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 Georgia College Public Achievement eGuide


Public Skills

Public Achievement links particular public skills with core concepts or the developmental stage of conducting research and public work. These skills are listed alphabetically but the skills can be found in relationship to corresponding core concepts in Appendix 1.

Advocacy is the act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.

Assertive Speaking

Assertive speaking goes hand in hand with confidence, belief in one's self, strong persona and truth. Assertive people express their feelings openly, honestly yet calmly. They are cool-headed and don't suffer from temper tantrums because they know how to put their point across. They also respect other people's point of views, listen to them though not in agreement, and acknowledge when they think the other person has made a good, viable point. An assertive person doesn't impose his/her opinion or viewpoint on others; rather, an assertive person helps others work out a solution.

Active Listening
Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. Active listening is a structured form of listening and responding that focuses the attention on the speaker. The listener must take care to attend to the speaker fully, and then repeats, in the listener's own words, what he or she thinks the speaker has said. The listener does not have to agree with the speaker--he or she must simply state what they think the speaker said. This enables the speaker to find out whether the listener really understood. Active listeners sometimes briefly summarize what the speaker said before contributing their own comments.

A Guide to Communication offers a good introduction to the basic elements of effective communication. PA students benefit from practicing communication by preparing to interview someone who brings knowledge or decision-making power to the group. When facilitating a conversation with your students, encourage each speaker to briefly summarize the previous speaker's point before adding their own comments to the discussion.

Consensus Building

Consensus building (also called collaborative problem solving or collaboration) is essentially mediation of a conflict involving many parties. Usually, the conflict also involves multiple, complex issues.
A mediator or facilitator usually carries out consensus building. Often a team of intermediaries is involved. As with a mediator of two-party disputes, the mediator of a consensus building effort moves through a series of steps. These include 1) participant identification and recruitment; 2) design of the process to be used (often involving the participants in this phase); 3) problem definition and analysis; 4) identification and evaluation of alternative solutions; 5) decision-making; 6) finalization and approval of the settlement; and 7) implementation.

Creating an Action Plan
An Action Plan is a planned series of actions, tasks or steps designed to achieve an objective or goal. The plan is based on issue and problem identification and deliberation regarding specific measures to take in response to a problem.

Defining the Project

Clear and accurate definition of a project is one of the most important actions you can take to ensure the project's success. The clearer the target the more likely you are to hit it. Defining a Project is a process of selection and reduction of the ideas and perspectives of those involved into a set of clearly defined objectives, key success criteria and evaluated risks.

Deliberation is a means of rational decision-making wherein people share their values, personal experience, and opinions based on reliable information. Deliberation may help people move toward selecting specific solutions for specific problems and advocating for action; however, deliberative dialogue is primarily focused on understanding different approaches to a particular issue contrasted to two polarizing perspectives.

Evaluation is the systematic acquisition and assessment of information to provide useful feedback about some object, program, or strategy.

Force Field Analysis
Force Field Analysis is a method to determine which factors (forces) are supportive and helpful in moving an organization or individual toward achieving a goal and the forces that offer resistance or are obstructions. Tone can diagram the analysis by inserting a written goal between two opposing lines with arrows. The group lists all the positive forces under the left arrow and all the opposing forces under the right arrow. The group then discusses people who are familiar with influential people and organizations on both sides of the diagram and creates an action plan for discussing the group's goal with people in power positions.

Issue Development

Roudy Hildreth, the author of "Building Worlds, Transforming Lives, and Making History: A Guide to Public Achievement" ("The Green Book"), upon which the Georgia College Public Achievement eGuide is based, asserts that issue development "takes place at all different stages and levels of the PA process." (Pg. 106) As PA coaches and students ask a series of who, what, where, why, and how questions, especially relative to the public context, they contribute to defining how the issue impacts the public. Issue development is based on gathering critical information.

Issues, Problems, & Projects
"Issues are matters of public concern and debate, good and bad that affect society. Problems are negative consequences or matters of uncertainty relative to the issue. Projects are planned actions designed to positively impact identified problems." (Green Book, Pg. 103)

Interviewing is one of the fundamental public skills that enable students to people of influence and power in their schools and communities – principals, mayors, elected officials, among others. Preparing for and experiencing respectful conversations with adults yield multiple benefits. Students feel empowered through asking questions and exchanging ideas and adults become aware of young peoples' concerns and interest in serving the public good. The Green Book (Pg. 110) provides helpful interviewing information.

Media Relations
Today, the newspaper is one of many media resources that can be used to tell public work stories. When considering how to make others aware of the group's project and effort to serve the public good, some basic questions need to be raised. Who is your target audience? Where do they get their information? A project aimed at improving school conditions could be communicated through the school newspaper, posters, daily announcements, or letters. The local community newspaper is a place to broaden the awareness of your work. Digital media such as You Tube, Facebook, and web sites reach even further. But keep in mind that you will want to use the media to support your efforts and create community goodwill for future public work.

Mission Statement
The mission statement succinctly describes the purpose (Why?) and method (How?) of the group's projects. "The mission of the ABC Achievers is to support the work of the soup kitchen by creating a public service announcement video that will raise awareness in the community." The statement will help each member of the group articulate the project's basic goals with others.


