Much of the workshop’s content builds upon the work of Dr. Ervin Staub, professor of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts and Director of the Ph.D. concentration on the psychology of peace and the prevention of violence, and Dr. Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist and former Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. Dr. Ervin Staub is a PCRC international advisory board member and directly contributed to many aspects of this project development. PCRC uses many elements from his reconciliation work and incorporates components of his research on rescuer behavior, moral courage and bystandership throughout this project’s design. PCRC additionally references Dr. Zimbardo’s recent work from his ‘Heroic Imagination Project’ that is designed to inspire ordinary people to act as heroes and agents of social change.
The workshop is divided into 3 parts discussed in further detail below. The descriptions given are just of overview of the content of the workshop. An accessible workshop manual, detailing workshop activities, and incorporating trainer notes, will be available soon for like-minded organizations to use in their own communities. This manual will be designed for use in contexts worldwide.
Overview of the “Heroes in Training” Youth Workshop Structure:
Part 1: Bystander Effect, the Bystander Intervention Model, and Active vs. Passive Bystandership
In the first portion of this workshop, youth participants are introduced to the bystander effect. They are given real-life examples of cases where bystanders could have saved someone, but instead chose to look the other way, resulting in often dire consequences. During this segment, participants are also introduced to the concepts of active versus passive bystander bystandership and examine the bystander intervention model. Activities have been designed to illustrate how altruistic behavior is strongly influenced by the social situation. One particular factor is the number of bystanders present—the general finding is that the greater the number of bystanders present the less likely one is to help. Other factors are explored using a number of different creative and interactive activities that can be adjusted depending on the age of the participants.
Part 2: The Power of Social Influence
This portion of the workshop examines the power of social influence through the lens of obedience to authority. We focus on this specific topic to create awareness about how easily social influences can dictate our actions. Generally authorities are fair and can often serve as role models, but problems arise when seemingly just authority begins to act unjustly. Sometimes people do harmful or unethical things because they are following the orders of an authority figure. When this occurs, there is a tendency to blame the character of the individuals involved and to ignore the powerful situational forces at play. In the Bosnian context, authority figures are all too often responsible for abusing positions of power and disseminating divisive messages, therefore, it is important to teach you participants to be more aware of the negative influence these messages can have on their perceptions, behaviors and actions.
Part 3: “The Rescuers” and Rescuer Behavior during Times of Genocide and the Importance of Moral Courage and Inclusive Caring for Reconciliation
The final portion of the workshop focuses on tying together the concepts discussed in the 2 previous sessions while introducing the final concepts of rescuer behavior and moral courage. Inclusive caring develops through words and images that humanize all people, through the example of models who show caring for people regardless of their group membership, and through one’s own experience of connection to varied people7. Using the stories of rescuers is an effective way to teach about the concept of moral courage. The rescuers embody the value of doing what you believe is right even when you are acting contrary to the values or beliefs of those around you. Additionally, studies have shown that positive role models are a critical component of delinquency prevention for youth.