d be a good fit. Both Marvin and Jenn have plenty of experience as peer counselors, public speakers and group facilitators. All three of us are chatty people with a common vision so we quickly established a strong team. This helped us build a good sense of community in the cohort.
Over the next eight weeks we took turns facilitating and giving one another feedback. As Jenn says, “It was neat being able to modify the class to meet the group’s needs”. We intentionally built flexibility into our work to make room for other learning opportunities and things like emergency dentist appointments. Jenn was nearing the end of her pregnancy and kept coming to class never quite knowing if she’d make it to graduation before her new son, Lukas, would be born!
The cohort graduated on April 4th with a warm celebration attended by a few past Earners as well. Marvin and Jenn were awarded ‘Peer Facilitator’ badges and we still look forward to meeting baby Lukas any day now. Three of the cohort couldn’t come to graduation for the very best of reasons – they’ve found work.
That leaves 8 other talented individuals still available as this cohort joins a pool of more than 60 Knack Earners with a diversity of skills and aspirations. If you know anyone who has tasks that need to be done and who wants to hire for social impact, we’re only an email away! firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are a few reflections Marvin, Jenn and I would like to share about Knack, facilitation and employment.
About the experience:
M: “It’s great being a Knack facilitator. It’s about showing up and interacting with people and sharing with them the little things I’ve learnt in the last few years”
J: “My experience has been very positive. I thought I’d be a lot more nervous in the classroom but I wasn’t. It’s been really interesting seeing the different paths of people coming in Knack.”
T: “It’s much more fun to facilitate in a team. You feel supported because when something happens unexpectedly your co-facilitators can step in to help. Everyone has different strengths – for example Marvin is so efficient in tidying up at the end of class!”
Tips for facilitators:
M: “Listening is so crucial. Instead of worrying too much about what I should say, I try to be present with people in the moment and respond to them. They are the teachers, not me. I’m merely the messenger.”
J: “Patience, humility and really good observation of who you’re teaching – understanding where they’re coming from and working with that.”
T: “Care about your students. If you care about them you will get to know them as people and be more responsive to their individual needs”
Things we’ve observed about employment:
M: “The road to employment can be very difficult. Sometimes people have employment opportunities open up but then realize they can’t start until they get a certain certificate or until someone else sends this or that paperwork. These waiting times can be very frustrating”
J: “I’ve always known housing to be a huge challenge in employment, and having a phone for employers to call you. The stigma around homelessness and working is horrible… Personal situations can also be a big barrier to employment. When I see other community members getting jobs who weren’t able to get employment before, this helps break the stigma.”
T: “People don’t want just any job. They want something that is meaningful and uses their skills”
Tips for job seekers:
M: “Sometimes it is simple things like getting up, getting ready and prepared, having good personal hygiene and being presentable. Also, having structure in your life. For me, that has been so important.”
J: “Determination is key, know what you want, see yourself there and go for it. If you don’t get it right away, keep going for it! Also, if you hand out hundreds of resumes you may only get 3 call backs. Find 5 jobs that you love and modify your resume to those 5 different companies to show how your skills match what they need and you’ll probably get more.”
T: “Put yourself closer to places you want to be, for example, volunteer to find out what that job is really like. Be connected to as many supports as possible because you don’t know who will be the person to connect you to the right thing”.
Looking back on her peer facilitation experience Jenn says, “It’s so cool that I had an idea… and now it’s a reality”. What’s yours?
Be sure to sign-up to LEDlab’s Newsletter to stay updated on all our activities!