Feature Article: An Integral Response to HIV/AIDS: The “Leadership for Results” Story

September 2005 / Feature Articles

michael McElhenie

Background

The need for leadership development to enhance an effective, coordinated response to HIV/AIDS and related issues has been gathering momentum over the past several years in many developing nations. Throughout the world, HIV/AIDS has rapidly increased the complexity of living within and managing any system, anywhere. The capacity and leadership required to respond to this complexity far exceeds existing levels in all but the most developed countries. To further heighten the challenge, millions die of AIDS every year; so-called developing countries simply cannot develop with attrition of this intensity. The necessity for an accelerated, coordinated response is clear, as is the need to fully embrace HIV/AIDS’ multiple causative and perpetuating factors.

Our collective work supports the United Nations’ UNGASS Declaration of Commitment that makes the case for strong leadership at all levels of society as an essential element of an effective response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We have implemented and built capacity to sustain an innovative process of leadership development with demonstrated impact that involves people from government, civil society, the private sector and people living with HIV/AIDS. Our approach has participants view HIV/AIDS holistically and not simply as a health issue. Through a multi-modal process, participants evolve their understanding of the epidemic to one that involves individual and collective systems and as well as tangible and intangible elements. Participants also view their own development as evolving along multiple developmental lines – mind, body, emotion, relationships and spirit to name just a few. As a result of this process, we have seen the genesis of creative and truly effective responses to the epidemic, gender equality, promotion of human rights, and equitable access to prevention, care and treatment.

The Leadership for Results Program

Teleos Leadership Institute designed and implemented the Leadership for Results Program (LfR) in South Africa, Cambodia, Swaziland and seven countries in the Caribbean Region over the past three years. The key people involved in the design and delivery of these programs were:

Frances Johnston
Michael McElhenie
Annie McKee
Edward Mwelwa
Felice Tilin
Gretchen Schmelzer
Delores Mason
Therese Jacobs-Stewart

The United Nations Development Programme facilitated our initial involvement in these countries, which typically spanned four to six months of activity, and as capacity grew, programs became self-supporting. LFR includes three one-week long programs using models from resonant leadership, emotional intelligence, integral theory, systems theory, gestalt change principles and mind-body awareness in order to build leadership capacity and catalyse practical action-learning projects in local communities. All of the learning takes place in large and small groups of differing configurations. Emotional Intelligence Practice Groups allow participants to practice new emotional and relational skills, receive feedback and discuss their leadership challenges; Action-Learning Groups allow participants to research HIV/AIDS-related issues, implement results-oriented projects in their communities, and learn from their successes and challenges. Throughout LFR, we use an emotional intelligence framework, which invites participants to explore their emotions as a means of connecting to their passions and values, and provides a roadmap for improving their ability to collaborate with and lead others to make a difference in regards to HIV/AIDS and related issues.

The LfR is designed to tackle entrenched and difficult problems by leveraging people and information embedded in the system in which the problem exists. Each country in which we have worked has defined the issues and problems (HIV/AIDS, poverty, gender inequality, etc.) differently (from their own shared developmental frames of reference), and has come up with results by focusing their efforts on the multiple root causes of the issues in countries/communities. And, by concurrently building leadership capacity within each of the countries, the countries are then capable of both creating effective, innovative solutions in the future and sustaining change from within. We have seen this happen in many varied and exciting ways.

We use an approach that consists of five cornerstones of leadership andcommunity development – these include:

