The Normative Approach is a value based approach to building communities, based on the assumption that all people have a need to belong, want to have a sense of purpose, and want to experience success. All NAFI Programs use the Normative Approach to build pro-social communities, in which “treatment” and “education” are linked through shared experience.
The Normative Approach is effective as a culture change model;
•Every member of a normative community carries equal importance in developing a set of norms for living for the community, and in taking responsibility for living those norms and holding others accountable for doing so. This gives every individual ownership in the community.
•Closing the gap between rules (what is supposed to happen) and norms (what actually happens), eliminates confusion and contradiction, and gives credibility to the structure.
•Using the group process as a means of accountability for behaviors and productivity of individuals allows for vicarious learning. This creates an environment in which everyone is a teacher and a learner.
•Maintaining a focus on the shared mission statement gives a common purpose to all community activities, and depersonalizes feedback, creating an environment that is safe, both physically and emotionally. Hierarchies are eliminated.
Individuals participating a Normative Community learn new ways of negotiating the world. As a behavior change system, the Normative Approach teaches students and staff;
•To be mission driven. The consistent focus on a mission statement as a guide to both community and individual behaviors is internalized over time. Having a personal mission and holding oneself accountable for living it, helps individuals to continue moving forward on paths they set for themselves.
• To recognize and adapt to social norms in different environments. Awareness of social norms is a particularly important skill for students moving from school to work environments
• Leadership skills. Along with the right to participate in the development of norms comes the responsibility to hold the community accountable.
• Applied skills. In the group process, students learn and practice skills that can be applied in classrooms, at work, in social situations, and in interpersonal encounters. These include communication skills, problem solving, creative thinking, positive risk taking, leadership skills, and reflective thinking. The ongoing process of reflection is internalized, affecting cognitive, social, and emotional growth.