Trust and Cohesion with Peers

People develop the knowledge, skills, and aptitudes of teamwork through membership in well-functioning teams.

The first key experience for youth is participating in group formation. This begins at the start of each new session, as staff promote cohesion and collaboration among the new group of youth. For the Social and emotional learning (SEL) Challenge programs, fostering group identity and building trusting relationships is essential to the success of the individual projects youth take on, so it is a priority from the start and continues to be a focus for the duration. Trust and cohesion form an important base on which the other social and emotional skills are built.

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee (BGCGM) spends three to four weeks at the beginning focusing solely on relationship building, team building, and group formation. The Possibility Project’s (TPP) Paul Griffin described how team-building activities provide opportunities for youth to practice teamwork skills and discuss their experiences in a safe atmosphere:

Quote markWhen it comes to teamwork, it’s about doing exercises that allow youth to work together as a team and then process out their experience as a team, so that they’re understanding the techniques like the craft of being a good team member and how teams work, but also beginning to believe in that as an idea.

Team-building activities can range from initiatives to physical challenges to conversations. Laura Greenlee Karp, program coordinator at Voyageur Outward Bound School (VOBS), described one of their activities where developing trust is essential:

Quote markThere is a person who is belaying a climber and if the climber doesn’t know the belayer, it is difficult for them to climb a 30-foot rock face and know the belayer is holding that climber’s life in their hands. First, it is difficult to trust their peer, who they may not consider very responsible, and ask them to take that risk and step outside of their comfort zone and trust that peer. Second, to have the climb go well is a huge deal for them because it builds trust between the two.

The development of group identity and trusting relationships is seen in reduced defensiveness, increased supportive feedback, strengthening relationships, receiving focused attention, listening, physical affection, holding hands, and sharing. Development of trusting team relationships creates conditions for youth to begin practicing and honing skills and sensibilities for working together.

Further Reading

Join the Discussion

What activities does your program offer do to build trust between participants and their peers and staff?