PATHFINDER (noun): a person who goes ahead and discovers or shows others a path or way.
The Pathfinder Training is a brief format social network based intervention program designed to promote health and positive development in adolescents and young adults. The intervention trains a small group of individuals to become Peer Advocates, aka “Pathfinders,” within their social network to impact change on the overall population.
The current intervention program was developed to specifically meet the needs of homeless young adults but is designed to be adaptable to other demographics. This is the second adaptation of this training. The original “Have You Heard” peer leader training to prevent HIV was designed in the Fall of 2015 and implemented throughout 2017. We successfully trained over 35 youth peer advocates and success in the overall intervention aims are documented in several publications and videos. This intervention manual aims to break down the theoretical approach of the overall training and provide detailed facilitation guidelines in hopes that to be adapted and implemented widely by different groups and for different aims.
The original training manual was adapted from a “Peer Leader” based health intervention model. The term “Peer Leader” is frequently interchanged in similar programs with titles such as “Peer Educator,” “Opinion Leader,” and the extremely academic term “Peer Change Agent.” In the second revision of this manual, we intentionally avoid designating participants as “Leaders” even though leadership skills are a main focus and leader language is used throughout. This is in order to avoid creating any false hierarchy within a social group. In our experience, we have never observed this happening, but the developers of this study believe that by labeling someone a “Leader” we run the risk of inherently and subconsciously labeling others as “followers”. The term “Peer Advocate” is used throughout an attempt to reflect the aim of this training to create an empowered and inclusive youth community and acknowledge the social work values of the developers.