  1. Emotional Intelligence: Emotionally intelligent leaders are able to do the following effectively: a) Act in ways that leave the people around them (partners, team members, employees, community members, etc.) feeling stronger, more capable and able to make a difference; b) Manage themselves effectively under stress and/or when dealing with ambiguous circumstances such as with systemic and complex problems such as HIV/AIDS, remain calm and stay focused; c) Stay intensely in touch with what the people they lead are thinking and feeling in order to motivate and energize them.
  2. Individual Change Model: Consists of five discovery steps that enable individuals to develop their leadership and emotional intelligence capabilities. This is a life visioning and planning process that inspires leadership and self-development. This process also enables groups to tackle strategy and work collectively towards achieving goals.
  3. Integral Inquiry: The purpose of this inquiry process is to identify: a) root cause issues related to individual and collective, tangible and intangible factors that are helping and hindering implementation of a strategy/intent (e.g., National HIV/AIDS strategies that exist in many countries), and b) building ownership and commitment to the leadership development process among key stakeholders.
  4. Individual Development in the Context of Focused Effort: Our development work is powered by individual desires to make a difference in the living situation of their fellow citizens. By connecting the need for change at the individual and community level, increase commitment and creativity is unleashed. When this happens there are significant benefits on the collective level as well, often in areas of increased cooperation and collaboration. Our systemic leadership development model views advancing the strategic initiatives of the country or organization as important as individual growth.
  5. Develop Local Capacity for Leading Individual and Collective Development: A core principle and practice of the LfR is that local capacity be used and built in the staffing of the program. We use local facilitators and process consultants to support the participants within the program. We work closely with facilitator groups to enable them to facilitate rather than lead other people. This enables Teleos to work in non-English speaking countries, and effectively passes on our intellectual capital to the countries.
Summary:
Our experiences with using the LfR vehicle for personal and systemic change to address HIV/AIDS provided us incredible learning, not to mention personal and facilitator group transformation. Simply providing multi-sectorial participants the opportunity to view their everyday realities, via applying the Integral/AQAL model, in a unique, more holistic way, created rich ground for individual level change and more robust solutions to the pandemic. Plus, by framing change within the context of leadership development, people quite readily developed more sophisticated worldviews that helped them more fully embrace the complexity of their HIV/AIDS-influenced worlds. Meaning, people were able to compartmentalize their personal and organizational change processes – change was not simply about them, but about their roles as leaders in the challenges of HIV/AIDS.
Yet, for a vast majority of participants, change generalized beyond their leadership roles; stories abound about how people became better husbands, wives, parents, lovers, teachers, friends, etc. as a result of their “leadership” change process. Additionally, we found participants benefited greatly by projects organized within the principles of action learning. While AQAL helped people discover expanded realities, action learning enabled participants to design and implement projects aligned with their passions and to more deeply learn, not only from the results achieved, but from their individual and group processes.
In this journey, we discovered the power of multiple lines of development; by providing context for people to develop cognitively, emotionally, relationally, morally, physically and spiritually, we accelerated the development of personal and group consciousness. Finally, by incorporating the principles, competencies and group development processes of Emotional Intelligence, we helped people access and apply their deeper passion and personal meaning. By helping them access their passion and meaning, participants found renewed hope and inspiration, worked harder to change their perceptions and actions, and more tightly joined together in collaboration. As well, applying Emotional Intelligence helped people weather the inevitable tumult of personal and group development; EI helped chart a path through the difficult relational tensions that arise during change.

The Real Stories

What follows is a sampling of the results achieved by many of the groups we have engaged over the past several years. You are likely to find these stories moving and enlightening.s

