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Big Picture Issues
Psychological Capacity in a Global Age
This project is predicated on the insight that in powerful times we are likely to feel 'in over our heads'. We see the costs of this in the rise in mental illness and mental distress in individuals, organisations and communities. We live in a toxic psychosphere created by a rapidly changing and disorienting global culture. In an age of material abundance, our culture is defined by new scarcities: time, community, love, purpose, authenticity, understanding, perserverance, rest, friendship. New mental capacities are needed.
Hence the notion behind the project of promoting 'psychological capacity' and developing resources that can make psychological insight available in a variety of settings without recourse to expert professionals.
The project was initiated with seedcorn funding from World Economic Forum and the Foundation for Advanced Cardiac Therapies in the US. More recently we have received funding from Big Lottery Fund, NESTA and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation in the UK.
Last updated: 8 Jul 2013
A meeting of key project participants was held in San Francisco in November 2004 to take stock of initial research into the extent and nature of mental distress in the world and the costs and effectiveness of our current mitigation measures. The meeting developed a powerful story about the current problematique and our partial and inadequate response to it, and a model on which to base a more effective set of responses based on an enhanced view of psychological capacity.
One big concern we have is about communities affected by stress, war, terrorism, trauma, conflict and oppression and the psychological challenges of trauma and recovery. As part of this strand of the project, team member Dr Margaret Hannah contributed to a three day UK/US seminar in September 2006 organised by the UK Cabinet Office Emergency Planning College on Policy Responses to the Mental Health Consequences of Catastrophes. This considered how best to acknowledge the psychological dimensions of traumatic events like the 9/11 attacks in the US and the 7/7 London bombings and discussed both the concepts of psychological capacity and resources to develop it.
From these discussions, we have developed IFF Kitbag - a set of resources to help people develop their psychological capacity. There is more about this at http://www.iffkitbag.com. Prototypes were tested in a number of settings, including a women's prison. The lessons from these trials have helped us to improve the content and design of Kitbag which is now available for sale on-line from the IFFKitbag website. Further investigations of Kitbag's effectiveness for team building and culture change within organisations, and for boosting resilience and resourcefulness in communities trials have been ongoing during 2009 and 2010.
Other variants have been developed, including Kitbag for Families, Kitbag for Schools and Kitbag for Veterans which is still being worked on. Kitbag for Families has been widely tested and feedback is excellent. It has been included in Children in Scotland’s training programme and is used by teachers, community and hospice workers – and by families.
Another focus for growing psychological capacity has been organisations as prime settings for developing tools and processes for genuine personal growth. Members of the project team have shadowed a number of CEOs for the day to gain insight into their psychological landscape. Graham Leicester presented the results of the work at a leadership luncheon for around 100 business executives at a conference in Toronto in April 2005 on the theme 'the enlightened healthy corporation'.
We have continued to shadow chief executives as part of this inquiry - including in the arts and cultural sector. This work has led to the publication of a paper Rising to the Occasion (see download below) as part of a series for the Mission Models Money programme supported by the Jerwood Foundation, Accenture and others. The paper describes the nature of the 21st century competencies we need to develop to thrive in today's complex world and the opportunity for arts organisations to provide the setting for this kind of personal development.
The project continues to develop theory and practice on what we are now calling the '21st century competencies'.
Documents for download
Click on the documents below to download them to your hard disk.
Cultural Leadership Programme: A Cultural Leadership Reader
A collection of essays on cultural leadership, including Graham Leicester (IFF Director) on 'Real Cultural Leadership: leading the culture in a time of cultural crisis'.
Date: 19 Jul 2010 Size: 911kB
Kitbag - vital resources in powerful times
Short introductory brochure describing Kitbag and IFF's experience to date in using this transformational tool in a variety of settings including a women's prison, community groups, children.
Date: 23 Oct 2008 Size: 410kB
Psychological Literacy and the Future of HR
Sets out the learning from the project relevant to corporate health, performance and human resources. What constitutes the psychologically healthy corporation, and what competitive advantage might it enjoy?
Date: 28 Aug 2006 Size: 321kB
Psychological Literacy Project
A short paper describing the IFF's psychological literacy project and the development of our 'Human Resource Kit'.
Date: 27 Feb 2006 Size: 1.2MB
Public Health in a Change of Age (presentation: Margaret Hannah)
Short presentation by programme leader Margaret Hannah setting psycholical capacity in the wider context of a 'change of age' bringing new challenges to public health.
Date: 16 May 2009 Size: 445kB
Rising to the Occasion: cultural leadership in powerful times
A report for MMM on the nature of the leadership challenge in powerful times and the role that the arts and cultural sector might play as a setting for developing 21st century competencies.
Date: 29 Jun 2007 Size: 721kB