The Power of Student Action
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Whilst the world’s young people have been making their voices heard about climate change led in large part by Greta Thunberg, at #Citizens4Change we have been in the ‘Identification Mega Phase’ of building our community. The aim of this phase is to get as many citizens from the wards of Arusha City to sign-up and join our community of child protectors. In five weeks, we’ve covered five wards including, Ungalimited, Sononi, Daraja II, Sombetini and Mirieth, reaching a total of 1091 new #Citizens4Change!
A large part of our success in these months was due to the amazing student volunteers who joined us and helped us sign up new protectors. Our data shows that during the two-week school holiday in August when we had high numbers of student volunteers working with us, we added more #Citizens4Change than in any of the other regions, in which student volunteer support was not in action. In a time where students globally are feeling empowered to take action and are seeing a change in public and political dialogue because of their actions, we’re delighted that students in Tanzania have the opportunity to take action on something that they feel is important, through volunteering with us.
So why were the students so effective?
The students who volunteered with us, many from The School of St Jude, demonstrated high levels of motivation for the cause. They were passionate about the need for change and this perhaps resulted in more sign ups from those they met. It may be that there passion and desire for change is as a result of them being young people, who still remember the impact of a lack of child protection for them as they grew up or even the benefit they had from knowing someone in their lives who valued children highly and protected them from the potential risks many face as they grow up.
How can we motivate adults in the same way?
Whilst high engagement and motivation has been central in the student volunteers, we have struggled to find the same levels of consistent motivation from the adult volunteers. From our own research we know that volunteers are often intrinsically motivated, yet the monetary allowance we are offering to cover their costs for the time they take to support us seems to be the motivator and once they’ve received this, many seem to disengage. Perhaps it is because the monetary value is not high enough or the ‘certificate of recognition’ at the end of the process is not providing incentive. It could also reflect that we are not targeting those who do have genuine intrinsic motivation to help us effectively. Perhaps we need to reconsider how and where we locate our volunteers.
An alternative theory might be that these adults feel disconnected from the issue as their own recollection of childhood is not front of mind and other challenges of adult life may take priority.
In our reflections, we have also considered how to create a more professional and official appearance, so that our volunteers can feel part of something significant and confident in their approaches to members of the public. To do so, we are considering exploring options of branded t-shirts and more formal volunteer ID. This could make adults who may feel uncomfortable approaching strangers to discuss the topic with them, less so and feel more legitimate.
As we move forward, we will continue to reflect on what works best and how we can best grow the community of protectors so that every child in East Africa experiences a safe and happy childhood.