Monday, November 7, 2011

Happy and healthy boys...

flickr CC image via lorenkerns

Grow Boys! is an effort to engage boys. "But boys are easy to engage," you say. Many of us might say the real challenge is getting them to disengage as they run about wildly without focus or direction. Whether boys are running about wildly or doing otherwise, however, the point is they need to be engaged if we're to help them grow into happy, healthy young men. They need to feel that they are actively involved in determining their own paths of learning, growing, living.

Last June the Grow Boys! team collaborated with Red Deer College on a literature review addressing effective programs and strategies to help boys navigate learning, living and growing in contemporary society. We also held a knowledge cafe to tap local insights and establish a needs-assessment for boys in the greater Red Deer area. A knowledge cafĂ© (KC) is a workshop where a group of people gather to openly and creatively discuss a topic of mutual interest in an effort to bring to surface their collective knowledge, to share ideas and insights, and gain a deeper understanding of the subject and the issues being discussed.
We discovered some very interesting points to consider. Our literature review was designed to steer us in the right direction; to justify our organization; and it did that. The knowledge cafe process was designed to create a local context for our organizational effort, and the feedback we garnered from over 30 representatives from the larger community was brilliant.

 The “Grow Boys” knowledge cafe was an opportunity for participants to discuss the key questions and issues that present social, emotional, physical, and psychological challenges to male youth in our communities as they go through the process of maturity.  The questions to guide the discussion were developed by a team of individuals that represented a number of community organizations that play a significant role in the process of socializing upcoming adolescent cohorts.  The questions that these stake holders provided their perspective on are listed below:
 Barriers to Wellness –
1. What are the top three challenges and stressors that boys face today that impact their wellness?
  •  Do younger and older boys face different challenges?  At what age does each challenge appear?
Community Supports -
2. What opportunities exist within our community that allow boys to explore their abilities and interests?
  •  What ideas do you have to enhance these opportunities?
Community Leaders -
3. What is a good leader?
  • How would we best support the development of these qualities in our boys?
Bullying -
4. How is a bully built?
  • How is an understanding of diversity linked to creating well adjusted, responsible and empathetic individuals?
Strengths -
5. People tend to focus on weakness.  How do we get youth to focus more on strengths?

Perfect World -
6. What would be the ideal environment (home, school and community) for developing well-adjusted, responsible and creative citizens?  What are the three most important environmental factors?

The intent of this post is to further the conversation around these six questions. How do you feel about wellness for boys, and how do you think supports need to look within our community, or perhaps yours? How can we establish effective leadership for boys to prevent bullying, tap into strengths and create our "perfect world?"

We want to hear form you. Our actionable hope is that our local effort can be replicated wherever you are  local in ways that fit your local context. The true test for any support effort is how well and efficiently it can be replicated across different contexts while maintaining a core platform. Join us in testing the Grow Boys! platform in your community.

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