"The ability to negotiate is a valuable and necessary life skill. Negotiation involves empathy and compromise and children who learn to negotiate acquire and learn the importance of these abilities. Parents who teach their children to negotiate with them, as well as with other adults and children, enhance their confidence, self-esteem, empathy and social relationship skills."  Negotiating resources for youth are normally described from a family dynamics perspective. But both of these links, the Family Education and Negotiation Board resources offer some ideas that can be adapted to the PA"_blank">

Phone Calling
Cell phones offer students even more access to telecommunication. However, many schools have established cell phone policies. Check with the school administration for guidance about cell phone use. Phone interviews help students move beyond the school environment to research issues. As in interview preparation, share basic phone etiquette guidelines with your students and help them prepare their questions. Engage students in role-playing to ensure that they speak clearly and introduce themselves and the purpose of the phone call.

Power Mapping
Power mapping is a method of creating a visual understanding of an issue/problem or a specific project and stakeholders – people and organizations – that relate to the issue/problem and project. After writing the issue/problem or project at the center of a piece of newsprint, list all the key people and organizations that have something to do with the issue or who have resources to address and possibly resolve the problem. Draw connecting lines among stakeholders who are related. Some of these "power sources" will become advocates for your efforts and others might represent resistance. As the group contacts stakeholders, students will become aware of additional people or organizations to add to the power map. The map simply helps direct the group activity in gathering support for their project. (See Force Field Analysis for another approach to determining power sources)

Public Celebration

Your favorite team wins the Super Bowl, World Series, or Stanley Cup and what happens? The team's city hosts a public celebration, a parade down Main Street or Peachtree Avenue or a mass gathering in the stadium. Public celebrations represent a small fraction of the time devoted to public work, but acknowledging the effort of students and celebrating their accomplishments has the capacity for life-long meaning. Find a way to recognize and thank your students for their public work.

Public Judgment
Daniel Yankelovich suggests that public judgment is a more mature form of public opinion. "In making a judgment, people take into account the facts as they understand them and their personal goals and moral values and their sense of what is best for others as well as themselves." (Yankelovich, Daniel, The Magic of Dialogue: Transforming Conflict into Cooperation, New York: Simon and Shuster, 1999, Pg. 179) Public judgment is the result of responsible deliberation where individuals share their opinions and work together to find solutions.

Public Narrative
Everyone has stories. Some of our stories we keep private, but we share many stories with family and friends. We have favorite humorous stories, poignant sad stories, stories of success and failure, and relationship stories. Public narrative is aimed at encouraging people to tell a story that has had a formative influence on their lives. What personal experience or relationship has contributed to who and where you are and what you are doing in the present? As we tell these pivotal stories, we reveal what we deeply care about, what we value, and what motivates us. As group members develop trust and share their respective public narratives, the degree of respect often increases in the group. Consult the Developing a Public Life section of the Coaches resources pages on the PA web site.

Public Speaking

Public speaking is the process of speaking to a group of people in a structured, deliberate manner intended to inform, influence, or entertain the listeners. In public speaking, as in any form of communication, there are five basic elements, often expressed as "who is saying what to whom using what medium with what effects?" Good orators should be able to change the emotions of their listeners, not just inform them. Public speaking can be a powerful tool to use for purposes such as motivation, influence, persuasion, informing, translation, or simply entertaining. (Retrieved from Wikipedia,, July 20, 2010. 

Coaches can draw upon their university research experience and help their students understand quantitative or data-driven research contrasted to qualitative inquiry based on interviews, focus groups, or observation. Good research is based on determining essential questions to be asked before gathering data. Depending on the subject matter of the issue, there is a plethora of web-based research resources. The Georgia Statistics System is a good place to start The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count Data Center offers comprehensive, stat-by-state information related to children.

Resource Development
Money is often needed to solve problems. Not always, but much of the time, developing financial resources is a necessary part of funding a project. In addition to fund raising, it is very important to engage in "friend raising." Discovering people who share an interest in and perhaps a commitment to advancing a group's project goals is the best "first step" in resource development.


The process of self-assessment in Public Achievement can be linked to creating opportunities for self-discovery. There are a variety of activities to help students identify their values and interests. Consult the Developing a Public Life section of the Coaches resources pages on the PA web site.


Teamwork is the process of working collaboratively with a group of people to achieve a goal. Ideally, every team member assumes specific responsibilities at one time or another. Team duties include facilitator (guides the discussion), recorder (makes notes, records decisions or actions, and distributes a public record of the meeting to team members and others), timekeeper (makes sure the group abides by the agenda and time set aside for each issue), encourager (a person who looks for positive comments and behaviors and provides comments during the evaluation), and evaluation (leads a discussion of what went well and where the group struggled at the end of the meeting and makes observations.)

Writing Letters

Some say letter writing is a lost art, but in 21st Century's multi-media age, we are composing messages of all lengths, from "tweets" to email messages to formal letters. Public Achievement letters often involve requesting an opportunity to meet with someone to discuss an issue or to seek support. There are some common, best letter-writing practices. Be clear about your request very early in the first paragraph. Acknowledge that you are aware that the recipient is a person who is qualified to provide advice or assistance. Describe the purpose of your organization by telling a brief story. Provide clear contact information where you can be reached. Thank the person for considering your request.



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