C2 Belgium - a Host

Day 1 & 2

The past weekend, we welcomed our Polish colleagues in the library for our C2 learning week. They would be our guests until Wednesday, and we provided a busy schedule.

During this learning week we aim to learn from each other, expand our knowledge, and outline our dementia project that is developed with the support of the European Community. But we don’t develop this project on our own, during this week we will not only work with our changemakers, but we also talk with dementia experts. A small group of library colleagues will join us, and they will share our learning experiences with the other colleagues in the library, using a padlet.                                                                                                                  Learning from each other, inside and outside the library, is our main goal.

Keep your eyes open, everywhere

One of the main learning points of the weekend is: ‘the power of observation’. You can always learn from others: 

By watching

By looking

By listening attentively

By observing like an anthropologist

The library is an excellent place, because the library welcomes a variety of people. It is good to meet every visitor with an open mind and a lot of empathy. But how can you be familiar with target groups that you don’t know that well?

You know what poverty is, but you never felt short of anything

You know what a serious disease is, but you never experienced it

You know what a mental or physical limitation is, but you still have all your capacities.

It’s the same with dementia. You know what it is, or you think you know it, but you don’t suffer from it. Dementia has an extra dimension. It sounds very threatening. Everyone can be confronted with it, any time. When we suffer from dementia, we change, as a person, we lose self-consciousness and awareness of other people. It is not a happy future. We need to learn how to handle with people with dementia. They have their right to participate in society, and in the library. Therefore we need to find out how we can behave, and how can we offer a safe place for people with dementia in our library, no matter in what stage their disease is.

The past days we were confronted with lots of learning needs and learning goals. Here are the learning needs that we summed up. (learningneeds)                                                              The most important learning need: the power of observation as a way of learning to understand each other.

We did an exercise with our Polish colleagues:

Avril, Izabela, Robert, Malgorzata, Hans, Isabelle, Martine, Hilde and Matthias

Day 3

Know more about forgetting

As it always goes with learning: you start with a lot of courage, and after a day of hard work, you know … what you don’t know.

After two rather theoretical days, on the 3rd day we changed to concrete thinking. How can we lead people with dementia to the library? How should a project that can teach us how to handle this target group, look like? Why should the library do this project? Those were a few questions…

We started from a project where we would invite/stimulate/motivate people with dementia, using our music collection to tell stories, and share memories. But how do we address these people? As customers? Patients? Users? How do we communicate with them? There’s a lot to learn in this learning journey. And then someone suggested the name of Osterwalder. Alexander Osterwalder is a Swiss business-theoretic who came up with a model to set up a business activity successfully with the ‘business canvas model’. Because we are not focused on making profit, we only had a look at the part that sharpens the value between a service and a customer: the ‘value proposition design’. The principle is simple: you take the place of the customer, you empathise with his daily life (customer profiles), and try to map his pains  – and therefore can use some help – and how the help can create extra gains. Then you sharpen what your services offers, and how your products can be a pain reliever or a gain creator.
As you have more fits, your project will have more success.

No sooner said than done, we did the exercise. We mapped our worries and assumptions. We made a presentation of people with dementia, try to imagine how they experience their disease and what are their pains. Do they feel left out? Anxiety? Not fitting in? Not taking seriously? And we imagined what they need: a safe place. the library. But is that enough? And can we handle that? All questions for tomorrow when we welcome the experts of Foton vzw, an expertise center for people with dementia.

day 4

Who will stop us…?

Today we had a meeting with Hilde and Marlies van Foton vzw. They gave us the answers that we needed and pointed out our prejudices. ‘We don’t need to give people with dementia a voice, they already have a voice. We need to learn, to listen. Give them a valuable place in society’. That is what we exactly want to do with this project.                                                  We searched for the meaning of our project. We came up with marketing expert Simon Sinek who always uses the same mantra: start with why. ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it’. It ‘feels’ good. Sinek had a biological explanation that we won’t explain here. But as for people with dementia: Foton gave us some tips how to communicate with people with dementia: Address them like everybody else. Name what you see, and ask if you can help. Be patient. Speak clear. But don’t ignore them. If words don’t work, you also express a feeling. People with dementia still can learn things.’ And from that moment on, our project with people with dementia turned into a cocreation project.

day 5

Tie a knot in your handkerchief

Today we met De Bono, a psychologist. We finished the design of our project; We know what we want to know, for who and why. With the help of Foton we set up some critical success factors. Now we need to test our proposition. De Bono inspires us to be our own evaluator and feedback giver. The idea is simple: you take 5 coloured hats. Each hat represents a perspective. Present your plan, product or service. The white hat notes questions about facts & figures. The black hat can be evil critical. The yellow hat is exclusively positive. The green hat listens creatively and widening. The red hat empathises and discusses feelings and perception. During the presentation you note the De Bono inspiration on post-its. They are the input for discussion and debate. Martine Meire, director of Leisure, is the external evaluator. She chooses the yellow hat.

Our colleague Matthias starts his presentation. His summary is convincing. But then the De Bono’s did their work:  document more explicit. don’t forget the impact measurement from the beginning, there are chances for complementary collaboration, maybe we can better be ‘age-friendly’ instead of ‘dementia-friendly’, but a great learning experience, a meaningful project…A lab where multiple city services can learn from. 

pictures 'people, music and stories

It was a spicy debate. After lunch we visited Foton and met Paul, who suffers from dementia. We tied a knot in our handkerchief not to forget. That ’s the logo that merchants in Bruges use to welcome people with dementia with the necessary trust and patience. It’s a small gesture to assure that someone can have a safe place in society. ‘The way we are looking at reality, will change reality,’ said Paul from Foton It makes the library and the project an important changemaker. If we keep on our yellow hat, the project can contribute to a warmer, more open and inclusive library.