I don’t really know anyone who loves debriefing after an organizing or advocacy campaign.
I know I don’t.
I mean, how can rehashing what worked, and what didn’t, possibly compare with the excitement of planning your strategy, or the intensity of implementation?
But I don’t know that that’s really the point.
What I do know is that we skip over the debriefing part of the process at our own peril; that, to the long-term viability of our organizing efforts, it’s every bit as important as the other phases; and that skillfully facilitating a debriefing session is far from easy.
The best news?
Social workers are naturals at this part.
Key to a successful debriefing are some of the skills that social workers hone, both through our professional education and through our work with clients: attending to both affect and content, eliciting participation from all members, monitoring intragroup relationships, and utilizing active listening that can lead to corrective action.
I remember one debriefing session, for example, that revealed that my decision to skip one part of the agenda because we were running more than 20 minutes behind (and our guests of honor had a cross-country bus to catch!) resulted in some feelings of betrayal among some of our coalition. Some damage was done, but we were able to repair it much more quickly because we paid attention to it.
Another debriefing session discovered that my leaders thought that we weren’t aiming high enough in our legislative goals, and that they wanted to ramp up the next phase of the campaign. Without taking the time to talk through the work, I could have missed this huge step.
And, of course, I’ll never forget the coalition debriefing where one member let slip that her organization was receiving significant grant funds to support the work, while the rest of us were adding the work to our existing loads. Needless to say, some renegotiation ensued.
I’d love to hear your own stories about debriefing in advocacy, how you make it work, and what it has meant for your progress (and your process). Here are my top five debriefing tips, mostly learned the hard way:
How do you “debrief” in macro practice? How do your social work skills come into play? What lessons would you add to the five above?