Agents Assemble #4 – 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 4 was released on Friday 14 May 2021. The contributors were Kerry McGinty, Kathryn Perera, Leigh Kendall and Olly Benson. A full transcript is available below.
This transcript has been edited for clarity:
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:08] Hello and welcome to Agents Assemble, a podcast all about the School for Change Agents, 2021. In this podcast, we’ll bring you to the behind-the-scenes headquarters with the people who helped to create the School for Change Agents. We’ll be taking a closer look at each session, discussing theories and reflect on the incredible people contributing and participating in the School. In this episode, we’re talking all about session four From Me To We. So today, joining us for a good old chinwag is Olly, Leigh and our very special guest, Kathryn Perera. So before we get started, we’ve got loads to discuss today, let’s do a quick intro. So I’m Kerry McGinty and I’m a project manager at NHS Horizons.
Olly Benson: [00:00:50] I’m Olly Benson. I work for Horizon’s, obviously, looking at digital and communities. That’s what my job is.
Leigh Kendall: [00:00:56] Hi, my name’s Leigh Kendall. I am the social influence lead for Horizons. I do all things comms and look after all the social channels: Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Kathryn Perera: [00:01:05] Hi everyone. I’m Kathryn Perera. I have the great pleasure to work alongside these fabulous people as part of the Horizons team. No laughing Kerry. We have a lot of fun together and we bring very different perspectives to how we make change happen, which is where the magic is, I think.
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:26] Thank you so much for joining us today because you are one of our leaders of School, a very inspirational person. I say that on behalf of the whole team. So it’s great to have you having a little chinwag with us today. So what we’re going to do is kind of go through what our favourite things were from session four. And as I’m talking I may as well tell you my favourites. And basically it’s the Mo fanclub again. Mo’s ability to tell a story. Honestly, I just think it’s that stop moment. You’re not aware of anything. I think my makeshift office could be on fire and I probably wouldn’t notice if Mo was sharing her story. You’re just entranced by it. And we’ve heard from Mo through the different sessions at the School for Change Agents. But another story that came up in this session was Ollie Evans about telling his story and public narrative. And I just loved his article, the way he told his story. And it kind of made me recognise change can happen anywhere or big moments can happen anywhere. Like I couldn’t get over he was queuing up for some fish and chips, which if that was me, I wouldn’t be focussed on making massive institutional changes if there was chips and curry sauce on the menu. But Ollie was all for it. And Kathryn, you worked so much with Ollie to help him to tell his story in such a beautiful way. So tell us a little bit about that.
Kathryn Perera: [00:02:47] Well, I think what Moe and Ollie have in common, and that’s the key thing to great stories, is authenticity. Both of them were nervous about the process of having a go at stories, but they were not afraid to be themselves and to bring the kind of raw material and then think about how they shaped it. So I think that fearlessness in saying, OK. And you see Ollie reference at some point: I haven’t got a grand narrative; I haven’t got the Napoleonic sized story. Well, so few of us do and so what? Because for each of us, our story- and our name is a story. We say our name is the most important thing we have. Our story is important and is central to who we are. And so Ollie saying, well, what could I possibly have to offer? Well, as it turns out, quite a lot. But we rarely take that time to reflect, to re-remember why we do what we do and then to think, how can I use this, not in an instrumental way, not like marketing, but how do I use it to really build relationships, connect with other people, help them to get me so that we can do some work together that isn’t possible when you don’t understand where someone’s coming from. And I think that’s what Ollie did so beautifully over the course of our sessions.
Kerry McGinty: [00:04:08] Definitely. And I think it is that thing that you’ve just said that really resonates with people. A lot of people before they started this session four would be like, “Oh, no-one wants to hear my story” or “I’m just part of the health care. I don’t want to get involved in it. That’s to do with these people”. And it’s about actually everyone has their story to tell. So what was one of the main things when you were teaching people how to tell their stories? That’s obviously the wrong phrase. You’re a teacher, storyteller. You’re obviously many more things.