The LfR programmes in South Africa were as revealing to the Teleos team as they were to the participants and facilitators. In opening our hearts and minds to each other and speaking the previously unspeakable, all of us involved expanded our understanding of the factors that perpetuate HIV/AIDS in the region and of the many paths towards reducing the virus’ effects on the human populace. The action learning projects captured the positive and hopeful spirit of post-apartied South Africa and its people.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
An action-learning group decided to learn more about people’s thoughts and feelings regarding HIV/AIDS and focused their attention on the village of Stetmore in KwazuNatal. The group used non-judgmental interview techniques to learn of people’s deep fear of AIDS, how impulsivity encourages the virus’ spread, and husband and wives’ issues about using condoms. Many interviewed saw the problem as mostly stemming from houses of prostitution, which is very rarely discussed in the region. The group was also featured on a regional radio programme where they were able to discuss their project, their process of learning vs. teaching, and some of their findings. The radio programme allowed for phone-ins, which provided even more data to the team, and they also learned that their impact on the Stetmore community was a positive one and that there was a transfer of knowledge to nearby villages.
The movie “Pay It Forward” greatly influenced an action-learning group to begin cascading conversations about HIV/AIDS in their personal circle of friends and family. Their process, called “Reach Out and Touch,” helped each group member get in touch with their own feelings regarding the virus and its effects and encouraged them to change their behavior and conversations by becoming more open and positive. In starting their individual conversations and listening in a deeper way than they ever had before, they helped many more face the emotions and associated stigma, and helped to perpetuate more open conversations with the people they touched.
Still another action-learning group decided to focus on gender awareness regarding HIV/AIDS in two South African provinces where there is a high incidence of poverty and low accessibility to health and other resources. The group found government officials to be very uncooperative and lacking direct control over the needed resources. By starting with a community conversation, the group learned much about people’s gender beliefs. For example, they learned that girls are often not taught about sex or pregnancy and are generally “kept virgin” through instilling a general fear about boys. The group also learned about gender dynamics in their own group and how “chauvinistic” attitudes will work to decrease the valuable participation of women.
One action-learning group, called Operation Change, chose to focus on high-risk youth, sex workers, and women in the work place; the funding to conduct the project was gained from the Department of Housing. The group conducted eight workshops (3 for youth, 2 for sex workers, and 3 for women) in targeted communities around a mine and also sought to begin recruiting and training 28 women to, ultimately, serve as HIV/AIDS counselors. There were many surprising findings: many women were full or partially employed as sex workers and some married women subsidized household income by keeping “sugar daddies,” youth want open discussion and facts about sex (vs. old stories), parents are fearful about talking about sex and lack basic information, the work environment is not conducive to conducting HIV/AIDS programmes (if you participate, you must be infected), and listening skills are our most important assets as workers in the field of HIV/AIDS.
In the “Real Men Talk About It” campaign, an action-learning team created a poster designed to encourage men to talk about HIV/AIDS and related issues. The group first collected information from men on sex and HIV/AIDS by conducting interviews at sports bars, street corners and other places frequented by South African men. This information gave the group language that they wished to incorporate in the poster; however, funding agencies thought the language was too harsh and explicit and asked for the language to be “toned down.” Another key learning was that men often receive the “correct message” about HIV/AIDS and proper behavior, but that culture often contradicts the correct message and disrupts routes to needed behavior change.
The final action-learning group sought to raise awareness about rape and the abuse of women and their connection to HIV/AIDS (these issues were part of the platform of an upcoming Woman’s Day event). At first, they group used email to solicit information, but this strategy was ineffective. They next distributed paper questionnaires in a single company and used Director Meetings to probe for deeper explanations of questionnaire responses. The meetings helped to raise awareness amongst men and many decided to become more involved in these issues. Through this initial experience, the group found that face-to-face interviews work best when trying to understand such complex issues and they decided to target both men and women in their next phase. Preliminary results suggest that customs are often used as a “smoke screen” to hide HIV/AIDS issues.

