Today, we share a story on how we empowered Schülerpaten Berlin to come closer together as a team and an organisation: By sharing what we have learned so far from our own experiences about collaboration (as a team composed of almost exclusively volunteer power bridging 10 countries and four times zones) and team structure. We also see it as a valuable learning opportunity – for us as an organisation at large – to share our experiences, methods and knowledge and to #crossfertilize = spread the changemaker attitudes in the world.
For some time, at NOW we have been thinking a lot on how we can diversify our activities in order to make our organisation more sustainable. We started a while ago with consulting and our first online course FLOW has started last week. However, we have not yet had the chance to use our knowledge on team building, organizational structures and facilitation to go outside of our own organization. Luckily, that changed last month.
A message from Germany
It was sometime in November, that we received an email from Schülerpaten Berlin. Colin, the vice-head of the board, had heard about NOW through a mutual friend and was curious about the NOW way of collaborating and working online. After some emails back and forth, it became clear that NOW’s expertise could help Schülerpaten Berlin to tackle some of their current challenges. To best pass on our experience to them we decided to set-up a targeted workshop.
Schülerpaten Berlin is an association based in the German capital, fostering partnerships/sponsorships between mentors and students, who have a migratory background since 2009. While Schülerpaten chapters are spread all over Germany – each city has their own organization. If you are located in Berlin and could imagine becoming a mentor to a student, you can find more information on their website.
Making a volunteer-driven organization work
To make their important work possible, Schülerpaten rely mostly on volunteer power. The fast-changing life-realities of their mostly young volunteers lead to high fluctuation especially in the core-team. This proves tricky at times, especially when it comes to communication. Therefore, Colin saw a great need for the team to spend some time together, get to know each other, build up trust and define how they want to shape their work in the near future. That’s what we wanted to provide with the NOW workshop.
The Schülerpaten Berlin with Fenna and Zlatka from NOW
On a sunny Sunday in early March, we met for a teambuilding day with 11 members of Schülerpaten at the headquarters of their chapter in Berlin. Our workshop focused on team building, improving team communication and overcoming of bottlenecks. Zlatka and Fenna had structured the day in three parts: starting off with trust building exercises for the whole team, including a space for exploring and sharing everyone’s’ individual motivation. This base of trust and collaboration within the team helped us to afterwards explore honestly how to improve the team structure and the communication flows. For example, what Schülerpaten have realized during the workshop is that although their structure is very much horizontal, they still can improve the communication between various departments in order to optimize their team processes. What is more, the Schülerpaten team has been able to identify bottlenecks and further define specific steps for overcoming them in the upcoming weeks.
As usual, the 6 hours went by way too fast and we would have loved to spend more time with them. Our non-formal approach met open minds and eagerness to engage and move forward in the team. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive: The participants have enjoyed our methods and the structuring of the day adding that is was just the right amount of fun and serious strategic talks. They have learned more about how to better and more effectively communicate and solve problems within the team and were very content that they were able to design the next steps for their team at large.
Playing to our strengths
Our time with Schülerpaten has opened a door for us. A door to implicit knowledge that we have developed at NOW. Being an organization that today brings together nearly 30 young people working remotely and mostly voluntarily, at NOW we are learning every day how to make a modern, horizontal and inclusive organization work. Given this wonderful experience in Berlin, we are now ready to help other organizations find their full potential. If you are interested in a cooperation with NOW for a workshop at your organization – feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. As each organization has very different needs, our workshops are tailor-made towards your needs.
Written by Fenna and Zlatka, NOW team members