A Manual for Coaches






Joseph A. Kunkel

Minnesota State University, Mankato

September 2001



There is no one way to do Public Achievement. Coaches and teams need to be flexible and creative. The Green Book* is the best guidebook to Public Achievement coaching, but it is most useful as a set of recommendations and collection of key elements and concepts.

In spring of 1999 Mankato PA coaches recommended that future coaches be given more guidance, especially for the first few team meetings. During 1999-2000 our coaches were given this manual with agendas for the first seven meetings. They were asked to try to follow the plan so that key elements and concepts are not neglected. This manual gives suggestions for coaches on how to practice the key elements of PA in only the first four meetings. This Manual is an experiment. Obviously every team will not follow the suggested agendas minute by minute. You need to be flexible and deal with the energy, ideas, wishes and demands of the youth in your teams.

In the beginning coaches should act as facilitators and models, but the young people should gradually take over. The challenge of coaching to avoid the extremes of dictatorship and anarchy. Effective democratic action has to be both disciplined and freely creative.

After the first four meetings we can’t write a curriculum for you. But we challenge you to keep returning to the basic elements each week. There is a list of goals for the early meetings. There is a check list at the end will serve as a reminder.

It is important for coaches to listen to what the young people say. Ask questions and encourage them to ask questions.

Hildreth, Robert. 1998.Building Worlds, Transforming Lives, Making History: A Guide to Public Achievement. Center for Democracy and Citizenship. Minneapolis, MN.



Goals for Coaches and Teams

Whether you follow the suggested agendas or not, to do Public Achievement, these items should be on your agendas over the first weeks.

1. Democratic seating, speaking and listening

Sit in a democratic fashion; normally in a circle. Make sure everyone is included. Watch for self-exclusion though posture or positioning. Aim for equal speaking and listening.

2. Ask Questions, Listen to Answers

The coach should be a questioner and listener. Don't be diverted from important items that come up.

3. Team Building Exercises

Use games, exercises and activities to break the ice, get acquainted, build a team spirit, rebuild fractured team unity, learn valuable lessons. Team builders should be fun and always have a point. Always debrief the team builder to learn its lesson.

Teams like to adopt a name. It can be fun but should explain what the team's goal.

4. Roles

Explain, name and rotate roles such as facilitator, recorder, timekeeper, and others you or your team invent. Shared leadership is an essential element in a democratic group.

5. Agenda, Record

Use a written agenda for each meeting. Initially the coach will prepare this. But based on your end-of-meeting evaluation the team should plan next week's agenda. This should be reconstructed at the beginning of the next week. Effective teams keep a record of what they did and what they plan to do. If you can use the role of record keeper and build a written record you can accomplish much more. If you forget or have to remember each week you are continually starting over.

6. Concepts

Core democratic concepts should be a constant and normal feature of team meetings. Coaches need to identify and name experiences and lessons when concepts apply. Challenge team members to use and recall concepts. Look for teachable moments.

7. Evaluation/Debriefing

Evaluate every meeting. If evaluation becomes stale find different and fun ways to do it. Evaluate actions and steps along the way. Evaluation and debriefing is what makes PA a "learning by doing" approach. Without evaluation, it is simply "doing."

8. Rules

Within the first two or three meetings teams should adopt rules, laws or guidelines for their group. They should also agree on consequences with are appropriate to the violations. Avoid silliness, or consequences that will be disruptive (e.g. singing the national anthem). Discuss democracy, dictatorship, anarchy and role of rules. Emphasize democracy involves publicwork. Discuss responsibility and accountability.

9. Mission Statement

Teams should adopt a brief mission statement setting out their goals and purposes. This may be revised as the team evolves. Teams should probably eventually agree on a work plan or action steps.

10. Skills

Think and talk about, and DO actions designed to develop both internal skills and external skills. Internal skills have to do with the ability to function and work democratically within a team. External skills have to do with actions taken to try to influence or interact with the world and power structure outside the group.