Our work in Cambodia, by all accounts, is our greatest success story. We were able to take groups of people from their justified places of deep trauma and shock to new heights of hope and compassion. Through our work there, considerable energy and excitement could be seen in the eyes of facilitators eager to support and guide new projects and new results.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
An action-learning project targeted 26 women, mostly housewives, with the objective of helping them to speak in their family about HIV/AIDS. The group presented information on HIV/AIDS, STDs and family violence, and followed these women closely to see if their opinions about HIV/AIDS had changed and whether or not they were able to initiate conversations at home. Some opinions had certainly changed, there was less stigma and discrimination for PLWA and they saw clear economic advantages, but it was less clear whether or not the women were able to discuss HIV/AIDS with their families.
For an action-learning group wanting to emphasize new ideas and new ways of thinking, they devised a project designed to develop leaders of labor unions within the garment industry while increasing their capacity to protect themselves and their constituents against HIV/AIDS. The group organized a workshop that had participant leaders create a ten-year vision of their industry. Another workshop focused on gender topics and created space for mixed gender and often-difficult discussions about the perceptions of the ideal man and the ideal woman. The most important result for these participants was that they learned to listen to one another and create ongoing dialogue (vs. continuing to hide themselves). Each workshop encouraged spread of information regarding HIV/AIDS with reports suggesting over 200 people have been thus informed.
In the Unity Consensus Group, they chose to work with “Beer Promotion Girls” who they believe, and incidence rates data supports their belief, are very vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. They confirmed their suspicions that sex was being served in addition to beer and that a vast majority of these young women had very little knowledge about HIV/AIDS. The group educated a group of women about HIV/AIDS and how to avoid infection, and facilitated their involvement in weekly vocational education.
The plight of orphaned children became the focus of the Klang Moeng Group who initiated a project called “Your Child is My Child.” The group learned that many orphans were parent-less because of AIDS and that there are not enough resources allocated to meet the needs of these children. With this knowledge, the group targeted four families (with a total of 19 children) and sought resources from within the families’ commune. Meetings were organized with the Provincial Governor’s office that helped to raise awareness of the problem; a surprising number of people attended these meetings, including representatives from the Red Cross, and helped to arrange support for the orphans and total support for the group’s projects.
Another action learning group chose to focus on transsexual sex workers and developed a workshop to discuss HIV/AIDS, critical thinking and problem solving skills, health and protection issues. Through a series of structured exercises and role plays, the group had 25 participants first envision their futures and then devise ways to protect and improve themselves and their living conditions. The group learned a great deal about a previously unknown segment of Cambodian society.
Despite having very little money, time or technical ability, one action-learning group chose to make a short video focusing on “the ideal Cambodian Man.” In documentary fashion, the group filmed men who approximated their understanding of an “ideal man” which they defined as one who takes on household chores, child rearing tasks and other traditionally female duties. The group plans to have the film professionally edited and prepared for wider distribution.
An action-learning group produced a play called “I want to live” that was performed in front of a crowd of 300 on International Woman’s Day. Their objective was to stimulate thinking and dialogue that would reduce the stigma against orphans and children made vulnerable due to AIDS. The film was also designed to educate people about the facts regarding the transmission of HIV/AIDS. The group assessed the impact of the play via a survey, disseminated the taped play on the CTN channel and the script was printed in the Kampuchea Times newspaper.
Another group focused on creating a workshop model for reducing HIV/AIDS related discrimination and domestic violence, which they tested with 50 families in a single rural commune. After field visits and meetings with public officials, they gained the support they needed. They facilitated various dialogue groups that explored such topics as HIV, discrimination, gender roles, domestic violence and its causes and care for PLWA.
Another action learning group established a referral network designed to facilitate ARV delivery to PLWA in a Siem Reap hospital. Through their efforts, they were able to have 10 men and 9 women from Battambang and Bantay Meanchay, where ARV are unavailable, come to the Siem Reap hospital for evaluation for ARV treatment. Of those, 10 were able to receive ARV and others were treated for other medical issues before being able to qualify for ARV. While the group faced some resistance from medical organizations, they were able to leverage relationships built with public officials that has helped to sustain and expand their fledgling network.
In order to address misinformation, discrimination and a void of services with the garment industry, a group chose to focus on a single factory district with over 10,000 workers. They first targeted their training to 32 labor union leaders In all, 900 workers benefited from this groups training and efforts to spread accurate ILO-derived information and reduce discrimination and stigma. The group successfully developed a strong relationship with the ILO who continues to be supportive of their efforts. As a secondary benefit, due in part to the group’s positive relational efforts, was generally improved access to these factories; the way has been paved for other health workers to do their work.
The final action-learning group collected one-on-one interview information about HIV/AIDS and gender in six provinces. They selected communes in each province in both rural and urban areas and discovered a severe shortage of basic information on HIV/AIDS issues as related to gender. As a result of their data collection, the group was able to develop a conversational process designed to impart the needed basic information. The group plans to continue their activities by training people on how HIV/AIDS is transmitted, emphasizing the importance of HIV testing, increasing knowledge of gender to reduce violence in families, and reducing discrimination directed at PLWA.

