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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Sfougaras

‘Organisational structures’ and Our Project

Updated: Feb 12, 2018

‘Organisational structures’ and Our Project

I wanted to explore the concept of identity as it applies to a group, a project or indeed a system such as the Focus on Identity Project. The group is defined in our first publication, as non-hierarchical. It comprises number of individual artists who share the same thirst for collaboration and growth. Each one of us comes to this project as a unique individual with some shared values, for sure, but with concrete ideas, a formed and/or evolving body of work, and diverse personal and professional histories and needs.

Image Above: 'Oppulent Veneer'

FOI member Raksha Patel.

‘Identity’ and role

There is no doubt that certain elements of our identity are fluid. The situations that we find ourselves in, the people that we meet, and consequently our experiences are great influencers and shapers. They mould our perceptions, and promote growth and change within us. Often, hierarchies can limit this growth. It is recognised that when we enter a hierarchical model, we are either given a role/place/position within it, or we search and find one that makes the most of our role and capabilities.

A strict hierarchy will be a prescriptive and stratified entity. A loose hierarchy will afford some movement. The ideal in my humble opininon, is a hybrid of a system that offers participanys a way of finding a role within it, without blurring the function and efficacy of others or impacting negatively on the group. In other words, a collegial, fluid model that asks questions and enables particpants to ask for, give and receive support.

This would be impossible without n organisational culture characterised by respect and equity. Within that kind of model, the kind I envisaged for us as a group of artists, everyone should have the same rights and legal authority to shape our project.

I like to think that the following quote by Ursula K. Le Guin encapsulates my sentiment about organisations.

“Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I'm going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I'm going to un-build walls.”

This well meaning approach it is not always successful. In my previous experience of managing organisations, there are several reasons for this:

  • Participants expect to be directed and a loose management approach appears chaotic or directionless, or even in extremis, weak.

  • Participants like to be pointed in the ‘right’ direction, but they do not like to be directed.

  • Participants do not like to be directed or pointed in the right direction, because they consider themselves experts.

  • People do not need to be directed, because the success of what they do depends on their complete freedom of choice/subject matter, direction.

  • People do not like to belong within organisations, as they rely on their own perceptions of reality and therefore an organisation is redundant.

  • People who want to belong, but find it difficult to express it in action, sentiment and symbols.

There are many other permutations of interaction/perception within systems, but for now, I think I will close with another list, which I think encapsulates, for the present, what our project, and tries to define some aspirational outcomes for everyone of our members:

  • They should enable peers within the group to express themselves freely, with due regard for the impact on others.

  • They should be allowed to take responsibility for major areas of our work, if they feel able to take them on and carry them out with diligence.

  • They should be listened to and their views should matter and give rise to debate which will result in change.

  • They should be considered of equal value within the group, regardless of experience and age and be encouraged by others to express their opinions.

  • They should be able to suggest direction and play a significant role in making things happen.

  • They should be able to ask for support and expect to be heard.

  • They should expect to ask for feedback about their work and receive supportive, thoughtful, considered advice.

  • They should feel valued.

I look forward to another year of interaction and the knowledge that we have worked to enable our members to work and collaborate within a supportive framework, characterised by kindness, respect and honesty.

GS Feb 2018

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