Sophia Vaillant shares her experience as a youth leader, using Ketso to facilitate at a conference on youth mental health. Sophia is a member of the Teen Entrepreneur Network (TEN) Club for teens aged 13-18, part of the Comox Valley Youth Programme in Vancouver Island, Canada.

When we first joined the TEN Club, a Boys and Girls Club for youth leaders and entrepreneurs, I’m not sure what we thought we were getting ourselves into. Vivian, our fearless leader and mentor, kept talking about “stepping out of our comfort zone” and “creating a spark”. Being – by our own definition – just kids, it seemed like this whole new world. I mean – teachers stand in front of people all the time, but we weren’t teachers.

When Vivian started talking about how we would lead the Ketso activity for a group of adults at a conference about youth mental health we were all caught like deer in the headlights. She had led us through the Ketso before and we all loved it… but lead it? For ADULTS? No!!! Not us.

Planning for the event

I wish I could say we were all brave enough to sign up but we weren’t. Partly because the conference took place during the school day and we couldn’t all afford the time off. But also because the first time seemed so scary. Vivian helped us break the process down. First, we figured out what the event was trying to accomplish. In our case, a group of adults from several organisations were going to meet to decide how they could work together to streamline a mental health system for youth in the area. They were already meeting regularly, but they needed to figure out what they were hoping to work towards. We set the goal for the event to be to clarify consensus around a mission, vision, and values for the working group.

From there we brainstormed the questions and order for the workshop:

1. Why do we come to these meetings?
2. What do we have to appreciate?
3. What do we need to make this happen?
4. What might get in our way?
5. What do we see in five years?
6. Acknowledgments, Successes and Thank yous.

“There is something really strange that happens when you can focus on the leaves together instead of just trying to have a conversation. Now that we have had more experience with the Ketso it feels like a great way to get good at practicing leadership.”

Running our first workshop

We had four tables come together for the activity. There were two youth running the workshop and, of course, Vivian was there to help us. Admittedly, this first time Vivian did a lot of the talking. She got us to write out the information sheets and greet the participants. She did the introduction and time keeping, but we did the actual walking around and helping to place the Ketso leaves on the felts.

What became very apparent pretty early on was that everyone was on the same page. When each group was asked to share their top three ideas they were almost perfectly aligned. We watched as the group was able to choose a name, a vision, and a mission after a three-hour meeting. It felt pretty good to know that we helped make that happen.

There weren’t very many surprises, but we did see some interesting clusters of concern based on where certain groups were sitting. An example of this was that there were two doulas (non-medical assistants who provide mental, physical and emotional support to women during childbirth) that work with teenage Moms, sitting at the same table. That was the only group that considered the idea of prenatal and parenting support. This was an important catch that we wouldn’t have noticed during the workshop, but that was captured in the spreadsheet phase. This is where all the data collected on the leaves gets entered into a special spread sheet for analysis. Four of us sat together after the event to enter all the leaves into the spreadsheet. That was really cool because it gave a way for some of the shy kids to still be a part of the event.

A tool for leadership

After the first workshop, we were asked to do an environment summit for youth and a follow-up to the youth mental health event, where the adults want to ask more teens what they want out of services. There was also an opportunity to use Ketso to plan a graduation party for one of our members at their school. Now that we’re getting comfortable with the kit, it feels like we see opportunities to use it more and more often. We think the Ketso is a great way to work together because it actually gives us teens a way to think creatively and come up with ideas way better than just a blank page.

With Covid in the picture now, it might be a while until we get another opportunity to use Ketso, but we love how it gives us a way to focus a big group to talk about important things. There is something really strange that happens when you can focus on the leaves together instead of just trying to have a conversation. Now that we have had more experience with the Ketso it feels like a great way to get good at practicing leadership.

Inspired by how these young people used Ketso? Check out our new Ketso Connect, which allows you to harness the power of Ketso even during the Covid-19 crisis.