Capp’s five-step approach to strengths-based recruitment

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October 2019
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West Bengal

Strength Spotting with Tribal People in West Bengal

Posted by: Alex Linley & Avirupa Bhaduri


In this latest despatch to cover her work on realising strengths with the people of West Bengal, Avirupa shares with us the experience of Sunita, who participated in a strengths workshop in Ayodhya hills, in West Bengal, and was able to transform her perception of her life and the good things that she had in it.


However, the month did not start so well for Avirupa, as we read below…


“While March ended is a happy note for me, April turned out to be ‘the cruelest month’, without a trace of poetry! It started with me going down with viral fever right after returning from Bankura, followed by a series of such cases in my family. It is quite a common phenomenon during season change, but a pain nonetheless. So most of the month was spent on visits to the doctor and pharmacy.


By the time everyone was fit to join school/office/college etc., I had my workshop scheduled in Purulia. I welcomed the opportunity to get out of the city to the hills. The weather is usually unbearably hot in summer, so I was prepared to face the heat!! But a mild breezy night greeted me as our train reached Purulia station at 11 p.m. We reached the guest house, our halt for the night and venue for the next day post midnight.


This time the workshops were arranged in the lap of the hills. The hills have special names for the local tribals, for whom they are considered deities. We were in Ayodhya hills, which is one of the many small hills that are part of Chhotanagpur plateau of West Bengal.


The soil here is arid, red in colour. Hardly any food crops grow here, but the region is rich in minerals. Most of the rain-fed rivers dry out during summer and winter. The majority of the population are tribals.


The delegates start coming from early morning. Our first session started at 10 a.m. Like Bankura, here also the focus was awareness of rights. My session was post lunch. This time I repeated the Bankura formula, and identified the pilot group in the beginning. Unfortunately there were few past delegates.


So, I presented them with the idea of strength and got our colleagues to talk about their own strength. The project leader is an avid climber. He talked wonderfully about his passion for climbing and how that is linked to his strength of not only as adventure and competitive but also resilience and creativity.


We had many meaningful conversations on strengths earlier and I was glad to see another instance of a person warming up to the idea of strengths. On that note I threw the session open for audience participation on a strength spotting excercise. I had some surprising answers.


A man said “I like to grow flowers. God knows how difficult it is in this soil, but I love watching the first bud and my heart swells with emotion when I see the bloom. I have always been fascinated by the riots of colours of palash shimul in spring.”


I didn’t know where to categorize this genuine appreciation and love for beauty of nature, but I thanked him for sharing such a lovely original strength.Then like before I asked them to form teams. Then I introduced them the “strengths bank” game.


The delegates participation was great. All the teams could talk about the strengths of their members with varying degree of success. However, I found one woman Sunita Mandi very interesting, I remembered her from our last workshop. She was the one who had come despite having a minor accident while on the way to the workshop. She seemed much less shy this time and was leading her team for strengths bank.


After the session I had a one to one conversation with her. She was unexpectedly reticent in the begining. I had to put in a lot of effort before she started to open up. At first she was only talking about the troubles of her life. She is 23, been married for 8 years but childless. So she is tortured at home by her in-laws who call her infertile, and have even hit her occasionally. She cooks for all 10 members of her family and also does most of the household chores.


Then I probe about the good things of her life. At first she was hesitant to find any. Then with positive persuasion she started to talk about how her husband loves her, and he has been a pillar of support to her. He has even suggested to live separately away from his family (which is a huge issue among families).


She then said that she has finally found her strength and worth in helping others, being associated with the Action Aid project. She became visibly happy, smiled and her pace of speaking increased, she became excited to talk about how she never realised that helping others was her calling, and how she forgets her depression of childlessness through the good work.


I am once again convinced about the display of the power of strength talk and how it enlivens postive spirit. At the end of the conversation Sunita invited me to her home in the hamlet of “Bandhughuti” which was about 3 kilometers from the venue, near the water dam.


On the way back to the station, I visited her home, met her husband and was treated with yummy juicy tangy sweet piyal fruit, which grows wild locally. I tasted it for the first time and loved it. I promised her to be back again soon.”


