Reciprocity, Robert Starratt and creating a legacy…

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We have been thinking quite a lot about “reciprocity” recently here at UFA. We measure the impact of our work with young people based on Guy Claxton’s 4 R’s model of Resilience, Resourcefulness, Reflection and Reciprocity and this has got me thinking this month about how we help young people to value reciprocity – how we model it in our training and programmes and how we recognise and celebrate it.

Our model of our programmes and training is influenced by the work of Robert Starratt and his Foundational Qualities for a Moral Life. These are autonomy, connectedness and transcendence. He argues that these are foundational human qualities – without developing these qualities it would be impossible to be moral.

Autonomy is about taking responsibility for what you do, for being as fully-reflective about yourself as possible, to develop your own signature.  But such autonomy cannot develop, or be expressed, in isolation; it requires reciprocity.

Connectedness is about the responsibility we take for the relationships and our networks of commitments in which we are immersed.  Connectedness is also part of a wider environment bringing with it more global responsibilities.

Transcendence is about turning our lives to something beyond and greater than ourselves; to acknowledging the mysteries and wonder of the universe and to taking a responsibility, for instance, for the fate of our planet and all its ecosystems.

At UFA we have translated this into Me, Me and Others, Me and my Community.

Adapted from Starratt, R. J.


So Reciprocity for us at UFA means: the relationships I create and have with others, how I relate to others, how I care for others,  how I support others, how I work with others, how can I be generous to others.

In our work on the NCS programme we are passionate about helping young people to realise how they have the power to connect with others in their communities and to recognise how they can make a difference by doing things for other people. There are fantastic examples of teams of young people all over the country identifying needs in their communities and then using their enthusiasm, creativity and time they make their projects happen. They don’t always receive recognition for what they do, (it seems that good news is not news), but surely what NCS participants get from creating and delivering projects is a true sense of doing something for others, for the sheer value of it. Not because they will get a certificate or qualification, not because they can put it on their CV or UCAS form but because it contributes to our society, to how we live, work and interact with each other. They are inspired to make a difference in their own lives and those of others – they are filled with hope and optimism that they are in control of their future.

UFA Peer Tutors are real examples of reciprocity in action. They give their time, their skills and their understanding for the benefit of other people. In the true sense of reciprocity they also receive something in return. They gain confidence, self-belief and a real sense of having contributed positively to someone else’s life. If you haven’t seen it yet do have a look at the film “Peers” which powerfully tells the story of one school’s journey with Peer Tutoring and the reciprocal impact on the young people.

Finally, I think what we want to be part of at UFA is to help young people develop their character so that doing things for others becomes a habit not just a one-off project or programme. We want them to do things for themselves and others because it’s good to do rather than always needing recognition or reward.

It’s about creating a legacy for the future.

“Our actions are like ships which we may watch set out to sea, and not know when or with what cargo they will return to port.”

― Iris Murdoch, The Bell


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