Kathryn Perera: [00:04:39] Well you know, one of the things that I think is underappreciated is humour. And where you see Ollie and I think you see it in the video, like pause and smile, and connect with what is his wonderful, sort of slightly cheeky side. Where he could see the humour in the fish and chips. But he could also see, that was a profound moment where he had a conversation with his chief executive. That has stayed in his heart, right, so that he can communicate that, but do it with some humour and some warm. I think that is a really key part.
Kathryn Perera: [00:05:16] Again, in a lot of people say, “oh, well, if I have a story, it has to be really profound and serious, and…” It doesn’t. It has to just be something that others can relate to because it’s the self, and then it’s us and us is in all our messiness, in all our vulnerability. This is something that I’ve learnt Leigh from working with you around, bringing all of the mess that we all are. We don’t try to order it too much. I’m not saying Leigh’s messy; very far from it.
Kerry McGinty: [00:05:52] I can see her office. It is very tidy. She’s not in squalor.
Kathryn Perera: [00:05:58] But what Leigh teaches is and what Ollie demonstrates is there’s bravery in saying, “I haven’t got answers here, and I’m not trying to resolve things, but this is how I see the world. And if some of that resonates, then why do we—so self to us, me to we—why don’t we see what we could do together?” And it’s that pivot. It’s not just about your story of yourself, it’s how it connects with others so that now we can do some real work together. And it’s those three things that we need to be thinking about how we connect.
Kerry McGinty: [00:06:30] I’ll tell you what, Kathryn. I felt we were getting a bonus session there. Should I be taking notes? I’m like, yes, that is correct. And the very key point that you brought up about the messiness of being normal and Ollie Evans has proven that fish and chips, the universal uniter of the world. If everyone could just have fish and chips and everyone will be fine. Curry sauce and mushy peas. But that’s maybe a different podcast. Olly there was so much in this session, it’s going to be hard to kind of pack it all in. But what was the most interesting thing or the thing that you love learning about the most in session four?
Olly Benson: [00:07:03] Well, obviously the public narrative and listening to Olly… This is going to get confusing…
Kerry McGinty: [00:07:11] Shasll we just call you Barry for the sake of this podcast?
Olly Benson: [00:07:15] So listening to Ollie Evans’s story and I think also actually seeing in development, I think that’s something that you rarely get to see. It’s the whole thing about social media where people say, you get that sort of polished finish. It’s the same sometimes when you show people public narratives and they go, wow, that’s incredible. And what was really good, I think, was seeing the process of that going through. And we only had about eight minutes of what was a good 40 minutes, hour long session that Kathryn had done with Olly to sort of create that narrative. But even in those eight minutes, you get to see, OK, why are you making that choice about that phrase or that use of words and why you focussing on those bits? So that was fascinating.
Olly Benson: [00:07:55] And then the other thing for me was something that I always really like is that lone wolves, mobilisers and organisers the Hahrie Han work. And I always think that’s one of those other moments in School where the lightbulb comes out and people start understanding, particularly I think people who’ve been pushing for a particular thing and sort of feel like they’re pushing against a brick wall and suddenly realise that acting a bit like a lone wolf and that even if they’ve kind of got some other people on board suddenly realising actually it’s not about just giving them tasks and say, can you go put a poster up here and there and everywhere. It’s about developing them as leaders and allowing them their own choices and take that change, whatever you’re trying to achieve, in the direction that they want to.
Kerry McGinty: [00:08:34] And in the comments, people are really resonating with that as well. But I don’t know why they always make us laugh of the lone wolf thing. You know, any market in any town in England, you always get that wolf fleece. That’s what I kind of always picture for some reason, which is slightly distracting from the topic. But I completely agree with that. And Leigh, you had your very own feature in session four for School, which was all about we’ve got the theories, we’re learning all the tools each week. And actually it’s not just about ourselves. We’re living in this digital world as we’re just proving here, all in our little square boxes at different ends of the country. So utilising social media is a huge thing. So what’s your favourite thing been reacting from the response to that?