Jamaica

The action learning teams in Jamaica engaged in five projects during which they learned a great deal. In their work with the prison population, they found that understanding the political hierarchy and the identity of key gatekeepers to be very important. They found it imperative to build relationships with gatekeepers and attend to who from the team was best positioned and skilled to influence these individuals. Prior to designing any intervention, the group found it useful to conduct a Dynamic Inquiry process to deepen their understanding of their target group’s needs. The groups learned a great deal about themselves as well. They found that the geographic proximity, level of commitment and the capacity to influence others were important factors to consider when devising action-learning groups. As leaders, they learned to be more democratic in their decision processes and to be more flexible, patient and open-minded.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
A particularly ambitious action-learning group sought to increase the awareness of STD/HIV/AIDS among inmates and staff of Correctional Institutions, while simultaneously reducing related stigma and discrimination. A sensitisation workshop was held with more than 50% of the staff of a correctional institution with the intent of risk reduction and behavioural change. Change Agents confronted their own fears of working in this environment, and they reported profoundly influencing a number of staff and inmates. The project also successfully increased educational capacity in the correctional institution by training Inmate Peer Educators.
Another action-learning team identified 15 basic schools in which to conduct a project intended to reduce stigma and discrimination in chosen inner city communities. By involving diverse groups of persons living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, they developed and implemented sensitisation workshops and provided support to persons undergoing personal transformation. In the program, many participants had their first experience seeing and relating to PLWHAs, and many indicated that this was a major eye-opener for them. All school principals involved in the project wanted further training, wanted themselves to become Change Agents and have pledged to make a monthly donation to an organization caring for PLWHAs. The members of this group have also organized a programme “mek wi talk” (Let Us Talk) on the community radio “Roots FM,” a discussion session focused on issues relating to HIV/AIDS.
Seeing a major opportunity to increase the level of knowledge and awareness and reduce stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS, and influence behaviour change among children and youth, another action learning group sought to sensitise teachers and students about HIV / AIDS, human sexuality, and substance abuse. The group conducted a series of meetings with teachers, and one major classroom session with students addressing the pertinent issues. Overall, group members reported that they were shocked and troubled by the revelations of current levels of sexual activity and the early sexual initiation of students. Through this work, the action learning group partnered with educators in creating age relevant HIV / AIDS and human sexuality material for children and will soon plan and host a related workshop for teachers, parents and community leaders.
An action-learning group conducted a half-day capacity building seminar targeting line managers and policy makers drawn from critical areas within a hospital community. They updated participants on HIV/AIDS and provide an atmosphere for participants to evaluate their personal feelings and vulnerability in relation to the virus, and thereby nurturing a caring and empathetic environment for PLWHAs. While fifteen participants were directly trained, three internal hospital groups were formed to pursue action planning for projects that will influence patient care.
One group chose to address fear and apathy towards HIV/AIDS in the workplace through an awareness intervention; one workshop was held with 25 members of staff of the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. The workshop was well received and resulted in the planning of subsequent workshops to include participants from the Jamaica Employers Federation, major Trade Union umbrella organisations, and certain private sector companies. The group is also preparing to lobby trade unions to include HIV/AIDS-related materials in memoranda of understanding and collective agreements with employers.

