In order to anchor a Cooperative Inquiry process an ‘Initiating group’ is set up to launch the enquiry, as far as possible at all levels representing the host community, including relatives and the BCA team of consultant, facilitators and volunteers. The task of this group is described by Heron as three-stranded:

  • to understand and accept the methodology being introduced, so that ‘they can make it their own’;

  • to develop ‘participative decision-making and authentic collaboration so that the enquiry becomes truly cooperative’

  • to ‘ create a climate in which emotional states can be identified, so that distress and tension aroused by the enquiry can be openly accepted and processed, and joy and delight in it and with each other can be freely expressed.’*

* From Heron Cooperative Inquiry: Research into the Human Condition Ch.4 1996 London/Sage

In our projects we endeavour to identify goals, review these at the mid-point, and finally to review the programme in the light of the goals with such a representative group, where previously, and traditionally, we had concentrated on attempting to ensure that simply the management representatives had identified with the aims of the programme.

This was not easy, as the concept of a fully cooperative process is not familiar either to the management structures of residential or other institutions or to participating staff.

Nevertheless goals were identified at all levels, and the outcomes of both individual and group aims were shared, in order to be ‘owned’ by all. The contribution of each member is equally important. Each has a unique view of the community and can contribute to a more complete picture of how things are and how they could be – i.e. more than one layer, e.g. management alone can achieve.

An important opportunity is thus provided for staff at differing levels of a hierarchy to exchange experience and insights and affirm each other in their work and plan the future together.  Where members are representative of others, they also bring their peers’ views to the Initiating Group, and ‘cascade’ – pass on and share thinking, information and practice of the Initiating Group – to their colleagues.