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Fuelling a culture change at BACI

Earlier this month a group of Burnaby Association for Community Inclusion (BACI) team members sat together, discussing the future of their organization in B.C.’s developmental services sector.

The group represented a larger team of BACI staff-members, called Ideas for Change, which has been meeting for about a year to create and implement new ideas around improved social outcomes for the people the organization serves.

The Ideas for Change retreat engaged staff to use Lego and other materials to create a structure they believe shows best what BACI is all about.

The intention was to take this work to a different level through the intense, two-day retreat, and essentially look at sparking a change in the organization’s culture to one where creativity and co-creation is happening all the time.

Co-executive director Richard Faucher says the ultimate aim is to create a way to welcome and make it possible for all the organization’s stakeholders to bring their creative ideas forward and also participate in co-creating new solutions together.

The organization is starting with staff-members, with the intention to figure out a model that is most conducive to this co-creation, and then eventually open the circle to people served, families and other stakeholders.

Richard says he envisions this culture change beginning to crumble many of the existing organizational silos and even flatten its hierarchical structure to a certain extent.

He sees even the physical environment being different — more inviting of co-creation and collaboration.

“I hope that when you walk into BACI you get a feeling that what you bring to the table is valued,” he says, noting as it stands now, as with the majority of service providers, there are certain established policies that essentially drive what gets done at BACI. But, as it turns out, often these policies don’t funnel down into real significant change in the lives of the people served.

“We’re hoping the creative process we’re trying to establish now is what drives the agency going forward,” he adds.

Co-executive director Tanya Sather notes the retreat continues the evolution from a BACI strategic plan created several years ago. Based on a series of conversations with staff, families and individualized served about strengths of the organization and what needed to happen next, the plan identified a need to focus on inclusion through innovation as integral to its future

BACI’s No.1 commitment is to the people it supports; creating good lives for and with them, achieving true inclusion and creating a great community for all.

But to do that, traditional service delivery is no longer enough, BACI and its community have determined.

“There are all kinds of things we want, beyond being a service provider,” says Tanya.

“We want to be an innovator, we want to be a community builder, we want to be a business; we want to be involved in social policies . . .  and it’s in all this that we need to be innovative and evolve the organization.”

In the grand scheme, this culture change is about creating paths to help the BACI community live more fully into their place as creators of a society of true belonging for all.

And the retreat did help begin the process in that direction, according to Richard, noting the group sketched a model they believe is quite powerful that can help lead to greater collaboration amongst stakeholders.

Integral to the new model is being more disciplined, particularly around assessing and then working out new ideas. Richard describes this discipline as including a commitment to learning, to looking at ideas from all perspectives and to being honest with one another about those ideas.

While Richard and others are sensing an eagerness to now get going on this, another sentiment that did emerge in the retreat was that change does take time.

In a follow-up letter to staff, Tanya noted the energy the meeting had appeared to ignite, and challenged staff to hold onto it, to try something new and at the same time to be patient with some of the bigger changes that are going to be made at BACI.

“Our goal is to build our internal strength and capacity. We can do this through our personal actions as well as our larger roles within the organization,” Tanya writes.

“It is not easy to change,” Richard adds, noting he recognizes the added challenges BACI faces being a “big box” and unionized and so having all kinds of red tape.

“We need to bring some of that red tape down a bit,” he says.

A commitment has been made for a smaller group from the Ideas for Change group to meet once a week, to eventually bring in more people and to first off test a few new ideas that did emerge in the retreat. One of these ideas is a lottery lunch where a selection of staff names is pulled from a hat. These people will gather for a meal and conversation on what they might do differently to change the social outcomes of the people they work with.

A follow-up retreat is being considered for January to assess progress to date and consider next steps.

The intention is for the BACI Blast to be an integral part of this culture change, both documenting its progress and contributing through its interview and story process as it makes sense to do so. Feel free to contact us with any questions, story ideas or to talk more about this involvement.

Feel free to comment on this story below, or e-mail michelle(at)axiomnews.ca.

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