By Dorothy Siaw-Asamoah, Faculty Director of Global Programs at University at Buffalo – School of Management
I’ve taught the Reciprocity Ring for years with students ranging from undergraduate to graduate level. I’ve used it in classes including Organizational Behavior, Human Resources, Leadership with students in the U.S.
In 2018, four colleagues and I were attending a conference in Ghana. We desperately wanted to carry the physical Reciprocity Ring kit and materials with us, but we weren’t able to. I never stopped thinking about ways to weave it into my sessions abroad. In fact, I tested the idea with my students/partners in Ghana, India, and Costa Rica and received positive responses.
I’ve always been amazed at how well the Reciprocity Ring exercise creates community and a sense of belonging. No matter what someone asks for, there is always someone else who is able to offer help, advice, or support.
Cheryl Baker and Wayne Baker designed the Reciprocity Ring as an in-person exercise. Everyone gets together in person. I give a short presentation on the value of asking for help and the benefits of being a giver. That presentation is provided by Give and Take, but I can adapt it for each group if needed. Next, participants are given the chance to practice. Everyone makes a request for help. All the other participants then offer help to one another.
When the pandemic hit last spring, I wasn’t sure how we would be able to continue this exercise. It has long been one of my favorite things to do with students. Luckily, Give and Take was hard at work adapting the exercise for remote groups.
Adapting the Reciprocity Ring for Remote Learning
I was so excited when I heard there would be a version I could do with students quarantine. I wanted to use it with students around the globe who couldn’t be together in person because of the pandemic.
Over the past few years my work has provided me the affirmation of one fact. Students here and abroad have the same dreams, fears, hopes, and ambitions. We, as instructors, must create an equal system for everyone. As a result, they will all be able to achieve and evolve to the best versions of themselves.
We finally had a chance to test it out last year and I signed up for a year-long license. I did a few different Reciprocity Rings with the following groups I teach both in the US and abroad:
- All School of Management Undergraduate honors students (Junior & Senior standing). Additionally, I provided the opportunity to students participating in our three separate groups in UB School of Management Global Programs:
- All students participating in “Experience the 50” School of Management programs. This is a program for students to learn about living and working in different parts of the US. It brings together both international and domestic students from different concentrations.
- All students participating in “Experience the Globe:” University at Buffalo students from different disciplines participate in project based social impact international experiences (Africa, Asia, Latin America & Europe). Due to COVID-19 students have remained engaged in these experiences with the option to travel to the respective cities &/or countries when it is safe again.
- CLOE_GLOBAL Students – a year-long leadership development program for students from our partner institutions from Ghana, Jamaica, Kenya & Latvia) .
Teaching Students to Rely on One Another
My objective was to put students in communities where they could get to know each other better. I also wanted them to learn to rely on one another. The Reciprocity Ring allows me to provide a community engagement for students to help others especially during these uncertain times.
It is always so encouraging to see that even when a request is incredibly specific or challenging or rare, the students always get help. Whether that help arrives as direction, a resource, help, advice, or a connection to someone else who might have more direct experience, the student always gets what they need.
In this way, they learn to trust that their needs will be met, if they are willing to ask for what they need using the format the exercise teaches for making a good request. The exercise instructs students that their request should be SMART:
When we empower students to ask for help in an impactful way, we increase their chances of getting the help, advice, resources, connections, and knowledge they need. This is true both in the confines of the exercise, but also in life.
This tool has enabled me to provide students with transferable skills. They can apply asking and giving while they are still in school, extend it to the work place the job market. It even helps in their personal lives. Learning how to ask for help and how to be a giver without burning out are skills for lifelong success.
I’m such a fan of the Reciprocity Ring! I’m eager to continue using it to help students achieve their goals.
To learn more about the Reciprocity Ring, download our solution sheet.Learn More
About the Author
Dr. Siaw-Asamoah is a clinical associate professor in the Organization and Human Resources Department at the University at Buffalo School of Management. As faculty director of Global Programs since 2018, Dorothy identifies, designs and implements high-impact programs that develop students’ global and diversity mindset. She engages partners and alumni in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe and the U.S., fulfilling the school’s commitment to training global citizens with diverse perspectives and experiences.
As an expert facilitator for the UB Center for Leadership and Organizational Effectiveness, Dorothy conducts training in conflict dynamics, cultural communication, emotional intelligence and strengths-based leadership among others. She is a certified Gallup Strengths Coach, member of the National Association of International Educators (NAFSA), and certified practitioner for DiSC, MBTI, Workplace Big 5, FourSight, Intercultural Development Inventory and the Hogan Assessment. Previously, she worked at London Borough of Lambeth and Wandsworth in London, England before migrating to the United States in 1995.
Dorothy is the Chair of 2020-2021 University at Buffalo Faculty Staff Campaign, serves on the board of trustees for the UB School of Management Alumni Association, AVP for Faculty Relations Committee, Hope for Sisi’s Kids Foundation HOSIKIDS.org, New Covenant in Buffalo, UB Council of International Studies & Programs and contributes to events and committees of professional and social impact causes. Previously, she served as a board member for Child & Adolescent Treatment Services of Western New York and Medical Ethics Committee, Sisters of Charity Hospital.