Building Your Team Copy

In a program that is driven by approach – communication, trust, sensitivity and a good dose of both organization and flexibility, the facilitators are the key ingredient for success. We are very fortunate to have built an amazing team that includes education staff and volunteers who bring a diversity of experiences, knowledge and facilitation styles. They have knowledge of education pedagogy, art-making strategies, and clinical experience in working with people living with dementia, and each contributes to the overall philosophy, development and delivery of our programs.

As a museum beginning this work, you will likely not have all of the expertise on staff, nor will you need to. Many community organizations can support you in knowledge acquisition, training, consulting and more.

Here are the key things to plan for:

Facilitator(s) and supporting staff or volunteers must be properly trained. They need to have knowledge of the participants, in this case meaning they need to understand dementia, its effects, and the strategies that can be used to support the changes in abilities that are happening.

A program team should consist of two to four people, whose roles are clear and identified to the participants.

  • The facilitator leads the conversations about art or objects, drawing participants into the experience
  • Where appropriate, an additional facilitator leads the hands-on activities, though one person can cover both of these roles if preferred.
  • A support staff/volunteer is very helpful to help build engagement – they can watch participants to see who is participating, who is not, and offer prompts to try to re-engage them. The support person can also help by being a kind of ‘plant’ in the audience, who the facilitator can call upon when conversation stalls or to help model participation.
  • For virtual and phone-based programs, a support person is very helpful to manage the technology side of things – monitoring chats, making calls, having sidebar conversations
  • For programs where you are conducting research or evaluation, having a support person dedicated to record observations is very useful,
  • Where possible, we highly recommend having someone with knowledge and experience with dementia join your team, even in a short-term capacity. This person can offer coaching as a program develops. There are a number of service providers who may be able to help.

The program staff should be consistent throughout the program. Relationship building is an important aspect of social connection, and the trust that forms allows for much richer participation. Familiarity with facilitators also builds comfort.

With a team of people working together, be sure that everyone knows what is expected of them, and when and where to participate. Some of our support volunteers participate by engaging participants in questions or conversation, while others remain in the background. Be cautious – a small number of staff participants can build camaraderie, but too many can be overwhelming for everyone.