What’s the main goal of team-building? Mostly to create a sense of belonging through shared goals, so that a group of individuals can collectively identify as a team. It’s not easy to come up with activities that serve this purpose effectively. Exercises that are designed exclusively as “team-building tools” can be perceived as pointless, not really necessary, futile and ultimately time-wasting. On the other hand, there is plenty of evidence that working together for what is perceived to be a good cause helps strengthen relations within a team and results in more focused and effective shared efforts. It is important, for what is know as Social Team Building, to work for a real cause and to produce real effects in a specific field. An increasing number of companies have been jumping on the Social Team Building bandwagon and they are reaping enormous benefits, while at the same time doing actual good in their own communities. When the Finance department at Heineken Italia reached out to us for a Social Team Building Project, we were delighted and thrilled.
Social Team Building: finding the right cause
When we decide to engage in charity work, it is hard to pick one good cause, among the countless options that present themselves every day. There is no shortage of relevant issues that call for our attention on a regular basis, but we only ever have limited resources to invest at any given time. When called upon to find a suitable Social Team Building activity for Heineken, we examined several proposals by local, national and international charities and eventually shortlisted a few. Among these, our client picked the offer by Legambiente, a well known environmental charity, with a running project called “Let’s clean the world”. The environment is an issue that resonates with most people: we live in it, we worry about it and we experience it daily, more often than not having cause for concern. Working to create a better and healthier living environment for the local community is an incredibly rewarding experience and one we would recommend to anyone, whether in a Social Team Building context or as private citizens. There is a special kind of satisfaction in not only feeling useful, but also responsible for creating a safer and more pleasant for others to enjoy. Particularly if the “others” in question happen to be children.
The location: Parco Trotter, Milan
Our Social Team Building project took place in Parco Trotter, in Milan: this public park has a rich and fascinating story, deeply connected with the identity of the city itself. Built by the company by the same name at the beginning of the XIX Century, it was used as a horse racing track until 1924. Nowadays, the track itself has been turned into the park’s main lane, after being briefly used as a bike racing track. The city council bought the whole estate when the company went bankrupt and it converted the facility into a school for children with tuberculosis. The new institution was called “Casa del Sole”, literally “House of the Sun”. When tuberculosis ceased to be a medical emergency in Italy, the school was no longer needed, but its staff had acquired a unique set of skills and expertise in the field of childcare and education, which they decided to reinvest. The “Casa del Sole” was converted in a school with special educational programs focusing on sports and outdoor activities. It was the first school in Milan to have its own swimming pool, cinema, theatre and even a small petting zoo with farm animals. To this day, Parco Trotter is open to the public during school hours and it is a very special place for children who go there to learn and to experience nature in the heart of the city.
Let’s clean the world!
When thinking of “cleaning” a park, most people will picture picking up litter, but there’s much more to it than that. It is a complex and multi-faceted task that requires careful planning. We could count on Legambiente staff: they divided the participants into team and assigned missions to each team. Our Social Team Building project included tasks such as cleaning graffiti off school building walls, repairing and cleaning the aviary and the butterfly park, tidying out the vegetable patch, building two new wooden flowerpots, planting lavender and cleaning out the old swimming pool. The participants had to work harder than they imagined, but they were exceptionally motivated by the knowledge that they were creating a beautiful and healthy environment for the local children to enjoy and play in safely. We also rewarded their efforts with a delicious lunch, provided by a local catering that uses ingredients sourced through local farms. The whole point of this exercise was, after all, to reconnect with the local community and remind ourselves that it is our responsibility to keep the space we occupy clean and safe.