Agents Assemble #3 – The School for Change Agents Podcast
Each week during The School for Change Agents, we make a podcast with behind-the-scenes discussion from the team who create School.
Episode 3 was released on Friday 7 May 2021. The contributors were Kerry McGinty, Leigh Kendall, Olly Benson and Zarah Mowhabuth. A full transcript is available below.
This transcript has been edited for clarity:
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:07] And welcome to Agents Assemble, a podcast bringing you all the behind the scenes goss, insights and thoughts from the people who created the School for Change Agents 202. The online learning experience extravaganza is brought to you by NHS Horizons. I’m Kerry McGinty, project manager at Horizons. And joining me for a good old chinwag is Zarah, Olly and Leigh. So team, please introduce yourselves.
Leigh Kendall: [00:00:32] I Leigh Kendall. I am the Programme Lead for social influence in Horizons. I’ve been here for about nearly five years now and do all things comms and social media and I’m loving seeing all of your tweets, posts, Instagram messages about how you enjoying School for Change Agents.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:00:51] Hello, I’m Zarah Mowhabuth. I’m a project manager at the NHS Horizons team and I’ve been working on School this year and you might have heard me in the first podcast.
Olly Benson: [00:00:59] I am Olly Benson. I’m Programme Lead. I work on School for Change Agents and other digital and community projects at Horizons and I’ve been working on school since 2016.
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:08] I’m a bit of a newbie, but we’ve all of us here on this podcast have had a part to play in making the course go live and make the learning experience what it is. So third session, we are cooking on gas, getting through all these sessions right now. But this third episode we’re going to be focussing on what session three is all about and that’s power. So is about how you can use your own power to make a positive difference. And also what is power? What’s it all about? From what we’ve learnt, what’s been the most interesting things from this session? Do you think? So, Leigh, what are your thoughts?
Leigh Kendall: [00:01:43] Mo’s section is talking about her experiences of keeping going when things don’t go the way she would have liked. And I think we can all relate to that. It really resonated with me because as you’ll see in session four, I talk about my own personal story as a patient leader of making change happen and reminded me so much of some of the frustrations I had, because especially when you want to make change happen, you want to change the world and you want to do it tomorrow. And it can be so frustrating when people aren’t quite caught up with you yet, and especially when you see a change that is so obvious. But other people aren’t with you yet. So how frustrating that can be. And the comments and the FutureLearn in response to Mo’s video, sometimes you need to take a step back, look after yourself. You feel the frustration, of course, because that comes with passion, but take time out, look after yourself, reflect how far you’ve come, and then get back up and and start making that change happen again.
Kerry McGinty: [00:02:41] I mean, Mo’s gotten a lot of love on School for Change Agents, on the comments, from me: I think I’m her biggest fan. She’s the multi-tasking legend. And also I think it’s the way she authentically tells her story and it’s finding her own power. It wasn’t as if she was an actual avenger, putting on a suit of armour and going into battle. It was just his normal woman going, what power do I have to make small changes that lead to big change? And I found that really inspiring.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:03:09] That was the exact same for me. So my highlight of this week was also Mo but there was a key thing that stood out for me, and that was she said something like “is there anything you can do to push forward the world that you want to see?” And I really love that because I feel like sometimes we think that a change is actually changing the whole system or restarting something or changing a process. But actually, it’s what you can do, as yourself, and it could be something you can do today or tomorrow. And for me, it kind of reminded me of hearing someone speak about how when they have opportunities to speak at a panel, they often look at the diversity on the panel and then suggest it to the event coordinators. And that was one small thing that they could do that was in their power. And I really love that. It was like one little thing that you can do today or tomorrow that will actually domino a change. So that was my highlight.
Kerry McGinty: [00:04:01] I also found it a little bit JFK moment, “not what you can do for your country role”. I mean, I’ve quoted it wrong, guys, but you get the gist. It was very much like, look within. It’s not about always looking elsewhere for someone to fix it.
Leigh Kendall: [00:04:15] Benash and Alex’s conversation was brilliant and I’m loving seeing the reflections on FutureLearn as well. So people are understanding that it’s OK to be your authentic self. People want to see that. People connect with people when we’re trying to make change happen. It’s about relationships and communication and dynamics. So be yourself, your true self, be authentic self. And that’s how you can most successfully make change happen and as Alex says Be More Pirate.
