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Lessons from Azerbaijan

April 6, 2010

A Public Achievement team in Mingechevir, Azerbaijan.

On April 3, Michael Kuhne returned from the Republic of Georgia and Azerbaijan, where he was training Public Achievement coaches. He traveled to these countries on behalf of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship and at the request of the Education Society for Malopolska, which has brought Public Achievement (PA) to many schools and communities across Eastern Europe and parts of the  former Soviet Union. Below is an excerpt from Michael’s account of meeting PA teams in Ganja and Mingechevir.

“I spent Tuesday night with a group of Public Achievement mentors [also known as coaches] from Ganja.  What struck me is what Harry Boyte calls the ‘citizen-professional.’

“One mentor, a licensed psychologist, led a PA team of eight psychology students to work with families from a poor school with mental health issues.  It sounds very much like a service-learning experience.  When asked what she enjoyed about coaching, she said that PA “helped her to do her job better.”

“Another person, a journalist, led a Public Achievement team named “Nice Apples.”  He mentored a team of 16 journalism students.  They organized a community journalism project that had them working with local apple orchard owners to research a blight that had been plaguing the owners.  The students surveyed the owners, conducted research, and worked with agricultural experts (the school where they study is an agriculture school) to produce a public service television show that provided both the background to the blight problem and effective ways for the farmers to address the problem.

“A third person worked for a Ganja  insurance company, but she lived in a small village a short distance from Ganja.  Her children did not have a place to play.  Rather than building something in her backyard, she worked with others in her community to form a PA team called “Would you like to play?”  Together, they built a public playground.

“These people are good examples of what Boyte identifies as citizen professionals.  They understand their profession within the larger context of what it means to be a citizen, someone who works from their self-interest to improve the commonwealth.”

“Thursday morning, I went to a Ganja school where five teachers use Public Achievement during part of their day with the students.  I met with the school’s principal and the five teachers.  They were, for the most part, a young group, all under 35 years old, and none of them had been teaching longer than six years.  They all thoroughly enjoyed using PA.

A PA team in Ganja improved the look and functionality of their classroom by covering the walls with maps and historical documents related to their studies.

“The two classes that I saw agreed to use PA to solve problems with their classrooms.  Two comments [from teachers] seemed common: one, they enjoyed PA because they got to know their students in a different way, and two, they thought that using PA made them better teachers, too!  Interestingly, the students in both classes, when asked what they liked about doing the PA work, responded by saying “honor.”  It was an honor to do the public work; it was an honor to walk in each day to see the fruits of their work; it was an honor knowing that future students would see and appreciate the work.  What a pleasure to see this work and the people who did it.”

Read an earlier post about the Public Achievement training Michael Kuhne led in Tbilisi, Georgia.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Esmira Ismayilova permalink
    April 6, 2010 10:46 am

    I am impressed by your writing Michael. And your style which teaches reader in each line of your story 🙂

    Thank you very much and hope to see you again in Ganja, Azerbaijan.

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