Start Up the Team

How do we begin to build teamwork?

An effective way to begin the process of forming an active, cohesive CAT is to invite potential CAT members to attend an initial orientation session that includes low-key and fun icebreaker exercises. Orientation meetings give prospective members information about the CAT's purpose and how it functions, as well as a sense of the CAT's democratic, inclusive style. Ideally, the sessions should include ample opportunities for new members to ask questions to help them decide if they're ready to commit to being a CAT member. Sessions should also give CAT organizers a chance to get to know potential members in order to assess whether or not there is a match between an individual and the CAT in terms of philosophy, expectations, personal style and other factors that might affect teamwork.

Orientation sessions should be planned carefully ahead of time to help participants and organizers stay focused on the CAT's essential purpose--developing an action agenda for change. Organizers need to make sure that prospective members are clear about what is being asked of them, how members are expected to participate in or contribute to the CAT's activities, and the time frame or commitment involved. 

Orientation meetings should help CAT members and organizers explore several questions:

  • Do potential members share a common understanding of the causes of domestic violence and how to address the problem?
  • Do members value and endorse principles of community ownership and respect for cultural diversity? 
  • Are members interested in the activities of the current campaign? 
  • Are members willing to be part of an intensive work team?

Scheduling regular (quarterly or semi-annual) orientation meetings makes it easier for your group to bring in new members on an ongoing basis. CAT members may also want to invite their partners or family members to an orientation to help them better understand the work of the CAT.

How do we move from theoretical understandings to action planning?

People who share a mutual concern about the impact and extent of domestic violence do not always or necessarily agree about what causes it and how it can be addressed most effectively. CAT members need to discuss and develop a joint theory about causes of domestic violence and how it can be prevented in order to build a coherent framework for action. For example, if "family dysfunction" or "substance abuse" is viewed as a major cause of domestic violence, a CAT might advocate for increased access to low-cost mental health services in the community. If domestic violence is conceived as a consequence of society's devaluing of women and girls, relative to men and boys, then prevention efforts might focus on increasing women's status, opportunities for education and advancement, visibility in the media, participation in government or decision-making bodies, etc. Taking time to explore CAT members' understandings of domestic violence is a critical first step toward deciding upon an action plan.

This module includes Tips & Tools that can be used in initial orientation meetings, including a sample orientation agenda and several icebreaker and teambuilding exercises. Also included are informational handouts about the theory underlying Transforming Communities' analysis of domestic violence as a form of "gender-based violence" and its approach to linking local community efforts to a broader social movement. Your CAT can use these handouts to generate discussion about which theoretical approach your team members might want to adopt.