I helped facilitate a training several weeks ago in Nigeria for representatives from 11 of PSI country platforms (see photo). The training was focused on designing and implementing high quality and effective interpersonal communication programs, and all participants either manage or are in the process of planning large-scale IPC programs. One of the training objectives was to give participants an opportunity to share effective program approaches, challenges faced, and lessons learned from country to country. One of the most interesting discussions we had involved sharing innovative approahches to a challenge faced by all programs: motivating and retaining peer educators, who in most of our programs tend to be volunteers or paid small stipends.
Some of the strategies moved above and beyond monetary, travel, or food-related compensation and really were quite innovative. I thought I'd share some ideas here:
1) Communicate the success of interpersonal activities back to the IPC agents themselves. All of our programs monitor program reach and evaluate behavioral success. How often are those findings shared with peer educators or other IPC outreach staff. Sharing the results of their hard work can be quite motivating.
2) Getting peer educators together on a regular basis to network and exchange ideas, challenges, and experiences can build rapport among the group and can serve as a forum for refresher training and discussion.
3) Switch the focus of peer educator activities. If some peer educators focus on malaria and others on HIV, after they've been with the program for a while, give them an opportunity to switch. This would allow them to learn about a new health area and be challenged by new subject matter while still utilizing and building their communication skills.
4) Devise an incentive strategy where the incentives increase and improve based on how long peer educators work for thie project. This is especially helpful in situations where turnover is quick.
5) Give them recognition through a "peer educator of the month" system or by increasing their leadership and authority over their work.