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2.5 Creating a Facilitating Environment

 

The first aim and the first task of the project design was to create a facilitating environment for the project team, in which there was sufficient time, space, and security to develop relationships, and to explore together what was largely an uncharted, and inevitably largely unknown and unpredictable area of common history and heritage, in the context of an organisation - the Trust - which was itself in the midst of change, as discussed in 5.1. below. This context, and the tools developed for the project team (and by it) to negotiate and work with this complexity are discussed in more detail in 5.2 below. It should be said that the creation of a facilitating environment is not the reserved province of 'therapy', nor in a sense rocket science - there are exemplars throughout society, in business and industry, in education, the professions, religion, the military. In this project it was particularly helpful to have on hand and on call, as part of the project structure, people with specific experience in the history and the heritage being focused on; members of the project Communities, as well as others.

 

None of the new, incoming members of the project team had prior experience in or of the specific heritage which was the focus of the project, and this placed a particular requirement on the project design to support - and in some instances to challenge - the team's functioning. One of the first principles from past experience and others' endeavours is that an internally well-functioning team allows more time and energy to be directed outwards; and that the more discordant or dysfunctional, the less time and energy are available for reaching out, innovating, or responding to the crises and stress which are inevitable in any project, and which are certainly predictable in a project which, by definition, focuses on people with disturbed or disrupted childhoods. A project at odds with itself simply get less done; a well-functioning one more.

 

With this in mind, the armature of the supporting groups, the range and nature of their experience and expertise, and the openness and free flow of appropriate communication among the different components of the armature were integral elements of the project design, and essential in establishing and protecting the facilitating environment for the building-up and work of the team. The precedent for this is also well known. It had been articulated by Barbara Dockar-Drysdale, founder of the Mulberry Bush School, who had noted that dynamics in the children's group - the client group - reflected those in the staff group.

 

The second aim of the project was therefore to extend the facilitating environment to project participants, to make it available simply in the way the project worked, but more specifically to make it available during the course of Archive "Weekends" (discussed below). To extend this facilitating environment it needed to be at work within the project team itself, at the level of the 'good enough'. To the extent that the project was productive and a success, it is a function of all of those who took part, voluntarily or paid; which in turn was a function of the project design.