Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Evaluating the Mpowerment Project by reflecting on its Guiding Principles

Click to enlarge

In addition to tracking the number of men attending M-groups and outreach activities, it’s important for Coordinators to think about how Project activities relate to the Mpowerment Project’s Guiding Principles. The Coordinators should continually review the Guiding Principles to ensure that the Project is being implemented in accordance with them. 

For example, Coordinators must remember that the Project should:

  • focus on social issues as a way of attracting young adult gay and bisexual men
  • help empower the young men involved
  • strive to develop a stronger sense of community through the development of more social networks among young men 
  • infuse all Project activities with HIV prevention messages

Being a Coordinator rather than a volunteer requires a broader overview of the Mpowerment Project goals, objectives, and methods. 

Ultimately it is the Coordinators’ responsibility to ensure that these principles and others are being applied throughout all aspects of the Project. Some key areas for the Coordinators to pay attention to are described below. 

RELATEDWhat characteristics make for a successful coordinator?  

MPO Latino Oasis. Mpowerment New York City.

Empowerment of Volunteers

It is very important that the Coordinators continually consider the extent to which they are empowering volunteers, including those involved in the Core Group. By having the volunteers make and implement decisions about the Project, they gain a real sense of ownership of the Project and its activities. As a result, they will be more willing to work on the Project, and more likely to take its messages and goals as their own. This includes an increased willingness to spread the message of the importance of HIV testing and safer sex to their friends, publicize the Project’s activities through word-of-mouth to their friends, and invite their friends to join the Project.

This approach is one of the unique components of the Mpowerment Project—namely that the process of working on a product or event often is as important as getting the product or event completed. For instance, consider the following scenario. A Coordinator could work by himself to develop materials to promote HIV testing or safer sex, and often could do so in less time than if he were to delegate the task to volunteers. However, suppose instead that he worked with two volunteers to create those materials and afterwards they expressed pride at having done so. Then the extra time it took the volunteers to carry out this task was more than justified by their sense of accomplishment and a feeling that the material’s message is their own.

For this reason, it is critical for the Coordinators to continually evaluate if volunteers are feeling a sense of ownership for the Project or if, instead, they feel that the Coordinators make all the decisions and do the most important work. It’s also worthwhile remembering that once volunteers gain experience working on any task, the Coordinator can spend less time working with them in the future, so the initial investment in time is likely to result in a time- savings later on.

RELATEDHow to run a Core Group. via Mpowerment YVR (Vancouver BC).

RELATED4 easy steps for involving volunteers. Mpowerment Project best practices. 
Mpowerment New Haven CT

Reflect, reflect, reflect.
Ask yourself: 
Are we following the Guiding Principles of the Project?” 

Diversity of Participants

Another area that requires constant monitoring is to what extent programs are reaching diverse segments of gay/bisexual men in the community. It is the responsibility of the Coordinators to keep revisiting this issue, and bringing it up at Core Group meetings.

By periodically referring back to the community assessment results (See the Mpowerment Manual, Module 2: Community Assessment), the Coordinators and Core Group can determine if all the groups of young adult gay/bisexual men in the community are represented at Project activities. Concerted efforts are necessary to ensure that formal outreach targets diverse groups, and that diverse groups are part of the Core Group and participate in M-groups.

When the Mpowerment Project was first implemented at several research sites, Coordinators successfully attracted many young gay/bisexual men of color into the Core Group and M-groups. In fact, these segments of young men ended up being overrepresented in both areas by comparison to demographics of the cities involved. This demonstrates that it is possible to reach such groups even if they have been underrepresented in community programs in the past.

RELATED11 themes to address in implementing Mpowerment for young Black gay and bisexual men 
RELATED9 Latino Mpowerment Projects 

Join us for the Mpowerment Project training.

Openness of the Core Group

The Project Coordinators need to reflect continually about the Core Group in order to ensure diversity in its membership. Of equal importance, however, is ensuring that the Core Group does not become cliquish and turn into a social club that does not actively welcome and encourage new participants. Since the Coordinators are central to the Core Group’s successful functioning, they play a significant role in maintaining the group’s openness. 

RELATED: 3 easy to remember motivators for joining your MP Core Group 

Read more about coordinators, including supervision best practices, in Module 4: Coordinators. Module 4 is a free download at

Module 4: Coordinators:  Objectives

To familiarize you with the role of Project Coordinators, including: 
  1. their responsibilities;
  2. how to configure their roles when there is more than one Coordinator; 
  3. characteristics of effective Coordinators;
  4. use of behavioral objectives to supervise Coordinators, including sample behavioral objectives; 
  5. their training needs; and
  6. Coordinator evaluation duties. 

The Mpowerment Project is one of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) effective interventions.