Keeping the Success Going

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Deborah A. Austin, PhD

It is a great privilege for me to have been given the opportunity to work with Malcolm Dumas and those men and women committed to connecting youth and adults to men and women of excellence--servant-leaders--who can encourage, inspire and mentor them to successful and productive lives. I am blessed to be counted among today's men and women of eXcellence.  Likewise, I am blessed to have been supportive of that magnanimous event on September 16, 1995, when African American Men of Tampa Bay came together in downtown Tampa.  Having grown up without my father, but with a grandfather who stepped in to help me, I was overjoyed to know that these men were making such a public show of support for each other as well as a continued commitment to eXcellence at home, in their communities, and to the nation and world.

Being a woman of eXcellence at this point in history is tremendously exciting!  But it would not be so if it had not been for the servant-leaders who touched my life and helped me to develop the insight, confidence and plans that I needed to succeed.  One of the things they taught me, especially the "church mothers and sisters" of semi-rural North Carolina, was follow-up.  They helped me to understand that I had to take steps to make whatever I learned an integral part of my life.  

Many organizations and individuals draw large crowds to huge arenas and fill the participants with energy and excitement.  However, the great majority of the participants do not experience sustained behavior change because there is nothing in place to reinforce what has been stirred within them and very few incentives to encourage them to take advantage of what may exist.  This is how the Festival of Excellence differs from most other events.  We understand that healing the wounds from the extensive emotional, spiritual and even physical damage some of us have experienced can take more long-term teaching and support.  We know, both from personal stories and extensive research, that participation in smaller settings, where there is consistency and accountability, help people gain new insight and understanding into their own lives and relationships, leaving them eager to take the next steps toward growth and healing.  To insure true success, we sorely need resources to support the follow-up along with those for the Festival at large.

One of the greatest success stories with large crowds is the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association Crusades.  They have served as models for all types of organizations, many of which are not faith based.  From BGEA we learn the importance of connecting individuals to local organizations immediately following the large event.  Knowing that many of the youth and adults attending the Festival will not have a mindset geared to making a commitment to another organization, we will use incentives to get them there and keep them there for the duration of that organization's initial program or project.  

I have had the privilege to help develop and manage such an incentive program with the clients that my Project serves.  We are careful not to over-reward and hence shift motivation from self-determination to reward-determination.  The incentives are awarded in such a way that they increase the initial probability of participation through increasing interest in a program, after which the experiences and outcomes of participation encourage persistence and the development of individual interest. 

This, then, is my commitment to the Festival of Excellence.  I will be working diligently with others to assure that the young men and women who are inspired by the events of the Festival are able to maintain that momentum and passion and channel it into breaking negative behavior and focusing on positive self-development, education, networking and giving back to their communities.  We are currently developing collaborations that will provide the continual support needed for such a transformation to take place.  In March 2008, The Festival of Excellence will provide the inspiration and rejuvenation.  Area churches and faith institutions, and community agencies and organizations will provide the compassion, power and strategies that will keep the success going.  And Tampa Bay will never be the same!!!

Deborah A. Austin, PhD

Last Updated ( Thursday, 14 January 2010 17:04 )