Guyana

After the initial Change Agent training in Trinidad, the core group of Change Agents felt considerable energy and commitment, continued to meet every 2 weeks for several months, and immediately implemented a series of successful education projects in 5 schools. The Change Agents were integral to the organization of the in-country workshop and were consulted regarding the invitees. The in-country workshop multiplied the original energy for change and resulted in a “domino effect” of positive influence in all regions of Guyana. While groups were challenged with limited financial resources, consider geographic distances, cultural barriers between Indian, Black and Native peoples, and political instability, over 500 Guyanese were directly touched by the projects in only a two-month period.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
An action-learning group devised a creative process for involving parents and teachers in creating an educational program that imparted information about HIV/AIDS without necessarily discussing sex. Ninety-seven students from three regions in Guyana were brought together to learn how to become more aware of themselves and their peers and address their own stigmas about HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Change agents, parents, teachers and the children found the process and resulting educational methods to be quite effective which increased children’s desire to learn about their susceptibility to HIV/AIDS by actively engaging their parents and teachers. Many teachers, in particular, noted positive behavioral changes (e.g., increase self-control) and asked for continuation and expansion of the program.
Another project was aimed at enhancing parent and children’s ability to discuss issues of sex and sexuality. Nearly forty parents from three communities participated in planning and eventual dialogue sessions facilitated by a group of Change Agents. While outcomes are difficult to measure, considerable positive response was heard about parent’s involvement in the planning process and about the small group discussions that allowed for honest sharing of personal experiences with regards to sexuality and HIV/AIDS.
An action-learning group from the rural South of Guyana addressed multiple challenges with several smaller projects. One sought to improve parent-child communication and address the hesitancy to talk to each other about their children’s sexuality. Through three, four-hour training and dialogue sessions, parents became more comfortable discussion sex and associated risks and confronted their own reservations about making “their business” more public. Another project tested a training concept designed to increase adolescents’ understanding of their bodies and their emotions while also discussing issues of self-identity, self-image, and self-esteem. The change agents found girls to be much more open than boys, yet the young people began to see how their lives could change dramatically, especially since the health system in the region does not now have the capacity to address HIV/AIDS issues effectively. A related project associated with a church community tested the community’s openness to discuss matters related to HIV/AIDS and sexuality. Using content that covered topics like knowing oneself, the nine gates of the body, and condom use, participants showed modest signs of improving their capacity and comfort discuss these issues.
Finally, the Brighter Days action-learning group aimed to increase knowledge and personal feelings related to HIV/AIDS with larger numbers of people. This team involved nearly 200 people of all ages in multiple session programs focused addressing the myths and misconceptions related to HIV/AIDS using emotional intelligence concepts and training methodologies. The team found that by the end of the programs, people were better able to connect personally with people living with HIV/AIDS and were more likely to spread the message to others with whom they interact.

Barbados

Barbados launched four action-learning projects, yet chose to focus their energy and resources on HIV/AIDS education in school and the church, and a fatherhood program called “Dare to Dream.” The original action-learning teams learned much about setting realistic goals and the importance of attending to team composition and democratic decision-making – without 100% participation, projects tended to stall.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
The “Dare to Dream” action-learning project explored fatherhood, the men’s perspective, and the role men play in their families. This group had access to considerable resources, some through the Chief of the Welfare Department and the Head of the Workers’ Union. Men came together to talk about the responsibilities of fathering and spoke of the challenges they faced, their struggles with alcohol and drugs, and their difficulty taking responsibility for change. It was clear, however, that some men were unable to relinquish their unhealthy attitudes and behaviors, or to accept personal responsibility for their actions. The action-learning team learned to resolve their conflicts and became more flexible in their behavior and attitudes as they continually adapted their work plan to meet shifting conditions.
A second action-learning team engaged leaders from schools and churches and aimed to build capacity for change. Early in the project, Change Agents recognized the churches’ role in instilling personal responsibility for one’s actions. This insight led to the creation of a two-minute theatrical production dealing with HIV/AIDS and the church; it won first prize in the UNICEF mini-festival for drama on the subject of HIV/AIDS. As further result of the projects and workshops, the Bishop of the Anglican Church, who chairs the National HIV/AIDS Commission’s Faith-based Committee, produced a pamphlet entitled “Coping with HIV/AIDS.

St. Kitts and Nevis

The action-learning group from St. Kitts and Nevis discussed a successful reproductive health project, in which they helped to bridge the gap between poverty and HIV/AIDS. Their target population was industrial workers and at-risk women. Through the project, the group conducted a needs assessment and provided various educational services including: financial management, health screening, computer skills training, sewing skills training, and HIV/AIDS awareness training. Amongst its most significant successes, the group was able to provide housing to 500 low-income workers, increased access to condoms, helped to decrease the pregnancy rate, to decrease job site conflict, and identified myriads of potentially fatal health problems. As an action-learning group, they learned to be more open, democratic, tolerant, empathetic, compassionate and less judgmental and controlling.

