Monday, April 27, 2015

7 issues that will facilitate or impede Mpowerment Project Implementation

During our research we gained an understanding of those practices that foster or impede successful Mpowerment Project (MP) implementationBy being aware of these issues, CBOs will be better prepared to deal with them if they arise during the implementation process.

RELATED:  What is the Mpowerment Project? Download Module 1: Mpowerment Overview.

1. Securing adequate resources 

Two of the most telling predictors of implementation success are financial and human resources. 

Poorly funded Projects are bound to have more difficulties implementing a community- level intervention with multiple components than are well-funded Projects. While we did see examples of poorly funded Projects that did an excellent job of implementing the intervention, conversely we also saw some well-funded Projects that never achieved much success. So while money is a critical issue, adequate funding is not sufficient, in itself, to predict implementation success. 

Haven Mpowerment Project | Springfield MO

2. Hiring the right staff 

We found that the individuals hired as Coordinators are the most important predictors of programmatic success. 

Even if a Project has unlimited financial resources, if the Coordinator isn’t the right fit for the position, the Project will never succeed. Agencies that made hasty hiring decisions about their Coordinators often ended up regretting the decisions. It is critically important that organizations take their time to find Coordinators who possess the qualities most likely to help the Project succeed. 

If the Coordinator isn't right for the position, the Project will not succeed.

Miami Men's Mpowerment Project | FL

3. Holding program staff accountable 

We found that when the right staff were on board and conscientiously implemented the various Project components, the intervention was more successfulBut when staff, for whatever reason, failed to follow through on their work, and when Project Supervisors or funders did not hold them accountable for their activities, then not surprisingly the intervention was unsuccessful. Even the best and most dedicated Coordinators need support to do their jobs well.

Project Supervisors who took a more “hands-on” approach usually had the best success. (Of course by “hands-on” we don’t mean micro-managing Coordinators, or squashing their creativity and killing their spirit.) 

4. Understanding the model thoroughly 

We have learned that people need ample help in order to fully understand the Core Elements and Guiding Principles of the MP, and that simply attending a single training is not sufficient. However, people who read the manual and then return to it whenever questions arise acquire a much deeper understanding of the intervention and implement it more successfully. 

The MP really is different from most other approaches to HIV prevention, and it takes some amount of effort to become fully versed in the program’s nuances. For example, some agencies really understand the importance of running a Project with a social focus. They do a great job of planning and throwing large, community-wide events that are a lot of fun and attract a wide range of participants. But, these Projects sometimes lose sight of the need to incorporate strong and appealing HIV prevention messages into the events. So in essence they are great party planners, but not so great at HIV prevention.

RELATED: Join us. Attend the Mpowerment Project training

Attend the Mpowerment Project training.  Call Ben Zovod for details 415.476.6428

5. Believing in the intervention’s ability to affect young men’s behavior

We found that belief in the model and its Guiding Principles is key. Organizations most successfully implement the Project when they believe that the intervention is likely to be effective with their own populations (even if it requires some appropriate adaptation). 

When Coordinators or Project Supervisors don’t believe in the model, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and community members will sense their skepticism. No one wants to come to a Core Group or attend a Formal Outreach event if the people hosting it aren’t invested in the model. Conversely, if Coordinators and Project Supervisors are true champions of the program, their enthusiasm rubs off on the community, making implementation success much more likely. 

Belief in the Mpowerment Project model and its Guiding Principles is key.

Latinos D | Mpowerment New York City, NY |  2009

6. Being committed to innovation

If organizations are not committed to changing their approach to HIV prevention, and are reluctant to adopt some new approaches, they are unlikely to implement the MP successfully. Sometimes organizations feel as if the only way they can get funding for their programs is to pick a science-based intervention and say they’ll implement it. 

These interventions really are Mpowerment Projects in name only (MINOs). 

RELATED: 8 ways to provide agency leadership for the Mpowerment Project 

There must be a desire to change the existing approaches to HIV prevention in order to create space for the Project’s necessary Core Elements. 

Mpowerment OLY | Mpowerment Olympia WA (2004 - 2011)

7. Allowing adequate time for planning

It is important for CBOs to set aside sufficient time to become familiar with the Project’s intervention model and then develop a careful implementation plan, instead of hastily trying to implement the Project. 