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Teaching Strengths in West Bengal

Posted by: Avirupa Bhaduri & Alex Linley


In her latest blog below, Avirupa shares with us her experiences of teaching strengths approaches to future managers, and contrasts this with her further work in developing strengths in underprivileged communities, through the Action Aid-sponsored workshops that she has been delivering in the remote Bankuria and Purulia districts of West Bengal…


“March is quite pleasant this year, the mercury hasn’t been cruel. Spring is in the air, and I feel fortunate to wake up every morning to a cuckoo’s call living in a city. By now I’ve settled down to the changes and have begun to enjoy my new life. However, I wanted to push my role as a strengths practitioner further.


With that positive note I sought counsel from Alex. We spoke after quite a long time, for over an hour, during which a number of significant pointers came up. That conversation helped me immensely to set my direction ahead with clarity and constructive plans. We decided to pursue the options available to generate work, however small, for Shiriti group.


But alongside I wanted to integrate my other assignments to strengths. I teach Human Resource Management in a college, as a part time lecturer. My students are young graduates studying to be future managers. I go to class the next week armed with “The Strengths Book”. We were to cover chapters on motivation and leadership. As I speak on different theories of leadership and motivation, I notice the usual loss of interest.


This time though I start speaking about the strengths theory. I explain how each one of us is in possession of unique strengths, which if realized and applied intelligently can unlock latenpotential. It piques their interest and they start asking questions, like if this is just a theory or is it functional. I talk about Capp, Aviva, Ernst & Young and show them The Strengths Book. I read excerpts and stories of some of the most common strength they can relate to. It always works.


After class I gave them the assignment to think about their own strengths and at least one perceptible strength of their best friend. After class 3 to 4 students came up to ask where they can find the book. I advised them to use the internet.


Next week more good news followed. The Action Aid supported workshops in marginalized communities have started again, and they once again invited me to take a workshop in Bankura district of West Bengal. I gladly agreed. By now the weather has worsened. Bankura and Purulia are the hottest districts of Bengal. The day we board the train it’s sultry and uncomfortably hot. I was worried whether the participants will attend the workshop braving the heat.


We reached Chhatna around noon and from there it took 20 min on a motorbike to reach the venue, which is a Govt. sponsored primary school. As I was getting down, I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by the delegates, many of whom I realized had participated in my previous workshop in Baghmundi. They seemed happy to see me again!


The first class was on rights. Surprisingly the group showed their awareness of rights quite well. It definitely proves the success of this project, and I feel proud to have contributed to it. I began my session by asking those who had attended the previous workshop to identify themselves. There were quite a few members, I then asked them to relate to the others what they felt were the take aways of that seminar.


I was amazed to find a lot of the women articulating about positive attributes about themselves, albeit mostly related to their performance as a homemaker. Then I asked what strengths have they used this time, if at all. The group answered that since for most of them cooking is a great strength area, they told the organizers not to hire a professional cook, instead they themselves took the collective initiative to cook for all 50 of us. It was wonderful!! I cheered!! Lunch indeed was delicious!!


However, I observered that although they are conscious of their rights, they lack confidence to talk about it, let alone exercise them. So I decided to design this workshop around one of strength area, i.e., Spotlight. In my experience, theatre is a wonderful medium that brings alive people’s strength.


So this time again I let the pilot group do most of the briefing about strengths back to the 1st timers. Then like before I divided the group into 5 teams, to compete about the best approach to solve a crucial topical problem, boring deep tubewells for water.


Bankura and Purulia are worst hit during summer as rain-fed rivers dry up and ground water supply drops drastically. The only relief is boring deep tube wells by the Govt. agencies. But the contractors often dupe villagers by setting up tube wells without adequate depth, so that water is not available.


We try to find a way through role play where I pose as Govt. officer, a colleague as contractor etc. The participants come in groups and try to use their collective strengths in order to force the officer to inspect the faulty tube well, and thereafter sanction another. The members of pilot group are distributed evenly among the teams. The teams come one after another and try to overcome the intimidation and poor self-esteem to fulfill their target in 15 mins.


The performance as expected was much better this time thanks to the pilot group, who acted as catalyst, and energized the teams. I felt it is easier for people coming from marginalized communities to open up to the idea of strength if it came from one of their own. I resolved then and there to develop as many pilot groups as possible to take the torch of strength based living ahead.”


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