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The Meet Up Collective’s program is conceptualised by the values, knowledge and approaches of Behavioural Science. Behavioural Science is trans-disciplinary and academically rigorous degree that draws on theoretical knowledge from a variety of schools, including but not limited to social and community psychology, sociology, political science and cultural studies.
Exposure to this multi-faced, critical and credible lens motivated and inspired Isabella to foster the wellbeing of secondary students in a comprehensive, holistic and specialised way. Embodying this lens enables a safe and supportive environment for young people whilst continuously improves their skillset and relationships within this space. Below are five of the main aspects from Behavioural Science that TMC employs in their interactions with young people.
Reflexivity is the inquisition into our interpretive systems that shape our knowledge production. It is a mindset that deconstructs ideas of power, hegemony and resistance, as well as perceptions of insider and outsider groups. When this knowledge is misinterpreted and internalised, peoples’ behaviours are affected as they exert these knowledge system. Being reflexive breaks down this assumed knowledge and questions how we came to learn this. Further, it examines whether our practice is being inclusive of all people.
Within the practitioner and client relationship, the practitioner is more inclined to gravitate towards clients who share similar values and lifestyles. Being reflexive in this circumstance would allow the practitioner to take a step back and ask why am I spending more time with this person? Am I excluding others because of this? How can I alter my behaviour, interactions and thought process to be more inclusive of others? The practice of reflexivity ensures the improvement of client and practitioner relationships as well as enhancing inclusivity.
Reflexivity also includes the analysis of dominant language and discourse. Being reflexive involves the deconstruction of language and the exploration of it’s deeper meaning and consequences. It aims to identify the knowledge contained in discourse and how these are connected to power relations. Dominant discourses have the ability to maintain and perpetuate social constructs, social stigmatisation and ultimately power.
The Wellbeing Framework was developed by Prilleltensky and Nelson (2002) with a purpose of exploring people’s wellbeing from three life components. This ecological wellbeing model views individual’s health as a holistic entity, including the welfare of the social environment in which one lives. The first factor is the individual. This relates to matters that are solely to do with the individual such as their mental and physical health, optimism, self-efficacy, personality, etc. The relational level is the next factor that deals with the individuals’ relationships. Strong and supportive relationships heighten the chances of positive wellbeing. The collective level relates to the community as a whole and the political influences that a community can be impacted by (hence affecting the individuals that make up this community). All of these factors have the ability to influence each other and they cannot exist in isolation. The most successful models and approaches to improve wellbeing are inclusive of all three aspects and aim to address them simultaneously.
Power is a factor that has the capacity to inhibit peoples’ wellbeing. It can be defined as the opportunity to fulfil or obstruct personal, relational or collective needs. In regards to young people, it is important for them to have a say and have power on matters that affect their lives. Being disempowered in their relationships with family, friends and the community will inhibit the achievement of wellbeing. These relationships are not fixed in their dynamics, hence they can be modified through the use of this Behavioural Science framework.
Sense of Community
Sense of Community is a theory by Chavis and McMillan that highlights the four necessary criteria for someone to achieve a sense of belonging to community group. All of the elements listed below have to be present for this to be achieved.
Membership is the feeling of belonging and being a part of a group. This involves boundaries which define whether a person has been included and accepted into a group. These boundaries incorporate language, dress, symbols, rituals and many more. When Membership is achieved, the individual will feel sensations of acceptance and personal investment in the group. For example, TMC offers students a purple laptop case and personalised TMC notebook to enhance feelings of membership and belonging to the TMC community.
Influence is a bi-directional concept where the individual must feel they can have an impact on the group and vice versa. Influence is what gives members a sense of power and value within the group. This bi-directional flow of energy can be operating simultaneously. Participation in this community leads to power and therefore a greater ownership of the community. Influence creates positive and cohesive relationships that strengthen the community bond. All of the students at TMC have the opportunity to influence the content and focus of our workshops. We base our workshops on the collective needs, wants and suggestions of the students. When students’ ideas and innovation are used in the workshops, this reassures them that they are being heard and that they are active members of TMC.
Integration and Fulfilment of Needs:
Integration and Fulfilment of Needs can be summarised as reinforcement. Group success and the competence of others creates positive reinforcement for its members. This success binds people together and unites the group. This can also be understood as person- environment fit. Members are positively reinforced through sharing similar values, needs and priorities. TMC’s tutoring component of the program aims to improve students’ grades. When students can see a transformative change in their academic results, they are motivated and positively reinforced by the group through the evidence of the program’s success.
Shared Emotional Connection:
Shared Emotional Connection can be produced through peoples’ shared history. This does not need to be in the literal sense, rather people can connect through identifying with similar experiences and emotions. These interactions and connections strengthen community relationships and build a spiritual bond. TMC’s individual tutoring sessions sees students gaining practical assistance from their carefully allocated mentors who specialise in varying academic disciplines. Mentors share past experiences of school life and coping strategies throughout the rapport building process. This links the student to their mentor/tutor through similarities in experiences and personality.