Promoting the Reflective Capacity of Resident Community Changemakers

One of the unique features of the Resident Community Changemakers (RCC) fellowship is that reflective consultation is the core strategy used to promote effectiveness.  Not "teaching" people what they "should" know, or "training" people to "implement practices with fidelity," but instead starting with the assumption that wisdom lies within every neighbor, and every neighbor has the wisdom to be a changemaker On a bi-weekly basis, RCC fellows reflect together as a group and also participate individual reflective consultation.  They continuously reflect so that their wisdom as neighbors can be accessed and harnessed, for the sake of positive change in their home neighborhoods and our broader shared community.  

 At the start of the fellowship, Resident Community Changemakers received the following adapted version of the BEST PRACTICE GUIDELINES FOR REFLECTIVE SUPERVISION/CONSULTATION published by the Michigan Association of Infant Mental Health.   (It was adapted to speak to [Resident Community Changemakers] rather than Infant Mental Health practitioners.)  Take a look and see what you think - is this a strategy for promoting neighbor-initiated, neighbor-led community change that resonates with you too?

*****

Reflective supervision/consultation is distinct [from administrative or technical supervision] due to the shared exploration of the parallel process.  That is, attention to all of the relationships is important, including the ones between [changemaker] and supervisor, between [changemaker] and [neighbors], between [neighbors and neighbors], [and between neighbors and other community members / institutions].  It is critical to understand how each of these relationships affects the others.  Of additional importance, reflective supervision/consultation relates to professional and personal development within one's discipline by attending to the emotional content of the work and how reactions to the content affect the [changemaking efforts].  Finally, there is often greater emphasis on the supervisor/consultant's ability to listen and wait, allowing the supervisee to discover solutions, concepts and perceptions on his/her own without interruption from the supervisor/consultant.    

The primary objectives of reflective supervision/consultation include the following:

  • form a trusting relationship between supervisor and [changemaker]
  • establish consistent and predictable meetings and times
  • ask questions that encourage details about the neighborhood and related emerging relationships
  • listen
  • remain emotionally present
  • teach/guide
  • nurture/support
  • apply the integration of emotion and reason
  • foster the reflective process to be internalized by the [changemaker]
  • explore the parallel process and to allow time for personal reflection
  • attend to how reactions to the content affect the process

Reflective supervision/consultation may be carried out individually or within a group.  For the purposes of this document, reflective supervision/consultation refers specifically to work done on be-half of [neighborhood] relationships.

Reflective supervision/consultation may mean different things depending on the program or setting in which it occurs.  A reflective supervisor or consultant may be hired/contracted from outside the agency or program, and may be offered to an individual or group/team in order to examine and respond to [neighborhood] material.  If the supervisor or consultant is contracted from outside the agency or program, he or she will engage in reflective and [technical] discussion, but administrative objectives only when it is clearly indicated in the contract.

If the reflective supervisor/consultant operates within the agency or program, then he/she will most likely need to address reflective, [technical] and administrative objectives.  When discussions related to disciplinary action need to occur, it is the direct supervisor who addresses them.  When the direct supervisor is also the one who provides reflective supervision, some schedule a meeting separate from the reflective supervision time.  Others choose to address disciplinary concerns during the regular reflective supervision meeting.  Disciplinary action should never occur within a group supervisory/consultation session. In all instances, the reflective supervisor/consultant is expected to set limits that are clear, firm & fair, to work collaboratively and to interact and respond respectfully. 

In sum, it is important to remember that relationship is the foundation for reflective supervision and consultation.  All growth and discovery about the work and oneself takes place within the context of this trusting relationship.  To the extent that the supervisor or consultant and supervisee(s) or consultee(s) are able to establish a secure relationship, the capacity to be reflective will flourish.