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What if … the Millenials take a voice in the State Archives?

The Belgian State Archives, a 200 year old organisation achieved to make their shared purpose visible, connect in a meaningful way to each other with offices scattered over 30 towns and cities, in three language communities and two political regions, working out the strategic and innovative elements for their future. Being able to host in Durch, French and German turned out to be really useful today, with the great support of strategic harvester Frans Nijs.

It all started back in 2016 during the Dutch EU Presidency: I designed and facilitated the first participatory event for the European High level Group of State archivists in The Hague to help them work out a strategic plan for their future years.

Now the States Archives Belgium wanted to include their recently recruited colleagues who often also represent the younger generations actively for innovation of the services.

For a maximum output of the meetings, highly interactive methods were applied in a creative way to use the full potential of everyone involved in the process from the beginning. Participatory Leadership suggests ways to combine and connect diverse views as a creative potential, and fuel new ideas and innovation for the evolution of existing processes and the wiser creation of new ones.

An in-house steering group including managers as well as recently recruited employees was accompanied from the beginning to co-create the events. In between de-briefing meetings offered great learning opportunities and transfer into daily work process and the existing know-how. Great experience and beautiful talents showed up on the way.

A final workshop to foster the learning for the future was offered in the end of a process.

Languages used were Dutch and French, sometimes English.

Young Archivists – Engagement sessions

Belgian State Archives
Belgian State Archives

  • Karin Van Honacker

    Karin Van Honacker

    Head international relations, State Archives in Belgium

    I had met Ursula before, at a European meeting. An inspiring meeting that led to results!

    When at the Belgian State Archives we were looking for a ‘coach’ to facilitate a trajectory to involve young archivists or archivists who had recently entered the service in the functioning of the State Archives, I promptly contacted her.

    The sessions we had planned in 2020 had to be turned into virtual meetings due to Covid-19. And miraculously, everyone was very enthusiastic about it! Ursula succeeded with great flair in moulding the art of hosting concept into an online formula, which made real discussions in a safe space possible.

    We hope to pursue the online trajectory, which has meanwhile been completed. And if circumstances permit, also with a physical meeting. And Ursula is more than welcome to it! Thanks Ursula, for the inspiring encounters!

  • Prof. Dr. Karel Velle

    Prof. Dr. Karel Velle

    Director-general of the Belgian National Archives and the State Archives in the Provinces, Part-time associated Professor at Universiteit Gent

    In each organisation, personnel changes occur continuously; some colleagues only stay for a short while, others develop their whole career at the same organisation. It is of key importance for colleagues to regularly meet and to be given the opportunity to get to know each other, to exchange ideas, across all kinds of boundaries (geographical, language etc.).
    In order to initiate, organise and conduct a dialogue, we called upon Ms. Ursula Hillbrand.

    I am particularly pleased with our collaboration. It was obvious right from the beginning that Ursula has a lot of professional experience in the coaching of groups, but there is much more: She has phantastic personal charisma, lots of empathy and she manages to give collaborators a vision and to make them believe in the future.
    I can highly recommend Ursula to all managers who want to give their collaborators time and space to meet each other and to think about the future of the organisation.

  • Geertje Elaut

    Geertje Elaut

    Staff member for Communication and Public Relations, State Archives In Belgium

    “The State Archives in Belgium are almost 225 years old, but have many young archivists in their ranks. Young employees who are often recruited on a project basis, sometimes only stay for a short time, but want to commit themselves to provide public services to a maximum extent. Capturing commitment and allowing fresh ideas to flow through the decision-making process is less obvious than it seems. External help can be very useful to achieve these goals. And that is exactly what Ursula offered us when guiding our Young Archivists project.
    In a very short time, Ursula understood what kind of organisation we are and what our needs are when it comes to searching for more dynamic and less hierarchical forms of cooperation. She made us realise that the process (of entering into dialogue) is as least as important as the (final) result. That online meetings don’t have to be boring at all, and certainly for introverted employees can be a trump card for daring to speak out more freely.
    I see Ursula as someone who dares to question processes, who keeps going until everyone knows what is expected of him/her, and who can bring about innovation in a diplomatic manner, at both individual and collective level.”

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