Natasha Marshall, Feedback Labs | December 14, 2023
Students Run Philly Style (SRPS) is a mentoring program that engages teenagers in long-distance running. The program enables young individuals to empower themselves by embarking on a nine-month journey of setting and achieving running goals. This, in turn, leads to heightened self-confidence, a stronger sense of connectedness, and increased resistance to facing challenges across all aspects of their lives. With a modest core team and the dedication of hundreds of volunteer mentors, Students Run Philly Style consistently inspires and supports over 1500 young people in Philadelphia annually. At every public running event, SRPS stands out as the largest and most diverse group of participants. They are actively reshaping the future of the sport by enhancing access to distance running for BIPOC youth and community members.
Students Run Philly Style operates with a compact yet highly dedicated team, complemented by a vast network of volunteers. Their feedback gathering approach includes participant surveys, focus groups, and collaborative program development with both youth and mentors. SRPS further facilitates platforms for youth and mentors to openly discuss their program experiences and contribute their thoughts and perspectives to the broader community, encompassing staff, youth, mentors, and families. However, while SRPS excels at collecting feedback, they face the challenge of applying it to address the needs of communities across a large geographic reach. Now, they want to shift their focus towards establishing feedback loops that bridge the gap between its core staff and the volunteer network, ultimately enhancing support for youth, families, and communities.
Incorporating Equity-Focused Strategies
The first question that Students Run Philly Style brought to the discussion was how the organization can incorporate equity-focused strategies into their program. In particular, they would like to develop strategies for assisting students who may not have access to certain resources. Feedback-related suggestions during the LabStorm included utilizing the program’s 3-day retreat as a feedback-gathering opportunity, creating a parent group to collect feedback and become aware of students’ needs and utilizing creative methods of gathering feedback. When it came to discussing increasing equity in the program, discussion participants encouraged SRPS to consider hiring staff that are reflective of the identities of the students they serve, holding focus groups and other targeted feedback processes within communities of high inequity, and financially supporting volunteers who are providing their time and resources to the program when necessary as a means of creating a more equitable organization overall.
Feedback without Physical Presence
Another major question brought up during the LabStorm was how Students Run Philly Style can gather feedback from diverse groups without needing to be physically present, as the organization has a wide reach across Philadelphia. Potential solutions included creating feedback loops between students and their specific running leader, building relationships with local track clubs and giving students cameras to do a photojournalism project to get their insight and feedback on how they view the city.
Integrating New & Existing Feedback Strategies
The final question posed by SRPS was how they can create sustainable new feedback strategies by incorporating fresh ideas into the feedback loops that already exist within the organization. Ideas brought up during the discussion included gathering feedback while evaluating new feedback methods, conducting periodical meetings with members and stakeholders to discuss what methods are sustainable and having a pre-set plan for responding to feedback.
Students Run Philly Style was extremely grateful for all of the new ideas brought to the discussion by participants from around the world. One of their key takeaways was that there is a lot of potential to grow SRPS through new feedback mechanisms, and that there are many different ways they can go about this utilizing the ideas suggested during the LabStorm. Another key takeaway was that it could be beneficial for SRPS to get creative in how they listen and gather feedback, maintaining the joyful atmosphere of the organization. Overall, this discussion resulted in Students Run Philly Style having many ideas to bring back to the organization and participants explored the many creative and varied aspects of feedback.
Learn More About LabStorms
LabStorms are collaborative problem-solving sessions designed to help organizations tackle feedback-related challenges or share what’s working well in their practice.
Presenters leave the experience with honest, actionable feedback and suggestions to improve their feedback processes and tools.
To learn more about participating in a virtual LabStorm, please visit feedbacklabs.org/labstorms.