It can take substantial planning, for example, to consider how to handle the issue of dedicated space for the Project, and if a separate space is impossible, how to find a suitable alternative. Agencies that are used to operating in a hierarchical manner may have difficulty adjusting to a program that requires that important decisions be made by program participants themselves. Some agencies may be used to having their staff work in their offices from 8-5 or 9-6 every day. These agencies will need to schedule more flexible hours for Project staff, who will often need to work some evening hours. In addition, agencies may also need to make arrangements to house MP staff in a community space away from the parent organization. These are only a few of the types of planning issues that must be considered when taking on an intervention like the MP.

While no CBO can anticipate every issue that may arise, our technical assistance team can help your agency identify key issues that are likely to need some advance planning and preparation.  

RELATED: 16 Steps for starting the Mpowerment Project in your community.

via Facilitators and barriers to effective scale-up of an evidence-based multilevel HIV prevention intervention 

Read more about the Mpowerment Project in the manual.   The manual is a free download when you register at Click here for a quick look at the essential Core Elements of the Mpowerment Project.

Generation L | Mpowerment Chicago IL | 2011


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

4 easy steps for involving volunteers: Mpowerment Project best practices.

The Mpowerment Project has a unique philosophy about working with volunteers. 

Instead of using volunteers to simply get tasks done, Mpowerment facilitates a process for participants to take on roles of authority, leadership, and responsibility that fosters a sense of ownership of the Project. 

It is important that the Coordinators do not convey the idea that the staff is “on top” and that the volunteers work for the staff. Coordinators should be able and willing to participate in all of the tasks volunteers are asked to carry out, acting as mentors to volunteers along the way. It is not appropriate for Coordinators to delegate the most boring and dull tasks to volunteers. For the Project to succeed, the young men who participate in it must develop a sense of ownership of the Project and the Project’s goals.

MLAN | Mpowerment Columbia MO
Every task in the Mpowerment Project can become an opportunity to build community among volunteers  - one of its Guiding Principles

For example, envelope stuffing and making safer-sex kits are essential tasks that can readily be performed in a social atmosphere. Likewise, the Outreach Team activities can be fun social opportunities as men get together to make costumes, plan their outreach performances, or gather before an outreach activity at a bar or community event. These activities give participants a chance to spend time together, talk, listen, and get to know and appreciate one other. They are also opportunities to support each other in practicing safer sex, and remind each other to provide the same support to friends.

Start Small

Match volunteers with a small task for their first project. If participants begin with an overly ambitious project and fail at it, they will feel less empowered than if they start with a smaller endeavor and succeed.

For instance, ask a new volunteer to design an event invitation instead of coordinating the entire event. Then for their next project, give them something a bit more challenging. Start small, but don’t underestimate what volunteers are willing or capable of contributing. At the same time, it is also important to ask for what you need, especially from volunteers who have already demonstrated their capabilities.

Mpowerment Long Island | New York City NY

Respect their time

Many volunteers have busy social, school, or professional lives. Although some may not be able to volunteer much time to the Project, their contributions— however limited—can prove extremely valuable. It is important to avoid making too many demands on volunteers that may unintentionally create barriers to attracting the most gregarious, socially active men into the Project.

Stress the benefits

There are many benefits to volunteering for the Mpowerment Project. Through volunteering, young men can make new friends, meet potential partners, learn more about HIV issues, participate in outreach events, learn new skills, and feel good about themselves by knowing they are making a contribution to their community. Always point out these benefits when talking to potential volunteers. 

FUSE | Mpowerment Dallas TX

Extend a personal invitation

Most young gay/bisexual men decide to volunteer when someone from the Project personally invites them to help out with a task. Try to identify what the potential volunteer might be good at when matching him to a task. Ask him what his talents are. Look at what volunteer opportunities he checked on his interest sheet. Then let the volunteer choose the task that sounds most appealing to him. Remember, volunteers report that they are more willing to participate in areas which seem more relevant to their daily lives and in which they have greater expertise. 

Bridgemen | Mpowerment San Francisco CA

RELATED: Looking for ways to recruit for your Core Group? 1 super simple way to recruit new participants

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Reach out to us.

Follow the adventures of these Mpowerment Projects

Want more? Module 5: Core Group and Other Volunteers is a free download when you register at