Expand educational dimensions

Up to this point, Connectivity has offered a substantial area of learning for all staff members within Active Bulgarian Society. The organization has managed to expand its educational dimensions through outdoor activities and to expand its network. ABS has contacted many unemployed adults that are facing fewer opportunities or such that fall into the NEETs sector (that are not in education and are not employed). ABS has also made connections with regional Employment Agencies, thus, making more opportunities available specifically to those people who are part of these circles.

Furthermore, the first activity that was executed in Ommen, the Netherlands (in which 5 representatives of the local learners and staff took part) gave further insights and a new direction to continue the work on tackling adult unemployment through outdoor activities. The concepts acquired by the participants were later shared with the management team of ABS and prepared the path for the next steps of the project – the follow-up activities on a local level, which would be the core of the long-term sustainability of the project. The participants, along with the help of the ABS staff are now creating the follow-up campaign on a national level while involving more adults with disadvantages in the project activities.

As an outcome, ABS has benefited from implementing certain new tools and models (presented in the above-mentioned training meeting), especially the 12 steps of Winkelaar (how to do an investigation regarding the needs of the target group, analysis, what is the purpose of the activities, creating the activities; facilitation of the activities – how to do an opening speech, how to guide the activities, how to give instructions, how to debrief the activities; how to create a follow-up for these activities so they don’t become one-time events with no impact in the long-run) and the Impact tool of Erasmus+. 

The active participation in the first phase of the Connectivity project proved that there is a beneficial impact on those specific participants. They expressed their first-hand experience as being meaningful in personal and professional aspects and are now more eager to develop further in life and also to support other adults with disadvantages on a local level.

On an organizational level, the research and examples of the participants are motivational factors to continue the work on the objectives of this project. In the future, ABS foresees gathering the final data from the first training meeting and evolving accordingly, taking into consideration the specific needs, expressed by the participants and the further research made on the topic of tackling youth unemployment.

How do we create impact in the long run? What are the tips and tricks that we would like to share?
Keep reading and find out more… 

Active Bulgarian Society (ABS) is a non-formal education organization that we created using our imagination to improve our potential and surrounding environment with fresh and positive ideas. What solidifies us is our passion to take the initiative and involve more adults in social life, through European mobility and training programs.

Together with our focus on networking and determination for future development, Active Bulgarian Society applies an innovative approach to develop youngsters through deep involvement in the activities of the organization. At ABS we are looking forward to the changes happening. We have the time and willingness to share our time and make our dreams happen.

Considering that together we could set the foundations for the next generations with personal, social, and professional development. 

Our mission and vision

  • support with all means available, the development and self-awareness of young adults, thus ensuring a brighter and more secure future for them;
  • eliminate the barriers between social circles and the adults belonging to them;
  • advocate for leadership, equity, and inclusion;
  • raise awareness among unemployed adults about personal and professional opportunities ahead;
  • promote intercultural dialogue;
  • promote European self-awareness;
  • encourage adults to take the initiative and be proactive;
  • distribute and promote European values.

Whom do we work with?

ABS works mainly with the local community of Blagoevgrad, local and international volunteers, youth workers, non-profit organizations, social workers, and citizens from the European Union and partner countries.

Where are we based? 

ABS is based in Blagoevgrad and we cooperate successfully with the local public institutions, universities, other local and foreign adult education centers, NGOs mainly in the field of non-formal and informal education, and active participation.

What do we do?

  • Active Bulgarian Society (ABS) mainly focuses on cooperation with Bulgarian and foreign adult education organizations to exchange experience in the field of sustainable development, education, culture, and unemployment issues in the context of the Euro-integration process, promote dialogue between young adults, people from EU member states and candidate countries;
  • we organize projects on volunteering, sustainable development, youth leadership, entrepreneurship, active citizenship, education through sport methodology, intercultural dialogue, management of human resources, and others;
  • we work in the field of mobility learning such as organizing and being partners in many training courses, youth exchanges, eco, sport, cultural, social, and volunteer initiatives, active European citizenship activities, workshops, seminars, and conferences.