Olly Benson: [00:04:43] So Sam Coniff who wrote the book I met in 2008. I was working at a youth charity at the time. Sam was running a thing called Livity, which was a youth marketing agency run by young people out of Brixton. And we happened to meet and stayed in touch. And then a few years ago, he posted about a talk he’d given which is all about pirates. And then that turned into the book Be More Pirate.
Olly Benson: [00:05:05] So I was a big enthusiast of the book and talking about it and getting everybody else interested in it, and then Sam brought on Alex, who is his sidekick, and now so taken on the enterprise, because I think when he wrote the book is just a book and it sort of turned into much more of a movement with lots of energy around it. And that’s Alex’s thing. So I met up with Alex, told her about School and she said she’s really interested and we had a really nice conversation. She wanted to be involved.
Olly Benson: [00:05:34] And I thought actually it’s a really nice way of thinking about power in a slightly different way. Some people really like it. Some people get really excited by the idea of being more pirate. Some people, it just sounds like a sort of gimmick that doesn’t excite them. And I think either’s fine. I don’t think everybody needs to religiously think, oh, this is the best thing. But for those who do, they really enjoy it.
Olly Benson: [00:05:56] And what’s ultra nice about all of this is they’ve written a follow-up book called How to Be More Pirate. There’s quite a lot around health care. And the case-study that they have is from Greater Manchester. And the reason those Greater Manchester people exist is because I gave them a copy of the book and told them they should read it.
Kerry McGinty: [00:06:11] Look at you go Olly. Honestly sorting change out everywhere. You’re a pirate, you’re a change agent. You’ve got it all going on right now.
Olly Benson: [00:06:21] So it’s quite a nice story of just the effect, the conversations and just chance meeting with people have. And then that snowballed into.
Kerry McGinty: [00:06:29] I completely love the Be More Pirate – yah. It just does made me want to get an eye-patch on and just get really into it. Cos I think things like learning and trying to expand your mind, sometimes it can be very academic. And I think the imagery itself. That was a comment on FutureLearn I did see of “Oh, I really love this, but I can’t get past just thinking about Pirates of the Caribbean”. And I kind of like that, the thought, that kind of like imagery that it creates.
Kerry McGinty: [00:06:57] But from interviewing Alex for this, me and Olly, we were recording. First things first, obviously, it was just really fascinating to hear this other side because you do just think about all this swashbuckling instead of actually, oh, here’s a group of people that decided to go against the grain, make life better, make their own rules for better change. The Be More Pirates – it’s just a bit different, isn’t it? And I think that’s the point of learning, of finding out all these different people that have made change, whether that is back in the sixteen hundreds like we did here. But I love it. I just thought it was fantastic.
Olly Benson: [00:07:34] I think what’s fascinating … so A it’s the community that it’s brought together and pre-covid they had community meet-ups. You just see all these people from vast different spectrums, not just in health and care but across lots of different sectors, meeting together and trying to help each other. And you get those really nice what we talk about weak ties, where you just get people connecting with people who ordinarily they wouldn’t ever really have a connection with.
Kerry McGinty: [00:08:01] That’s a really good point, isn’t it? Because even it’s happening now, like on FutureLearn on this School for Change Agents 2021 online. You can see all these people connecting, following each other, joining the Facebook group, and that really ties into something very powerful. When Alex from Be More Pirate and Benish were talking and Benash spoke about finding your tribe, which is something you Zarah, you were buzzing for that point weren’t you.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:08:25] I did. As you all know, I’m like Benash’s biggest fan. I really enjoyed hearing that thing about keeping yourself grounded, having the sense-check and finding people who wanted to make the same changes happen. And in a very cheesy way, I think that is School, right. Like in the first week, our team at NHS Horizons, we always speak about that first week where people are commenting and sharing how they’re not alone. And loads of people feel this way. And I always really love that. So I think finding your tribe really stood out for me. And just a quick shout-out that Wednesday 5th May was also the International Day of Midwifes, so shout-out for Benash for being our resident midwife.
