I remember talking to one veteran activist who attended a three-day training retreat I co-led with organizers and educators from all over the country. “Sometimes at these things people say they are going to keep in touch and never do,” he told me, “but this group is different, I think we really will.”
He averted his gaze as he said it, maybe he doubted himself. I remember just a few months later notifications from the Facebook group that one eager participant created stopped. What happened to keeping in touch?
I think the desire to keep in touch was real. I left the training feeling electric. People had many positive things to say about what they learned about popular education and movement building. I remember seeing people embracing one another, some tears shed. The problem was not desire, the problem was there was no clear path to action.
I think this is a common problem that trainers face. We provide frameworks and historical examples and worksheets and powerpoints to learners, but we don’t think about how to support ongoing action after the training is over.
In his book “To Sell is Human” social scientist and author Daniel Pink writes about an experiment involving a campus food drive that illustrates this point.
A group of students were asked to nominate peers who were most likely and least likely to contribute to a local food drive. Experimenters divided the group in half so that there were equal parts “most likely” and “least likely” in both groups.
To one group they gave a vaguely worded letter addressed to “dear student” with an ask to donate and few specifics about what to donate or how.
To the other, they provided a letter addressed to the student by name, they included the type of food to donate, a map of where to drop it off, and they added a reminder call afterwards.
The results? “A specific request accompanied by a clear way to get it done ended up with those voted least likely to donate food at three times the rate of those voted most likely to donate who weren’t provided a clear path to action.
The lesson, he says, is this, “…clarity on how to think without clarity on how to act can leave people unmoved.”
When you are planning your training ask yourself, how can I provide people with a clear path to action?
How can I provide a map?
How can I give clear instructions?
How can I provide follow-up?
If not, perhaps those you have deemed “unlikely to act” might actually be willing, they just need more support.
What ways have you used to compel action after the training is over?
Send us an email and let us know!