Leigh Kendall: [00:09:22] Yeah, thanks, Kerry. So in session four, I talk about my top tips for social media success and it’s brilliant reading the comments. There’s been people who haven’t used Twitter before who’ve been giving it a chance. They’ve been saying they’re going to start thinking about what their purpose on Twitter is, which is one of the top tips. Also they’ve already started to do some things like re-tweet with comments, which is another of the top tips for adding your own value to a conversation on Twitter. So I’ve been so chuffed and I feel really proud of everybody giving it a go, because if you’re not used to Twitter, it can seem really overwhelming because there is so much going on. Just take a little bit step-by-step and you build your confidence, find your people and make change happen.
Leigh Kendall: [00:10:08] And if I can add something else to that as well, because as part of the video, I took my Horizons hat off and put on my change agent expert by experience hat on as well. And I talked about my personal story of self, my own personal narrative, which, if you’ve not seen it yet, is about my baby son, Hugo. He was born very prematurely and sadly died when he was 35 days old. And I wanted to say thank you to everybody who’s written a lovely comment. I felt quite emotional reading them.
Leigh Kendall: [00:10:33] And I want to add something else to that, because there’s a couple of reflections on there that say about how it can be really scary to share your own story even though how impactful it can be for moving the hearts to make change happen. Yes, it definitely is scary. And I wanted to share a bit about my own reflection with that. When I was thinking about what was going to say in the podcast, I was thinking that I wish people had given me this advice before, but I think they actually had but I’m so stubborn, I ignored it. But the advice is to look after yourself. Thinking about the advice from Esther and Rachel in session two about resourcefulness. Look after yourself, self care. Put your own oxygen mask on first. And change is really hard and it’s really messy and you can get really frustrated. So don’t be like me and be really stubborn. Do look after yourself and take time out for yourself. Regroup. Look how far you’ve come, because I know how frustrating it is to want to make change happen yesterday and it’s impossible to do that, unfortunately. So take time out for yourself. Look after yourself so you don’t burn out and you can continue to make change happen in a way that respects your own wellbeing as well.
Kerry McGinty: [00:11:43] Thank you so much, Leigh. Your contribution and the comments speak for themselves. It’s a real honour for you to share your story. And also, it kind of proves the point again, that the School for Change Agents is a community. The fact that you are getting so many positive comments, this is a safe space for people to share their story, if you are feeling nervous, if you’re not sure where to start, that’s what we’re all here for, to learn and share together. So thank you so much for that, Leigh.
Kerry McGinty: [00:12:11] I can’t even believe that we’re already out of session four. I feel like we were still crafting it in our little laboratory, like Dexter’s lab, but it’s all out there now. And talking up the comments on FutureLearn, Kathryn I will have to share with you a few that I saw here from Ollie’s narrative where people were just so thrilled as well. Just about how you explained this: “Ollie Evans’ story was brilliantly crafted. I can really see all the points that Kathryn made in the video come to life in Ollie’s story, and it’s just great stuff. And some more saying, Kathryn, you can really see the impact of your crafting and compelling ways to tell a story of self. Using your approach and feedback like that, you must feel a bit chuffed with yourself.
Kathryn Perera: [00:12:59] Yeah, it’s great to hear. There’s a paradox at the heart of it, which is that the more specific we are, the easier it is for people to connect. And you’d think it would be the opposite. So I just generally tell my story and it will land. But actually it’s the details, the richness and the colour that Ollie brought out: the fish and chips, feeling the temperature, the table, what Yvonne looked like. Those details that really make the difference. I think for me, if people were to take away anything, it’d be two things. One is that richness, add that specific: it’s your story. It’s personal to you. And the other one is. Thank you for the comments, but it is by no means me. This is two-three thousand years since it was first written down as an idea, a story of self, us and now. And I’m just channelling that through the work of our dear friend Marshall Ganz.
