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Motivational Triangles

If you go online, you will see a lot about motivational triangles – basically ever-shifting reasons or motives for people to behave in certain ways. As a defender, I’m very familiar with the motivational triangle for public defenders developed by Jeff Sherr. According to Jeff, people have three predominant motivations for becoming a defender: (1) They are warriors who want to fight for the little guy; (2) They are social workers who want to care for their clients; (3) They are movement builders who want to change aspects of society’s response to criminal behavior.


One interesting thing about these motivations is that, to be an effective defender, regardless of a particular defender’s motivation, he or she needs to recognize and respect as valid the motivations of other defenders. A second interesting thing is that the motivations of any defender tend to shift over the years.

I’ve certainly found that to be true in my decades as a defender. When I started out, I wanted only to be a warrior who fought for the defenseless. As I became involved in drug court arena, I wanted care and treatment for my drug-addicted clients. And lastly, in my work for survivors of Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE), I want to change society’s ill-informed views of CSE.

As I contemplate the role of Dawn’s Place in the fight against CSE, I feel the role of the defender motivational triangle coming into play once again. Some of our staff, volunteers, and donors become involved with Dawn’s Place because, as warriors, they want to fight the evils of CSE. Others join because, as social workers, they want to help victims and survivors of CSE. Still others join us because, as movement builders, they want to be part of our movement to change society’s response to CSE.

Over time, our supporters may find that, while their initial motivation is still there, their primary motivation has shifted. Our supporters develop new appreciation for the motivations of others to join in the fight. These shifts in motivation are exciting to observe and even more exciting to experience. They are made possible when supporters begin by respecting the differing motivations of other supporters.



Whatever your motivation to work for, volunteer for, or donate to Dawn’s Place, I respect that motivation and I greatly appreciate it. But, and far more importantly, the women of Dawn’s Place do as well.

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