How a personal development program enhances social connection and mobilises women in the community

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Publication details

Sry, N & Marchant, T 2014, 'How a personal development program enhances social connection and mobilises women in the community', Australian Journal of Adult Learning, vol. 54, no. 2, pp. 32-53.

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Gender equity and the empowerment of women is a significant international issue. Successful adult education programs are vital to enhance women’s situation. Lessons learned from a personal development program provided for thousands of women are analysed. The program is conducted by community service providers in Australia and internationally, with an Australian evaluation reported here. The three phase evaluation included 500 participants, with pre- and post-tests for a sample of 161, structured phone interviews with 53 and third-party observations from six organisations. The value includes multiple measurements over time, in a thorough evaluation with mixed methods, along with policy and practice implications. Key adult learning issues canvassed include the role of empowerment, adult education and transformative learning. Key findings included that women’s self-esteem, emotional intelligence, purpose and mobilisation increased, with the latter evident in vocational outcomes and social connection. Some women expressed interest in facilitating the program for other groups. As one facilitator observed ‘the program really empowers women to tap into their own gifts and talents’. Lessons learned encompassed improvements to the program including sustainable social networks, since for these women purpose in life and mobilisation were intertwined with social connection and helping other women.