Olly Benson: [00:13:50] I was just going to add in that one of the things I think is really important, also remembering that your story isn’t set in stone. Once you’ve written it and it develops and it changes and adapts and you shouldn’t feel bad when the first time you tell your story, it doesn’t go quite to plan or it doesn’t feel quite right, because actually over time you end up thinking, “OK, I want to add this bit or not mention this bit”. But from my own experience of the times I’ve shared my story, in a number of training events, it’s really interesting: you share your story and then you do the training session and then it gets to sort of the lunchtime queue when you’re queuing up for, well it’s wasn’t fish and chips, I think it was slightly stale sandwiches. But all people want to do is talk to you about your story and you are like, but I’ve told you all this interesting other stuff. Why don’t you want to talk about that? But that’s because those stories really help people connect to each other,
Kerry McGinty: [00:14:41] I tell you. Well, this is just making me hungry now. I think we’ve said fish and chips about ten times. Even stale sandwiches sounded appetising then. Sounds quite good. Obviously, we all love the feedback, don’t we, Olly? So we want people to keep responding. By no means do we think this is it, set in stone, forever, these are the rules. That’s the whole point of being a change agent. So if there is any comments, reflections or naybe even like things of improvement or thing that you had a light-bulb moment of and think, hey, you should be doing this, then please do get in touch with us and you can do that just by commenting on FutureLearn. We do go through all of the comments. Or you can send us a cheeky little tweet, which is @sch4Change.
Leigh Kendall: [00:15:24] So we’re loving hearing your reflections on Twitter as well. So we’re talking about session four now, but of course, you can do School at your own pace. So there’s people just starting session one, people doing session two and session three, and it’s all brilliant. We’re loving seeing your reflections. I loved one today about how they’ve not heard of moral injury before. So it’s brilliant to see how people are learning new skills through School. So please do keep tweeting us. We’re loving reading them.
Kerry McGinty: [00:15:49] So we’ve got another week to go. Olly, what can we really look forward to next week? What are the main things that we’re going to be looking at and talking about?
Olly Benson: [00:16:00] So next week is our final week, which is very scary, as you were just saying, it doesn’t feel like it got going and suddenly the final week. So for the final week, I think there’s two major things. The first is around thinking about complexity, and it’s something we touched on in session one, about this idea of it’s really easy to make a cake, but actually trying to raise a baby, you can’t just follow a recipe. And that’s very similar to how we think about change. Actually, if it was just following a set of instructions, it’d be dead easy to make change. But we know change is much more messy than that. So we look at complexity and some of the different elements around that. And then the other key element is just thinking about the future of being a change agent and what that means. Both, I guess, now, but in the years coming up and all the different things that you need to think about as an individual and how you can develop your own future of being a change agent.
Kerry McGinty: [00:16:51] So just a small little topic to end on there isn’t. And also more food with the cake – I can’t copy today. Come on, guys, you’re torturing me here. And and of course, next week, final session. But that doesn’t mean the end because we are going to be starting our live sessions as well, aren’t we? And I know, Kathryn, you’re going to be involved in them. So starting Tuesday, the 18th of May at 3pm. All need to do is go to the Horizons website to find out more. So that’s horizonsNHS.com/school and that’s where you’ll get all the information.
Kerry McGinty: [00:17:28] So, Kathryn, thank you so much for joining us. How have you found your first entrance into a behind-the-scenes podcast, Agents Assemble?
Kathryn Perera: [00:17:36] It’s a real pleasure. Thank you for inviting me. Yeah, great fun. Really good fun and just good to have a chance to think about people’s comments and get a bit of a conversation going. The live session will be the same. It will be Helen and I presenting a deep dive on some ideas, but it’s all about the conversation, guys. So come along and we will see you there.
Kerry McGinty: [00:17:56] Fantastic and bring fish and chips, if you would like to enhance your brainpower. Well, that’s all for us, for now, for this week. But thank you so much for listening. So goodbye.
[00:18:07] Bye bye. Bye bye.