What to do if you are very successful, but at the same time feel that your success stifles future innovation? This question triggered the events team from a Political Foundation. A trusted group of 15 enthusiastic professionals who organize visitor trips and conferences for international guests. They had been working together for a while, in a tried and tested manner. And found themselves in a solid, but somewhat repetitive, routine.
Their results were generally very much appreciated, but at the same time the desire to try out new things, "the spark", was lost. And they wondered: can't we derive more value from what we do? And rekindle our creative spirit, so that we can keep up our excellent performance?
The original client’s question was to help with the evaluation of the events program. In order to turn the evaluation into an energizing learning process, we deliberately broke with traditional evaluation procedures. Instead of an external evaluator, making recommendations based on his observations and studies, the team was invited to evaluate itself (with external support) and draws its own conclusions.
The start of this participatory process was a surprise picnic in the office, during which everyone was personally invited on a joint research trip. They then engaged in a half-day workshop in which all team members reflected on their own "why" of their work, in order to build the subsequent process on this underlying meaning and personal drivers.
The themes identified from the dreams and desires that the team expressed were then translated into research questions which the team members - alone or in small groups - wanted to investigate.
In the months that followed, we accompanied them individually in identifying interviewees, collecting data and transforming the results into experiments that in were first actual process improvements. We responded flexibly to the different needs and available time and at regular intervals made visible to everyone what the team had already achieved. This pride in the fast changes generated a lot of energy to keep up the work and lead the experiments to a good end.
This participatory evaluation process enabled the team to truly learn from their experiences and from participant feedback. As a result, many practices were renewed: cross-departmental communication was improved, processes and documents that were discovered to be unproductive were either completely abolished or redesigned… All in all, blockades and inhibitions that had slowed down courageous and creative action gave way to critical thinking. Moreover, the realization that this curious attitude can have a positive influence on the Foundation as a whole had an impact as well. One could say that the team has ‘learned how to learn’ from success.