#1: Motivation arises in the meeting

A couple of years ago, I was part of a local community education project, which was offering free courses to the citizens in a multicultural neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark. The school offered, amongst others, courses in Danish language, healthy living, cooking, and hip hop dance. “The school without walls” we called it, because it was open to everyone and had no geographic centre. However, despite the intentions, the school did not reach out to everyone at all.

The main issue was that few participants showed up at the courses. When I met the project manager, the first thing she said about her experience with this project was that she generally thought the times had changed. She meant that it probable had to do with people being given so many offers today that they had probably become immune to the access to free courses in their neighborhood - that it was a sign of lacking motivation and indifference to offers being given. .

The area was known as a marginalized and rough neighborhood, heavily weighed down by crime. Many people with low or no education lived in the area and a greater part of the citizens were on social welfare. It was the type of people that by experts are called ‘the not prepared for education group’. It was the group of unskilled or semi-skilled workers that are endangered of loosing access to the job market should their job be moved to another country. Or the ones that are at risk of never getting a job, because they are less prepared for transition and are lacking qualifications for the flexible working market.

I was puzzled about the project manager’s point of view. What had the staff actually done to reach the target group? What kind of courses had they offered, and what was the course content?

The project manager answered that they had been campaigning, placed ads in local newspapers; hung up posters in the public institutions and everyone was given a flyer, when they visited the municipality office.

We decided to discuss the approach thoroughly in the project group. Was it really so that the people living in the neighborhood were non-motivated? We decided that we had to try another strategy. We would walk into the neighborhood and ring doorbells and give a personal invitation to participate in this project. Our purpose was to get in contact with the citizens in the area and get answers to the question of, whether we had misunderstood the needs of the group that was offered free courses. We would also ask into their wishes for future courses.

After a few days ringing doorbells, it became clear that most of the people we met were thrilled about discovering that such an offer existed. And many would like to start new courses for their neighbors or play a more active role in the project. People gave several suggestions about samba dance courses, English courses, math and technical subjects, movie nights, cooking for one’s neighbor etc..

This investigation made it obvious that course participation was a question of several factors.

First of all, the fact that everyone in the group was invited individually and asked personally.

Secondly, the citizens’ language skills played a key factor here - not everyone could read Danish. And it was clear that it was few, who would respond to a written ad. They needed to know and feel that they were welcome with words in a language that were closer to theirs.

In the weeks after we made the new course catalogue fit the wishes of the citizens and more people began to show up at the courses.

It was a mistake to judge this group of people as unmotivated based on the few data, such as how many people showed up and participated in courses. But it is unfortunately an easy trap to fall into. Using those types of measurement tools, we can imagine all sorts of things about the target group, but we never get to really understand them, unless we ask.

The philosopher, Carl Rogers - from existential psychology - has a basic view on people that motivation is inherent within all human beings.

He says:

”The human being will by nature develop or actualize him or herself in the most positive, constructive, and social way possible under the given circumstances that the person is situated in.”

So to motivate is a question about creating the frames that people thrive in, because everyone has motivation inherent in him or her. Those frames we can most easily create, if we ask people about their needs. The answers we receive are dependant on the questions we ask. When you ask into your colleague, your volunteer co-worker, or your relative in order to figure out what they care about; remember that people are motivated by different things.

A point here is to keep the questions open.

And then it is about the relation you have. It is clear that if you ask your users, your target group or your citizens face to face you will get a better response than if you hang up a poster in your apartment building or in the office. And the better relationship you have, the more honest answers you will get. So, why not design investigations with more personal contact?

The link to motivated volunteers and thriving workplaces

There is a parallel between the ways we went about motivation in the abovementioned example offering courses in marginalized areas, to how leaders and decision-makers try to motivate their workers and create thrive in their organizations.

In numerable organizations and workplaces investigations on motivation and thrive are carried out through questionnaires once a year, comparing the results with previous years. Here the companies and organizations miss out on a grand possibility for bettering their employees’ engagement in the workspace - also because many seem to forget to follow up with dialogue about the results and the conclusions of their investigations.

In Chancepartout we have the developed a course about thrive and motivation - a conversational-based course for project managers and co-workers, as a supplement or an alternative to investigations about engagement and thrive in the workspaces. The point of departure is that motivation to participate is created in the dialogue and in the development of relations in the working space.

We have had participants from over 25 different organizations taking this course, where they have been taught to make their own case-study and hereunder ask the right questions in order to become wiser about the thrive and motivational level in their organization or company. In return to our workshops, they have reported surprising results, happy workers and motivated volunteers.

Motivation is about meeting each other, where we are.

If you want to know more about what we do, then see more at: Design a conversational-based investigation.