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SART Foundations: Building the Framework of Growth and Improvement

This is a topic that I continue to hear frequently addressed! So, back from June 2017, let’s talk about moving beyond the monthly meeting!

The Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) is capable of magical things, when SARTners are all working together to coordinate better responses. I was recently out in West Virginia at their Annual Symposium. While there, I heard questions from SART members that I hear often from all over the country; questions that I struggled with as a team leader: what do I do when other team members believe that showing up to a monthly meeting is the primary purpose?

It’s a good question. It’s a hard question. It is also a really important question that gets to the heart of the purpose of the SART. This is where weaving the core principle of mutual growth and improvement of all SARTners is essential.

There are some ways to accomplish this task when you are working to build or working to re-engage team members. Here are some ideas:

  • Incorporate growth and change into your communications. One of the best pieces of advice I got as a new coordinator from an amazing and seasoned team leader was: use the pre and post meeting emails to (1) thank people for their engagement and (2) remind them why they are showing up. Every email I sent to my team after that focused on how I could see them working through complex issues. I would note the changes we were making together. It became the heart of all my communication; team members felt more invested in the team and attendance improved vastly. They began to see they were doing something, not just meeting for the sake of meeting.
  • Write it into your Memorandums of Understanding. Most teams have some sort of written documents that indicates their commitment to the team. MOU’s are a great place to indicate that your goal as a team is to shake up that status quo and make necessary changes to relationships, practices, and processes. You can show you mean to do hard and good work in that agreement. It will help to frame the work of the SART for all players involved.
  • Talk about mutual growth and improvement. SARTs need to look closely at every agency’s policies and practices to find places where they can make realistic and sustainable improvements. Most of the time, it’s easier to point fingers than it is to do the hard work together. Reminding people that you are all in it together can help ease that stress. It bonds you rather than divides you. Whenever you have the opportunity, remind folks of the greater mission of the team.
  • Acknowledge the difficulty; continue to celebrate. There is such value in speaking the truth. You all know it’s hard to change agency practices and policies and historically challenging relationships or problems. However, don’t get stuck admiring the problems. Continue to encourage growth in the work. Celebrate the small victories—in our lines of work, we don’t have many opportunities to celebrate. Addressing realities and celebrating wins can make the work seem more do-able to team members.

These are just some of the ways that you can begin to build up a framework of growth and improvement to help focus and encourage your team. I’m certain that many of you also have ideas on how to center your team on doing complex work to change the response of systems practitioners. Please share your ideas—big and small—in the comments!