Five years ago, ACDI/VOCA set out to create a social change program that was relevant and impactful for a wide variety of audiences, ranging from Afro-Colombian youth and female entrepreneurs to indigenous communities. The result was DecidoSer: a psychosocial methodology and an adaptable tool used to support diverse groups of Colombians in building key competencies for work and life. Since its creation in 2016, it has reached more than 23,000 individuals and 120 public and private organizations across the country, spurning productive conversations and personal reflection to catalyze collaboration and growth among individuals, families, and communities.

A group of coworkers participate in a DecidoSer Líder encounter to build camaraderie and leadership skills.

DecidoSer, which translates to “I choose to be,” is about self-actualization and developing the skills and confidence to be successful. To design the program, ACDI/VOCA’s psychosocial experts started by identifying the common elements of success present in all individuals and teams and synthesizing these elements into fundamental capabilities. Fifteen, to be exact. These range from self-reflection and adaptability to conflict resolution. The team then designed and codified 29 guides and six additional deep-dive tools for developing these capabilities and enabling participants to recognize their capacity to be agents of change and reconciliation in a post-conflict Colombia.

The guides and tools are implemented during DecidoSer “encounters,” dedicated eight-hour experiences typically split into morning and afternoon sessions. Guided meditation or stretching helps participants to relax and open up to the experience. Small breakout groups focus on effective communications strategies and teamwork. Space is also created for participants to activate their critical thinking and make strategic decisions that benefit themselves and those around them.

DecidoSer Sessions Target Different Audiences and Topics

While there is significant overlap in foundational concepts, each encounter is designed to meet the needs and interests of different audience groups according to five thematic areas:

  1. DecidoSer Familia (“I choose to be family”) was designed to encourage effective communication, conflict resolution, and a sense of respect within the family unit. It has reached nearly 750 families, representing Colombia’s diverse population across rural and urban areas.
  2. DecidoSer Campeón/a (“I choose to be champion”) has worked with 13,000 young Colombians in using their strengths, resources, and connections to pursue productive, legal work and educational opportunities.
  3. DecidoSer Poderosa (“I choose to be powerful”) has supported nearly 12,000 Colombian women in building self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of agency in their home lives as well as career pursuits.
  4. DecidoSer Líder (“I choose to be leader”) has reached more than 1,500 participants with programming focused on growth, wellbeing, and productivity in business settings.
  5. DecidoSer Sin Límites (“I choose to be without limits”) focuses on the complex challenges of the migrant experience and the reception of Colombia to those beyond their borders. To date, 900 individuals have participated in eye-opening encounters aimed at fostering empathy and greater acceptance between these populations.

An offshoot of DecidoSer is INclusiónES, a program designed specifically to promote inclusion and diversity, including that of women, different ethnic groups, people with disabilities, senior citizens, and members of the LGBTIQ+ community. Through INclusiónES, ACDI/VOCA works with the private sector, government entities, universities, schools, NGOs, and media organizations to strengthen areas such as gender equality and inclusion policies, hiring guidelines, and care pathways for gender-based violence and sexual harassment.

COVID-19 Pandemic Prompts Pivot to Remote & Self-Directed Activities

A DecidoSer Sin Límites participant shares her creative output of an activity focused on freedom and solidarity.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has limited DecidoSer’s physical reach, the team has designed creative new ways to engage with their audiences. The team adapted the guides and tools for virtual environments and created 13 video tutorials in both Spanish and the indigenous language Wayuunaiki. More than 1,600 participants with an internet connection have been able to join over 80 DecidoSer encounters through platforms such as Zoom and Google Meet. They also have access to 200 self-directed practice exercises on DecidoSer’s e-learning platform and 45 downloadable exercises — three for each of the 15 core capabilities — on a brand new DecidoSer mobile app.

For those without reliable internet, downloadable content is available from the mobile app and a new DecidoSer podcast series, with 29 episodes and counting guiding listeners through creative visualization exercises. In addition, the DecidoSer facilitators seek to provide ongoing psychosocial support via phone calls and WhatsApp communication.

Deloitte recently certified DecidoSer as a standout behavioral change program in 2020. And the results speak for themselves. Among the wide variety of DecidoSer participants, 78 percent have reported changes in behavior, perceptions, and attitudes following their experience during the program. These changes have taken the form of successfully solving a concrete problem within their family, organization, or community.

DecidoSer’s greatest accomplishment lies in its ability to bring people together, break down barriers, and create safe spaces for meaningful conversation and profound reflection. It is in these small moments of connection, of vulnerability, that change happens.

“What had the biggest impact on me were everyone’s stories; they’ve inspired me to keep moving forward. They’ve shown us different ways of life, and, thanks to that, they inspire us to follow our dreams.”

–young female participant from Arauca

Learn more about our work in Colombia.

Learn more about the Program of Alliances for Reconciliation.