What do we aim for?

In ABS we try to create proactive attitudes towards social inclusion and global issues in our local society; to encourage participation and involvement of young adults in social processes and to develop practical skills in non-formal and informal education through different methods (conferences, meetings with local representatives of the state, flash mobs, workshops, etc.).  

Working with people from disadvantaged backgrounds

ABS was a partner and organizer of projects with young adults, leaders, youngsters with fewer opportunities, and youth from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Guiding and coaching methods

Active Listening –  “Hear What People Are Really Saying’’

Listening is one of the most important skills you can have. How well you listen has a major impact on your job effectiveness and on the quality of your relationships with others.

For instance:

  • we listen to obtain information;
  • we listen to understand;
  • we listen for enjoyment;
  • we listen to learn.

Given all the listening that we do, you would think we’d be good at it! In fact, most of us are not, and research suggests that we only remember between 25% and 50% of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers, or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation.

Turn it around and it reveals that when you are receiving directions or being presented with information, you aren’t hearing the whole message either. You hope the important parts are captured in your 25-50%, but what if they’re not?

Clearly, listening is a skill that we can all benefit from improving. By becoming a better listener, you can improve your productivity, as well as your ability to influence, persuade and negotiate. What’s more, you’ll avoid conflict and misunderstandings. All of these are necessary for workplace success!

Tip: Good communication skills require a high level of self-awareness. Understanding your own personal style of communicating will go a long way toward helping you to create good and lasting impressions with others.

About Active Listening

The way to improve your listening skills is to practice “active listening.” This is where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated.

In order to do this, you must pay attention to the other person very carefully.

You cannot allow yourself to become distracted by whatever else may be going on around you, or by forming counterarguments while the other person is still speaking. Nor can you allow yourself to get bored, and lose focus on what the other person is saying.

Increase the motivation of young adults 

“The term motivation refers to factors that activate, direct, and sustain goal-directed behavior… Motives are the ‘whys’ of behavior – the needs or wants that drive behavior and explain what we do. We don’t actually observe a motive; rather, we infer that one exists based on the behavior we observe” (Nevid, 2013).

We increase the motivation of young adults through different activities, such as: 

  • volunteer of the week: recognizing the good work of the young adults every week makes them feel motivated and engaged within the organization; 
  • feedback session after every event: every event is organized by young adults and giving feedback after the session makes them realize what was well done and what could be improved; 
  • set small and measurable goals: support young adults; 
  • closing of the week: offer small and consistent awards; content on social media. 

Holacracy method – “Working without hierarchy”

Holacracy is a method where the management of the organization or company is decentralized and there are no assigned roles. This system distributes authority and decision-making through self-organizing teams instead of conferred in a management hierarchy.

Employees have the flexibility to take on various tasks, move between teams freely and have autonomy and authority to make decisions, act or innovate on how to best achieve their goals.

The Holacracy system is suitable for our organization and the main advantages are: 

  • high level of engagement from young adults; 
  • highly adaptable for every different person: we don’t have permanent young adults in our organization, so giving fixed tasks does not really make sense;
  • gives young adults the opportunity to grow: and supports them if they want to try something new, even if they are not an expert in the field. 

As with any other management system, Holacracy has its own share of ups and downs. The main disadvantages are that it is not very suitable for large companies.

Active Bulgarian Society believes that giving young adults the freedom to develop their ideas and setting roles instead of job titles and tasks, enhances the efficiency of the team and increases the proactivity of the adults.

In addition, we use role-playing techniques which make the coach and the volunteer change places. For example, some days the daily meeting is conducted by one of the volunteers themselves. In this way, they can improve their abilities and gain new skills, while increasing their leadership and responsibility towards the team members and the whole process.

Some ways or examples of how we use the Holacracy system in our organization are: 

  • setting different roles which young adults can choose depending on their skills and change these roles whenever they feel that is better for the organization or themselves; 
  • daily meetings where all team members are present and a division of the tasks is being made depending on the needs of the day;
  • freedom to organize teams and move between them provided that their efforts are still aligned with the organization’s purpose and goals;
  • giving freedom to young adults to make proposals and develop any idea while staying aligned with the organization’s purpose;
  • everyone can turn their challenges and opportunities into improvements for the organization. 