11. Issue/Problem, Project and Actions

The issue is motivates most students in PA. Spend plenty of time working on the issue or problem. Help them see the difference between issues and problems on the one hand and projects on the other. Some projects should be broadened and generalized so they can work on a larger issue or problem. Some big issues and problems need to be focused on specific projects or actions. (See the PA Outcomes, Actions, Skills and Activities).

12. Power Mapping and Research

Powermapping is a technique used in PA where by teams brainstorm and draw a map listing other people or groups interested in their issue. Who may be helpful or difficult? What is their interest? Let's go find out.......

To be effective powermapping is not a one-shot activity. It involves pre-mapping as a kind of brainstorming. It should be followed up by interviews or research to learn who can help and what needs to be done. Re-mapping should be done to show what has been learned. Mapping is a way to plan research and develop your action plan. (See the Green Book p. 122-127.

13. Display Board
Last year each team was expected to prepare a science-fair type display board for the December assembly. This could include the team name, mission statement, rules, power map, some research findings, decorations etc. One grade had their assembly in December and found the boards helpful in goal setting. One grade's assembly was postponed till January and coaches felt the display boards were mostly a distraction and a chore.


September 27

1. Get acquainted, begin team building
2. Discuss what PA is and how it will work
Set high expectations for
a) learning b) potential accomplishments c) behavior and cooperation3. Name and model the use of an agenda and the roles of facilitator and timekeeper.
4. Listen to students' ideas and feelings about the issue or problem.

Core Concepts: citizenship democracy equality diversity interest cooperation
Internal Skills: agenda/ manage time/ listening/ speaking/evaluation
External Action: Discuss what brings this team together; Plan steps to learn more.


1. Icebreaker - see Green Book p. 76-77 for options (5 minutes)

2. Explanation of PA and roles (10 minutes)
Emphasize how team meetings should function. (democratically)
a. Start by showing your written agenda
b. Name and describe roles

1) facilitator Tell that next week some kids will play that role and that within ??
3-4 weeks you expect a team member to facilitate the whole meeting.

2) timekeeper show that agenda has times suggested, ask for timekeeper
c. What is PA? use and post concepts of citizenship  and democracy
d. Set high expectations use and post concept of (cooperation)

3. Team Builder: Un-Common and Common Denominators
see Green Book p. 78 (10 minutes)
Interview each other and report back to the group
Process (discuss) this using then posting the concepts diversity; interest:

4. Discuss Issue or problem and plan to learn more (10 minutes)
What brings this team together? What are their hopes and expectations?
How can they go outside the group and learn more?
Plan....research, interviews, guest speaker,
Maybe team decided on question(s) to ask parents or kids to bring back in writing on a prepared sheet?
Brainstorm name for team (decide next week/can change)

5. Evaluation (5 minutes)
Name and post evaluation
Discuss importance of evaluation for learning and for planning.
Evaluate according to Appendix 3, p. 163 of Green Book.


October 4

1. Build an agenda
2. Rules - Discuss why rules or norms are necessary. Set high expectations for behavior and cooperation
3. Roles - begin to try roles of facilitator and timekeeper

Core Concepts:
monarchy (dictatorship) - democracy - anarchy freedom - law accountability
Internal Skills:
make an agenda??be a facilitator?? ?appreciate rules?evaluation
External Action: discuss what your problem/issue is


1. Team Builder/Recall exercise (5 minutes)
e.g. use "hangman" or "charades" from Green Book p. 80 to recall week 1

2. Build an Agenda (5 minutes)
coach should suggest items for agenda (esp. Discuss rules; evaluation)
ask for kid input on other items they would like to include
if they need prompting ask if there's anything about their problem to add

3. Rules (15 minutes)
A. Discuss freedom/law or rules; dictatorship/democracy/anarchy
B. Explain democracy & P.A. as " rule by the people"; but that means self rule
Coach review bottom-line P.A. /school rules that do apply, consequences
C. Brainstorm ideas for rules/ bring in basic school and P.A. rules that will apply
Kids can facilitate and keep time on this if not on other parts of agenda
D. Nominate, discuss, agree on rules (and consequences) for this team
have kid facilitate, record on paper, one keep time.
E. If ready vote to adopt rules and consequences. These can/should be modified
as you go along. Celebrate in some small way (?)Have signing ceremony?