Kerry McGinty: [00:09:06] And there’s a multitasking absolute legend there. But I love that comment about the tribe. And also from the comments on FutureLearn, the point that I thought was really interesting is when we were making this module, as a relative newbie, and also it’s a kind of awkward question to ask yourself, isn’t it like “How do you find your own power?” Like, you can be like a dunno, can you get it from the news agents? Do they sell it in Tesco? It brings a certain confidence to find your own power to try and be able to speak confidently about it.
Kerry McGinty: [00:09:37] And when you think of power, it seems like this massive thing that you’ve gone to training courses everywhere and learnt abou it but from Alex and Benash’s conversation, it was about how actually power isn’t a thing that you need to have this big shazam, hit by lightning, or bit by a radioactive spider. It’s very much something that grows over time and also be more comfortable in yourself and being authentic to what you believe in.
Kerry McGinty: [00:10:03] So their conversation I kind of got lost in the module, the video is about five minutes long, but you just felt like you could sit there and keep on being in that conversation. I think that’s something when me and Olly were recording that interview, in fact. We went way over time and when it came to editing, we were like, how do we cut this out? We’ve got seven hours of gold here. But people are better together and stronger together and especially for enacting and making change. I thought that was a really interesting point.
Kerry McGinty: [00:10:35] So other things that has been going on: it’s been kicking off a bit on social media. We’ve been posting a lot of stuff. So I think a lot of people are reacting to some of the stuff from our social guru, Leigh. So what’s been going on there than Leigh?
Leigh Kendall: [00:10:50] Thanks. So, yeah, one thing we do every week on Twitter is to ask people to share their key learning point from School so far. One thing to bear in mind is that if you’ve not started school yet, that’s absolutely fine. People just talking about where they’re up to right now. So some of their key learning points that people shared are that it’s okay for self-care as we talked about in last week’s podcast with Zoe. Talking about being more Gazelle. So letting things wash over you, looking after yourself first, building your resourcefulness. So that’s really nice. And we have a bit of fun with it as well. People share some fun GIFs, so that’s always good as well to represent what people are thinking about School. And it’s also a nice quote from some Gemma Hawtin saying the best part of it is be true to yourself, make time with self-care and reflect. Look at how far you’ve come. Thanks, Gemma.
Kerry McGinty: [00:11:41] So loads of good stuff on social media there and if you’re not following us yet, then it’s every so simple all you need to do is go to Twitter, @Sch4Change and follow us there and you’ll find loads of good posts, extra snippets of behind-the-scenes footage, videos, tips and everything that you need. Now, back to session three, the lifeblood of this course. We need your feedback. We want to see what you think. We want to see how you’re learning and what you’re doing. And Zarah and Olly, you’ve been looking at some pretty good comments and reflections, haven’t you?
Olly Benson: [00:12:12] Yeah. I think we talked about this last week, about the value of comments, we talked to quite a lot with Zoe saying just how much she learns from the comments as opposed to just the content that we produced. And I think that’s so true. One of the themes I always like looking at for themes and one of the themes that really stood out for me this week was a discussion on the Theory X and Y page.
Olly Benson: [00:12:36] Theory X and Y is two competing theories which were devised in the 60s. And essentially, one says your employee are there just for the money and if they didn’t get the money, they wouldn’t do anything, they’d just sit there, they’d try it and kind of do as little as they can and what they can get away with. And your job is to effectively manage them. And you’re kind of in tension with your employees. In theory, Y is actually, No, your employees are the asset of the organisation. They thrive because they want to do stuff, they’re really positive. Your role as an employer is to sort of grow and nurture that.
Olly Benson: [00:13:10] So one of the really interesting conversations that is taking place on the comments is around whether one is inherently bad and one is inherently good. And we have this conversation all the time when we talk about new power and old power. I’m really clear that there isn’t a old power is bad, new power is good, and we say that on week one, on the first page where we introduce it. There were times when old power is really valuable and my go to story or that is being put in the back of an ambulance and taken to A and E; rushed into the resuscitation room and the last thing you want to hear is somebody say “Well, who wants to take charge here?” and “Does anybody want to join me?”
Kerry McGinty: [00:13:52] Me and Zarah would give it a good go for you Olly.
