Somewhere there are bookshelves full of dust-covered alternative break manuals and site leader survival guides. The movers and shakers of this movement know that leadership is more than a to-do list. Yet, in our attempt to delegate responsibilities and create ownership among student leaders, we seem to forget this. Our (well-intended) micromanagement often boils down to a looming checklist of tasks and deadlines, stripping the vision that allows leaders to make a position their own.
Step up, step back. We know this best in the context of reflection. You cannot give voice or ownership to someone else; you must create the space for them to exercise their voice and take ownership. How does this apply in other areas of alternative breaks?
Site leaders clearly have a set list of duties and responsibilities, and there are certain aspects of trip planning that simply must get done. That said - successful trip facilitation (group building, educational components, reflection planning, etc.) will look different for every member of your site leader cohort. Give leaders license to break the mold - and you’ll be amazed at the innovation and ownership that comes from loosening the reins.
This is not to say you should abandon the alternative break checklist; these tools and resources are incredibly helpful and keep programs on track. But before you crack down on an Executive Board member or Site Leader for failing to meet goals or deadlines, ask yourself this: Was this person involved in setting the goals and determining deadlines? Or am I another ‘vision-killer on the loose’?
Successful programs create space for creativity and ownership at all levels: Executive Board, Site Leader, and Participant.