Providing feedback and support

Support is critical to helping young adults enhance their self-efficacy, sense of competence, and therefore their self-esteem. An inevitable part of any leader’s role is to give constructive feedback to a teammate when something isn’t going the way it should be. These can go poorly if done without mindfulness; if done well, they can be a huge source of growth and gratitude.

Some ways or examples of how we use the feedback and support system in our organization are: 

  • we work to provide constructive, informative feedback and performance-related feedback as much as possible;
  • after each event or completed project, we share feedback;
  • feedback helps to set goals for future projects and warns of repeating mistakes;
  • positive feedback gives more support and motivation to young people.

In these conversations, we are trying to let them know and understand that we have been on the side of a team member. We are trying to be empathetic and maintain eye contact in order to maintain a consistent and trustworthy presence while disclosing our own weaknesses (“I totally get it; I’ve been there”) can help create a space of trust.

It is also important to avoid leaning forward: scolding aggressively and making the situation feel bad. Instead, we are acting in a calm way, without judgment.

As an example, we can look at a situation where a team is interested in a task or a project, but the ideas never made it into the plan. So in this situation, we can collect feedback anonymously from several people, including their descriptions of what happened as well as how it made them feel. Through this, we can understand what happened and how to change the situation and set new goals to reach them.

Moreover, we can have a feedback session through a gaming method. For example, we can ask members to explain an action as a type of movie or a tree with discussion. Or let them draw somehow this tree with an explanation. In this way, we don’t ask them to think more and concentrate on the words. 

Define Leadership Purpose and define clear objectives and goals

In the same way that having a sense of purpose in life is important for one’s well-being, it can also have a profound effect on one’s professional life. Harvard Business Review asserts that purpose is the key to accelerating executive growth and that the process of articulating one’s leadership purpose and finding the courage to live it is the single most important developmental task that the person can undertake as a leader (Craig and Snook, 2014).

Coaching team members through writing a personal leadership statement can help them to be more congruent and aligned with their core values and principles. Focusing on the future, how and where they want to lead others, helps mitigate the risk of getting caught up in the pressures of the present moment, and immediate deadlines.

Asking open-ended questions

The open-ended questions can shorten the distance between the coach and the audience. They will build trust among each other, as those questions allow the coach to better access the clients’ true thoughts and feelings on the topic. In addition, such questions help the change of perspective and the gain of a new point of view. They help the coach or counselor to gain information about circumstances and processes within a group or system and to break free from old thought patterns, to create new ideas and solutions. 

Examples of open-ended questions are the following:

  • how do you think your co-worker feels in this situation?
  • how would your colleague evaluate the situation?
  • how would your clients react to the increase in prices?
  • how would your boss react to this change?
  • what would your co-workers say, if you represent this point of view?
  • how would your boss handle this situation?

Increasing the level of inspiration

This technique includes asking the audience to write down their goals, both personal and such regarding the organization and then asking them to exactly describe a perfect day once the desired goals are achieved. Thus, when they see the big picture of their goals being achieved they will be even more motivated to work for them. They will be able to come up with creative and innovative ideas which will help them improve their skills and develop self-confidence. This technique will encourage the person to use their positive imagination and visualize what they truly desire. Afterward, they can work together with their team members to get the actual steps to that „miracle“ where the goal is achieved.

Such questions may include information about the expectations, daily routine, relationships with other people, the following goals, habits, career path, education, and skills of the individual.

Reflection sessions

An important part of our working practices is the reflection sessions which we do at the end of every week. The whole team gathers and shares how their week went – including achievements and unfulfillments. Also, we reflect on what we have learned during the week, what we have to improve, and what lessons have been learned. Everyone gives advice and support to others. Thus, we increase the connection and trust between each other. In this way, we increase the positive emotions in the team which afterward help us be more productive and achieve our organizational goals easier.