4. Issue Work (10 minutes)
Discuss team name
What more "research" got done? WHO can help the team do to learn more?
It is important to help the team get beyond what they initially know. They need to get in touch with reality. Guest speakers, field trips, interviews can help them learn more.
Set some tasks for next week

5. Evaluation (5 minutes)


October 11

1. Work together to build an agenda
2. Develop written record and use recorder role.
3. Power mapping
4. Prepare for research

Core Concepts: history - democracy pubic work? accountability??research
Internal Skills: keep a written record?use rules?discuss (talk/listen) civilly?
use evaluation to build next week's agenda
External Action: volunteer for some research on your problem


Ask for volunteers as facilitator, timekeeper

1. Build an Agenda
coach should suggest items for agenda (esp. Discuss rules; evaluation)
ask for kid input on other items they would like to include
if they need prompting ask if there's anything about their problem to add

2. Records and Recorder
What do they remember from last week, last 2 weeks?
How can we do better at remembering? Introduce Recorder role.
Teams that keep a record book or log don't have to start over each week.

3. Power Mapping (pre-mapping) (15 minutes) Green Book p. 122-127
Introduce concept of stakeholders; brainstorm who they might be
Introduce concept of self-interest;
Plan to continue this next week; maybe homework is add to list of stakeholders

4. Issue Work
Discuss Research/fact finding that needs to get done. Get volunteers to do some small steps to learn more.

6. Evaluation
tie in to next week's agenda


October 25

1. Begin process of research, investigation, fact finding
2. Understand value of accountability: others are expecting you to do what you say.
3. Distinguish issue/problem/project
4. Mission statement

Core Concepts: issue/problem/project/action ? research??accountability Internal Skills: divide labor?commit to tasks? roles writing mission statements
External Action: interviewing ?fact finding


Ask for volunteers as facilitator, timekeeper

1. Build an Agenda
coach should suggest items for agenda (esp. Discuss rules; evaluation)
ask for kid input on other items they would like to include
if they need prompting ask if there's anything about their problem to add

2. Share Learning
Did anyone do anything to help learn more about the issue? If this never happens they'll never get power. Discuss accountability, publicwork.
Concept of Accountability or Responsibility: review Green Book pp. 148-151 before team meeting.

3. Power ReMapping Green Book p. 122-127
Research: Discuss Issue/Brainstorm Information Sources
Divide Tasks/ Let recorder give written assignments
This might be actual research and or asking others about where to research
Consider: guest speakers; media center teachers; parents; kids; internet.

4. Issue/ Problem/Project/Actions
By asking questions and listening, discuss these ideas. Discuss broadening or focusing the issue. Set high expectations, but define success in realistic terms; making a difference; getting the word out; taking important actions. A completed project is a great goal but is not the only indicator of success.

5. Mission Statement
Begin to write mission statement.

5. Evaluation
evaluation??review tasks assigned??tie in to next week's agenda




May 23, 2000

  1. Participation in Public Achievement is voluntary.
  2. Public Achievement involves children, youth and adults all of whom are treated as citizens.
  3. Citizens participating in Public Achievement work in small groups known as teams.
  4. Teams usually include younger citizens and an older citizen known as a coach. The mission of the coach is to guide, facilitate and educate the other team members to become effective citizens. Strictly speaking the coach is not a leader or a teacher.
  5. PA teams adopt their own rules and consequences. However in PA teams involving youth the coach is the adult with immediate responsibility for keeping the team on task, enforcing rules and maintaining order.
  6. Citizens in PA join teams to work on issues or problems in which they have an interest. Citizens form teams based on their choice.
  7. PA team meetings are public and must strive to be democratic. The equal participation of all is the ideal.
  8. Coaches must be oriented and prepared in the philosophy, concepts and techniques of PA using the Green Book, or other PA documents.
  9. PA teams engage only in actions that are legal, peaceful, nonviolent and respectful of and civil toward other people.
  10. Teams practice regular self-evaluation as a way of learning, planning and improving. They use democratic core concepts and language and rotate roles in meetings.
  11. Coaches must meet together to evaluate and debrief PA meetings and to continue their preparation. (Must debriefing immediately follow PA or can it happen later?)