Suriname

The single Surinamese action-learning group chose to tackle HIV/AIDS in the workplace with emphasis on sensitization of the human rights of PLWHA. They first gathered data through a survey, of 400 people within the main capital, and their core question was: “How would you respond to the fact that your partner was HIV positive?” The overwhelming response, nearly ninety percent, was that respondents would end any sexual contact, but would support the HIV positive person. Armed with this information, the group designed a workshop to help sensitive people to a number of HIV/AIDS related issues, for members of Parliament and representatives from the media and labor organizations. The group overcame miscommunication within their change team and personality conflicts and report successfully influencing media opinion, news stories and their country’s political agenda.

Trinidad and Tobago

The Change Agents from T and T also consolidated their learning from multiple projects. A few projects were either difficult to get started or “bombed” in process. When this happened, many of the change agents went back to their individual efforts to address HIV/AIDS issues. Successful projects seemed to be characterized by strong, yet not dictatorial leadership with considerable effort made to coordinate tasks and continually communicate. One group learned that a team consisting of only powerful, influential people could stall when there was nobody within the group to whom the leaders could delegate. Teams seem to be most effective when they are made up of a diverse people and “power” levels. The Tobago team had success changing misconceptions about PLWHA and was quite proud of their “Zero Horn” (horn = cheating on your primary partner) song routine that directly touched 500 people.

Dominican Republic

The Change Agent group from the Dominican Republic (DR) reports of recent reductions in the HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in their country, reduced from 2.2% to 1.2%. While the group does attribute this change to their efforts alone, they are quite proud of their capacity to influence and coordinate the complex and disconnected political and health systems. However, the group recognizes considerable challenges ahead, particularly with the vulnerable sectors of society, namely Bateyes (native people), women, sugar workers, and young children.

Specific Action-Learning Project Outcomes:
One action-learning group felt the need to improve and coordinate responses to HIV/AIDS throughout the country by introducing programs and dialogue sessions designed to increase awareness and competency in regard to emotional intelligence. Forty-five people from multiple sectors of society, each working in the field of HIV/AIDS, were involved in multiple programs. These programs allowed them to reflect on projects already in execution and how to improve their personal leadership and better implement their responses to HIV/AIDS. The programs were very well received and participants believed they helped to improve their leadership capacity and coordination abilities.
The Social Empowerment action-learning group sought ways to overcome social factors that lead people to be vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. They involved young people in a process that helped to mobilize society to different ways of life and facilitated change in the factors of HIV/AIDS-related social vulnerability. The group feels that they were successful, through workshops and discussion mechanisms, in engaging nearly 100 young people and challenging them to take individual and collective actions that helped to reduce stigma, teen pregnancy, and behavior that led them to be susceptible to HIV/AIDS.
Still another action-learning group focused on educating and changing the behaviors and attitudes of Armed Forces personnel of the Dominican Republic. They feel that they succeeded in getting nearly 250 enlisted persons to incorporate new values and healthy habits that modified their sexual conduct with the purpose of diminishing the effects of STDs and HIV/AIDS. This group researched and borrowed significantly from successful techniques of the armed forces of such countries as Peru, Uganda, and Zambia.
The final DR action-learning team sought to directly address fear, misinformation, discrimination, and the lack of quality of attention that limits effective strategies to improve the lives of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA). Working in selected communities, the team used educational seminars to promote positive approaches to working with PLWAs and helped to sensitise hospital directors, doctors, nurses, and other paraprofessionals.

Dr. Michael McElhenie works with leaders to manage individual, team, and organizational change through executive coaching and collaborative leadership development. A key area of Michael’s expertise is in helping executives assess the current, dynamic state of their organization’s culture, uncover the mission-aligned optimal state, and begin the steps to bridge the gap between the two through intentional, resonant leadership. McElhenie@lorenet.com