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Show courage: how Norway leads in building courage and resilience in its youth
  1. Bjorg Elin Moen
  1. School as a community builder, MOT Norge, Trondheim, Norway
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bjorg Elin Moen, School as a Community Builder, MOT, Trondheim, Norway; bjorgelin{at}

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This year we celebrate the 25 anniversary of MOT (‘mot’ means courage in Norwegian). The main aim of the organisation is to build robust and resilient youth and strengthen their awareness and courage to include their peers. MOT’s Life Skills programmes are implemented in ~300 schools across Norway and the organisation train locally based MOT coaches to engage students.

MOT was established after the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway—by former Olympic champion Johann Olav Koss and Olympic skater Atle Vårvik. Since the beginning, MOT has used brand ambassadors to strengthen the messages from the programme and to make a positive association to the brand. Today, these include Norwegian topathletes like Kjetil Jansrud and Ragnhild Mowinkel (downhill skiing), Johannes Thingnes Bøe (biathlon), Birk Ruud (freestyle ski), Karsten Warholm (400 m hurdles), Ada Hegerberg (soccer) and Marcus Kleveland (snowboard).

MOT’s programmes have been developed continually through close dialogue with schools using the programme and adapting as interests, attitudes and knowledge change. In addition to the licence, schools pay for being a part of the programme, MOT gains increasing recognition for this work and today funding also comes from the Directory of Education, Directory of Health and The Norwegian Directorate for Children, Youth and Family Affairs (Bufdir).

The goal is to strengthen youth’s ability to show courage, with three values emphasised:

  • Courage to care: care about each other and especially those feeling excluded

  • Courage to say no: say no to things you do not want to do or be a part of, to prioritise and say yes to something more important to you

  • Courage to live: dare to dream and go beyond your comfort zone. A part of courage to live is to accept yourself and feel valuable as you are

MOT uses four key principles: work proactively, give culture-builders responsibility, reinforce the positive and see the whole person.

Community engagement of service and volunteerism

Today, MOT has 30 brand ambassadors that strengthen the work with 73 000 youth. The MOT programmes consist of evidence-based thoughts and techniques, but most of all modern pedagogical and psychological thinking and development through experience, curiosity and judgement. The work is a combination of structured implementation, enthusiasm and quality to encourage and inspire youth to become responsible on their own behalf and on the behalf of others.

MOT’s Life Skills programmes in both secondary and upper secondary school consist of 12 sessions over the course of 3 years in addition to other culture building activities throughout the school year. MOT sessions aim to be inspiring, educational and with an atmosphere of energy and trust. The participants are not silent recipients of a message, they cocreate and take an active part in the programme. The programme aims to help them to become ‘self-builders’.

The potential impact in the community—safer sport, a healthier world

MOT creates a warmer and safer environment by developing robust youth that has awareness and courage to be inclusive. Feedback from youth, teachers and parents is that the MOT sessions influence both the individuals and the class environment. Evaluations show that MOT prevents and protects against some of the negative outcomes of adolescence. There is less bullying, fewer youth without one single friend, less decline in self-efficacy from 8th to 10th grade and higher scores on scales of hope and optimism.1. Feedback from teachers say that the programme contributes with more positive attitude, value awareness, growth mindset, self-esteem, belief in own abilities and good class cultures.2

MOT is also used as a tool in leadership training and culture-building among school staff.

Failures turned to success

As in sports medicine, implementation is a key. In the early days, teachers felt that MOT coaches ‘stole’ their classes, and this caused resistance in some of the schools. As a result, our ‘add on-programme’, School as a Community Builder was developed to strengthen implementation. Five schools tested this programme in 2016 and today 160 schools are using the "add on-program" to strengthen their school as community builders. Among other things, it strengthens the awareness and courage in principals and school management, making them more efficient in using the ‘MOT tools’.

In April, 40 principals participated in a 3-day long MOT training and one of them wrote this as her evaluation:

I am touched, happy, feel strong and to be a MOT school. This is not just an investment; this is quality of life for us and for those around us. The MOT training should be mandatory for everyone. If it were, we would have a better society.

MOT’s sustainability and challenges

In addition to Norway where MOT started, MOT is established in South Africa (2008), Denmark (2013), Thailand (2015) and Latvia (2016).

The organisation has learnt it is of uttermost importance to recruit the right people. MOT personnel understand the concept of the programme and excel and at communicating with others and youth in particular. MOT plans to conduct future high-quality research to formally evaluate the effectiveness of the programme.

Ethics statements

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  • Collaborators Not applicable.

  • Contributors This paper is written after an invitation from Jens Bjørneboe in Norway.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

  • Author note MOT builds school culture by providing a structure and a long-term programme that involves youth themselves;;