Olly Benson: [00:13:55] Actually, you want a structure. You want somebody who’s in charge, you want everybody knows what their role is, their position and what they’re doing. And you want that organisation.
Olly Benson: [00:14:05] Where I think the issue comes is where old power is used inappropriately or where it’s not needed. So, yes, in a critical situation like that, or you can think of lots of situations where you want that command and control. But what then happens is, and particularly in environments like health and care, where we’re used to that kind of command and control environment appropriately, that then seeps into lots of other places where it’s probably not the appropriate way of working. And some of that is about thinking about how to introduce change, how you introduce different ways of working, how you think differently. And if you try and do that in an environment whether that’s a Theory X or an old power environment, you actually don’t get the best from what you’re trying to achieve.
Olly Benson: [00:14:49] What’s really interesting is that idea that the default is a Theory X or old power is bad and Theory Y or new power is good. And it almost makes some people quite defensive of the thing that naturally find is easier to work with. And I think just the very nature of who Horizons are and where we come from, we gravitate towards the new power models because that’s kind of what we’re interested in and excited by. But I think we are respectful of the fact that we’re not saying this one’s bad, this one’s good, this one’s appropriate, this one’s inappropriate.
Olly Benson: [00:15:21] To me, the thing I always say around when you’re doing change agency is if you’re an environment where there’s a lot of old power, then you can get your power by introducing a different way of working because that excites people. So even if you’re in an environment, whether it’s a very clinical environment, like an emergency department, where you need a lot of the old power. Just going in with a different approach excites people and interests people because they’re having a different way of working.
Kerry McGinty: [00:15:47] Yeah, and I think somebody picked that up on the comments on FutureLearn as well. They said just because something always has been doesn’t mean it always needs to be always will. What’s the worst thing that can happen when you try something like suggest something? They say no. And if you feel passionate enough, you can keep on going. Zarah, what’s been a standout comment for you that reflection from the people taking part in the course.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:16:10] Well, I think I saw something that really stood out because I think it really captures what School is about and what what we’re here to do as well. So it was from Angela who said “when I first started the course I felt a little bit about my depth, someone who’s done it before said, stick with it. And I’m so glad that I have. I can actually see now that I’ve been making positive steps towards change already. And this has given me the permission and confidence to continue knowing that others who feel the same.” And I mean, how nice.
Kerry McGinty: [00:16:39] I’m just looking at our faces here. All of us have that cheeky little grin going on because that is brilliant. That’s what we love to hear. That’s fantastic. And reading that as the people that helped put it together, then you’re just like “OK. That’s really good.” The fact that people don’t realise they’re worth a lot of the time or what they have done, because when you start a course you do have that intrigue of like, “Oh, I’m going to be this and I’m going to do that”. And that’s amazing that she actually was. “Oh, actually, I’m pretty damn good already”. Oh, fantastic. Well we love hearing everyone’s feedback. If you’ve got any questions or if you’ve got any feedback, then please do tweet us. Tell your friends. Subscribe to this podcast. Get everyone to get involved. And let us know what we should be looking out for, anything that we can do because we absolutely thrive on the feedback.
Olly Benson: [00:17:37] One thing we’re specifically interested in is around case-studies. So we’re always on the lookout for new, exciting people to features our case studies. So the Mo’s and Benash’s of this world. So whether you think that’s you, or you think that somebody that you know, who kind of demonstrates some of the things that we talk about in School for Change Agents in reality, we’d love to get in touch and talk to them because we want to grow that community of people that we can refer to and really show the diversity of what’s going on in the health and care sector and what different people are doing.
Kerry McGinty: [00:18:14] That’s completely right, Olly, because we want it to be real and as authentic as possible. Hearing actual voices about what’s going on in the changes that are being made out there. So we going to have a little sneak peek about next week, which Leigh is going to tell us about now.
Leigh Kendall: [00:18:29] In session four of School for Change Agents you’ll hear more from me, with my own personal story of how I used my story to make change happen. So I look forward to hearing your comments on that.
Kerry McGinty: [00:18:40] Well, can you believe it? We are at the end of another podcast. We want to thank you so much for listening. We can’t wait to get chatting again for a good old behind-the-scenes chinwag next week with us. So for now, bye-bye. Thank you.