What it Means to Be a Coach
Green book p. 47-52

Coaches must mediate between two contradictory aspects of PA

1. Be a Citizen
Coaches....think of themselves as citizens. . . role is to empower others to think and act as citizens.

2. Be Proactive
does not mean doing the work or dictating what the group will do. . . . it means having your own vision for the group and constantly thinking of and implementing strategies. . . also entails being ready to intervene at the right moments . . . . In certain instances a coach needs to assert her or his authority; by being proactive a coach is better prepared to intervene. . . . think three or four moves in advance....work to solve internal problems of the group.

3. Be a Political Educator/Learner
Each person is an active participant in teaching and learning - it is not a one-way transfer of knowledge. . . . Much of the learning in PA comes from doing. . . seizing upon "teachable moments." . . It is always important for the coach to "name" the lessons, skills and concepts learned.

4. Be a Facilitator
empowering young people to learn about political matters and act in public on their own. . . . helping them set realistic goals, make thoughtful decisions, organize their work. . . and be prepared.

5. Be a Challenger
Establish and make explicit high, but realistic, expectations of respect, hard work, and excellence . . Encourage discussion and argument - ask students to respond to one another's ideas conversations

6. Create a Positive Work Environment
Coaches are responsible for orderly environment. . . Coaches are the authority in the group and need to be prepared to exercise that authority to keep things in control. . . ideally discipline should be enforced by your group as they will make their own rules. . . however this is not always the case.

7. Ask the Right Questions
by asking the right questions . . . the coach can be proactive, direct discussion and insure high standards for work without being pushy or overbearing.

8. Be Accountable
Coaches are responsible to and for their team. . . .the coach is . . . (a) positive adult role model. . . Coaches are also accountable to other coaches.

9. Be Prepared
Always have something for the team members to do. Think ahead - be flexible. Try to keep the agenda changing.

10. Use Resources

11. Record and Share Your Experiences

12. Have Fun
incorporate fun activities into the work . . . find ways to make the work itself fun. . . take a break once in a while. . . break the routine. . . enthusiasm is contagious. Celebrate!


PA Outcomes (Actions, Skills and Activities)

PA is not only or primarily about completing a project. A successful project is a powerful public work and example to others. But not every team finishes such a project. There are other important indicators of success. Consider these. At the end of the year, how many of your PA students will have done the following?

How Many Did This at least Once?
Team: Internal Skills and Activities
Served as a meeting facilitator
Helped adopt a mission statement for a group
Helped adopt rules for a group
Helped set action goals for a group
Discussed a difference of opinion and resolved a difference within a group
Voted in the group
Helped shape a meeting agenda and used that agenda in a group
Accountability/responsibility was questioned for failure to complete task
Questioned the accountability/responsibilty of those who did not complete task
Voluntarily competed task or homework showing responsibility to the group
Helped draw a power map of stakeholders
Recorded minutes or records of a meeting
Negotiated, bargained and compromised within their group
External Political and Professional Skills
Made phone calls to adult in authority
Interviewed/visited with adult authority
Questioned a guest speaker
Did library or internet research on group issue
Helped design a survey and analyze the results
Helped write a petition and get signatures
Used a power map to identify persons to contact
Wrote a letter to the editor and had it published
Wrote a letter to a public official or other decision maker
Wrote a press release
Set up and staffed an information table
Wrote and published a pamphlet, brochure or newspaper/newsletter
Published information on a website

Organized a community event
Negotiated, bargained and compromised with people outside the group
Spoke in public
Wrote a grant
Organized other fundraising efforts
Concepts and Ideas
Discussed core democratic concepts in the context of their own work
Discussed the meaning of citizenship and/or their role in a democracy

Core Concepts

accountability (see responsibility)

To be accountable is to be answerable for; to be able to explain whether you did what you said you were going to do. In Public Achievement accountability often means follow though; individuals being asked to report whether they did or not do what they promised the group.


