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Experiment #1a: Step into the laboratory

Submitted by Education on Tue, 10/03/2015 - 16:46

Experiments can facilitate‘...a systematic discrepancy, a step to one side, a change of viewpoint…which can reveal the landscape under quite a different angle.’ Roger Pol-Droit

For a long time, I have pondered how we can unleash the potential of artists and schools collaborating even further through ‘risk-taking’.  This slippery term might be considered exciting, energising, intimidating, even threatening, and I’ve sometimes struggled to articulate how it can be made manifest in our projects.

I’ve also become interested in exploring ways in which we can share practice and reflect on what we do to improve our programme; so many positive things happen each day within our projects – how can we create more conduits for knowledge, passion, experience and skills to circulate between artists, young people, teachers and each other? How can we (as a colleague suggested) ‘flex our creative muscle’ as an important broker between artists and schools, so that we ensure that we intervene in and interrupt the challenging and changing political situation?

After an extremely useful set of conversations with critical friends outside of Bow Arts, as well as my time out in Tandem last November, these questions have developed into 10 Experiments, an action research project in its early stages. 10 Experiments will enable us to test out new ways of working – to take risks - to reveal and further build on existing resources. Its beauty (and challenge) is that experiments can be tiny, medium-sized, huge or extra-huge, and take place across lots of contexts involving various project stakeholders. The main criteria is that they are productive.

The first experiment took place yesterday with the education team and a few willing and generous colleagues from outside the department. After introducing the project, I invited people to undertake an Appreciative Enquiry exercise; this tool, which I learnt during my Tandem experience, helps people to reflect on their motivations and strengths.  It includes a vital witnessing role, where someone is asked simply to listen to a conversation and then report on their interpretation of what was said. As facilitator, I found it strange and wonderful to see the different combinations of colleagues having new kinds of conversations; and feedback suggests that people found the opportunity to step outside of their normal roles and experience this space useful and refreshing.

Finally, we began to map out some possible sites and ingredients for future experiments which will provide an excellent basis for next steps.

I quite like my colleague’s summary of the session as ‘80% exciting, 10% elusive’ and ‘10% terrifying’. All experiments involve entering a zone of uncertainty, but hopefully the excitement drives us to go for it and benefit from genuine learning.

Till the next experiment.


Lydia Ashman, Education Projects Manager