A choice fell in front of the team from Schlegel Villages a decade ago as they gathered for the organization’s annual Operational Planning retreat: they could maintain the status quo or they could strive for a different approach to the care and support of the people served in the Villages. They could continue to care for residents within the institutional “nursing home” model that has defined the elder care sector for decades, or they could take on the dauting task of culture change, eager to create a social model of life within the Villages.
The path chosen at that retreat in 2009 has defined the organization’s growth ever since, and on Oct. 1 more than 400 Villagers gathered in Niagara Falls to reflect upon the successes and challenges of the culture change journey the past decade and collectively envision the possibilities that lie ahead.
It was a celebration of community collaboration as Jennifer Carson, one of the first key architects of the culture change ambition, recounted the pivotal moments on the journey alongside some of the early collaborators. They spoke of the Appreciative Inquiry summit in 2010 that led to the creation of eight aspiration statements that continue to drive the quest for improvement today. They discussed the adoption of a neighbourhood model that helped drive decision making to the team members and residents most directly affected, and they celebrated the fact that the siloed departments that hindered cross-functionality began to crumble as the journey progressed.
“Schlegel Villages has continued to lean into this collaborative effort,” says Jennifer, who now lives and works in the United States supporting several organizations and municipalities in their quest to improve the lives of older adults. “This is a culture change journey driven by the collective wisdom of the organization . . . and I want to congratulate Schlegel Villages for all your successes.”
A tiny fraction of those successes were shared as each of 19 villages briefly spoke of their touchpoints of pride. The group heard of residents rediscovering meaning and purpose in the lives; they heard of the power of relationships; they heard of team members and residents redefining risk and reward and they nodded in agreement when people spoke of the value in failure, for the lessons learned become the foundation of success.
“When we started this journey there were 140 people in the room,” Jennifer told the audience. “Today there are over 400 and it is so exciting to think about the potential power behind this collective.”
Over the course of three days in Niagara Falls, Schlegel Villages is honouring the past while defining the future of an ongoing culture change journey.