The absence of any form of political authority. Political disorder and chaos. The absence of any cohering principle such as a common standard, or purpose. (Greek An- without arthros -rule. The absence of rules, absolute freedom is not Public Achievement. Democracy is self rule, which means making the rules and procedures you agree to follow.


?Our ideal of citizenship is active, participating, membership in a community. Traditionally citizenship refers to the status or office of membership in a nation or community. Aristotle’s view was that to be fully a citizen one needed to have experience in both ruling and being ruled. Citizenship involves both rights (what you can expect) and responsibilities or obligations (what is expected of you). We might also think of a third aspect of citizenship: opportunities. Active participation, leadership and involvement; "full citizenship" might be seen as an opportunity rather than a duty. Citizenship is to public life what maturity is to private life. You want to influence the decisions that shape your life. As you become mature you want to be more self-directing. The ideal of citizenship is the realization that we are not fully mature, or fully human as Aristotle would say, without being political. We should take responsibility for public affairs. We should be co-creators of our world.


Rule by the people (Greek: demokratia: demos = common people; kratia = rule or authority.) Often used to describe a form of government in which the people rule either directly (direct or pure democracy) or indirectly through representatives (representative democracy).

"Public Achievement views democracy as more than a people’s right to participate in governance, it means all people hold power and can exercise it to create our common world. PA teaches people the skills, concepts and values so that citizens can exercise that power in all facets of public life. " (Green Book p. 23).

Thus democracy applies not just to government but to all groups. Democracy can be understood as a matter of degree. Groups and public relationships can be seen as more or less democratic. A group in which everyone had equal power/influence would be most democratic. Democracy cannot exist unless the members of the group participate and attempt to influence or shape the decisions and life of the group.


dictatorship (see monarchy)

The modern form for rule by one or a small group. This form of leadership is where one imposes their will on others. This is a very unequal distribution of power and responsibility. The term comes from the Latin dicto meaning to speak. Here one person speaks and others must listen.


Differences. In public life differences and diversity are inevitable. Once we leave the similarities we share in our private lives and enter the public arena we encounter differences in ideas, experience, cultures, ages, races, religions, political opinions, power histories interests etc. "To effectively solve public problems one must learn to listen, appreciate, and work with others who while different from themselves, are also affected by the same issues and problems of public life." (Green Book p. 24)


Equal means the same or equivalent. Equality means the state of being equal, especially the state of enjoying equal rights, as in political, economic social. (New American Heritage Dictionary)

free spaces

Free spaces are spaces, places, gatherings, times, institutions and situations when people are have what they need to experiment with citizenship; Situations where people can work together and experiment with democracy. The black churches during the civil rights movement were free spaces where new understandings of citizenship could develop. A communal living arrangement might be a free space where renters transform themselves into a little democratic community. A public Achievement team is a free space: a time, place and pattern of action where the team members have the freedom and discipline to act as democratic citizens.


Freedom usually means the absence of restraint, or as the Green Book says "an area of action where individuals can choose their life and their ends unobstructed by others (like freedom of speech)." A second more difficult meaning of freedom is having the ability and opportunity to realize your full potential and living under rules you and your community have made; as the Green Book says, "freedom is a product of collective self -determination...we are free if we live under the laws, society or world that we have made for ourselves. These two meanings of freedom are in tension with each other because the collective will of the community could conceivably pass laws that violate the rights of individuals. (Green Book p. 23) 


The values that people have at stake in public problems or issues. "Interests....signify why a particular party is connected to (interested in) an issue or problem. Interests range from your personal ‘self interest’ to ‘other’s interests,’ to a broader conception of the ‘public interest.’ A basic premise of public work is that people are more likely to become active on an issue that they feel strongly about." (Green Book p. 23)


Monarchy is the antique form of government by one high and mighty person. (mon = one). Kings and queens ruled over subjects (not citizens). Power was very unequally divided. In it’s modern form the principle of rule by one is usually called dictatorship.


