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Personal Characteristics of Social Mobilisers

Graham Boyd, October 2004
Caledonia Centre for Social Development

In this short note the personal characteristics, leadership qualities and critical variables of success for social mobilisers are presented. The term social mobiliser is used in this note however in the development literature they are sometimes referred to as: community agents, community assistants, community workers, local catalysts, change agents, social workers, animators or facilitators.

They must have integrity, passion, and commitment to people.

In addition to these qualities they also must have the ability to:

bulletRecognise that everyone has a role to play and to create the space for people to fulfil that role
bulletAccept that contradictions are part of leadership
bulletWork skilfully and with modesty
bulletKnow where to get the facts
bulletMatch theory with practice
bulletBe accountable and work in a transparent way
bulletBe clear about one’s strengths and weaknesses
bulletKeep learning
bulletKnow when to follow
bulletListen deeply
bulletHave a sense of humour

Strategies for Building the skills and knowledge of Social Mobilisers

A three-pronged approach called the POT leadership development framework is vital:

P – personal empowerment;

O – organisational development;

T – transparency and knowledge.

This is a social change analysis and holistic approach to leadership issues through addressing the personal, political and contextual basis that individual activists face within their communities.


Needs assessments: to understand what social mobilisers require out of leadership training


Cascade training: training of trainers and using peer groups to train participants


Linking theory to practice: to challenge existing leadership paradigms and popularise, analyse, and synthesise social and cooperative concepts.


Promoting: intergenerational dialogue and organising


Linking: local, regional and global issues and initiatives


Follow-up programmes: with social mobilisers and their organisations


Strengthening: networks and partnerships of social mobilisers and others working in the social and cooperative economy


Residential training methodology: having social mobilisers periodically spend some of their training period together in one location, away from their day-to-day responsibilities, is very important for building their confidence, self-esteem, solidarity and lasting friendships.


Using information and communication technology strategically.

Five Critical variables for success

These are:

bullet Awareness - how we see ourselves
bullet Visibility – how others see us
bullet Professionalism – working effectively as individuals
bullet Organisational quality – working effectively as an organisation
bullet Networking – working effectively to build partnerships between organisations


The 5 critical variables for success were drawn from Critical variables for success, Stuart Field, New Sector Magazine, Issue No 61, April/May 2004, p16.



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