The process of making decisions for groups. How groups, communities and nations resolve disputes about important public matters. "The practice of power and governance; it is the art and science of how public decisions get made...Politics is not only the domain of politicians, but is also understood as the everyday processes of deliberating, negotiating, bargaining, making decisions and thinking strategically." (Green Book, p. 22) "The deliberate ordering of collective affairs." (Mulford Q. Sibley)

"Who gets what, when, and how." (Harold Lasswell) "Disputes over who has the authority to decide what is, what’s right and what works." (David Edwards & Allesandra Lippuci)

power (influence)

Political power is the ability of a person or group to get other people to do what they otherwise would not do. In otherwords, power is the ability to make a difference; political power is the ability to make a difference in political or public matters -matters involving other people or groups. The dictionary defines power as the ability or capacity to act or perform effectively. Forcefulness, effectiveness (American Heritage Dictionary). A weightlifter has the power to lift a heavy object. A sculptor has the power to transform stone into a statue. A fully participating citizen has the power to shape, create and remake public/social/political events, institutions, people issues etc. Public Achievement emphasizes that "power is an interactive, and multidirectional relation. By communicating, organizing and working together citizens can build power to effect change and solve public problems." (Green Book p. 24)


"secluded from the sight, presence, or intrusion of others/ of or confined to one person; personal/ belonging to a particular person or persons, as opposed to the public." (American Heritage Dictionary).


"of, concerning, or affecting the community or the people/open to the knowledge or judgment of all. the community of the people as a whole/a group of people sharing a common interest" (American Heritage Dictionary). "Three related meanings to the concept ‘public’ ... relevant to Public Achievement: as a group of people, a kind of space, and a common interest." (Green Book p. 23)

public work

Public work is the organizing concept of Public Achievement. Effective citizenship depends on people thinking of themselves as productive people; people who can build things and do things; people who come up with ideas and resources. people who are creative. Too often these days politics and public affairs are seen as the work of politicians. Citizens’ roles in public life are secondary: consumers, clients, advocates, volunteers.

Public work is the visible effort of ordinary citizens to cooperatively produce and sustain things of lasting importance in our communities. It tries to solve public problems and creates improvements we can share. It is the action of producing and taking responsibility for the common world in which we live."

Public work builds tangible things of general usefulness. Public work can build capacities among individuals of all ages. Public work can bring to the forefront new resources for problem solving... (Green Book p. 23, Boyte, Building America, pp 14-24)

responsibility (see accountability)

To be responsible means to have the ability to be trusted or depended upon; to be reliable. (American Heritage Dictionary) People who freely make commitments can be held answerable (responsible). Responsibility as a noun is the obligation you have; as in "My mom’s car is my responsibility when I use it," or "participation is a responsibility of citizenship."


Those who have an interest in an issue or problem; either in resolving or not resolving the problem. Stakeholders have something to win or lose. They have some reason to care about the issue or problem.




Checklist: The Next Weeks

Please check off to make sure you are dealing with each of the following, each week.

Team Builder or Celebration


Nov. 1

Nov. 8

Nov. 15


Nov. 22 Holiday

Band Day some kids gone
Dec. 6
 Plan Assembly

Dec. 15

Finals Week

PA Optional

Jan. 17
Jan. 24
Jan 31
Feb. 7
Feb. 14
Feb. 21
Feb. 28
Mar. 7
Mar. 14
MSU Spring Break
Mar. 21
Mar. 28
Apr. 4
Apr. 11
DMMS Spring Break
Apr. 18

Apr. 25

May 2
PA Assembly