Each week during The School for Change Agents, we make a podcast with behind-the-scenes discussion from the team who create School.
Episode 1 of Series 2 was released on Monday 16 January 2023. The contributors were Kerry McGinty and Kathryn Perera. A full transcript is available below. We look back at a decade of the #S4CA, hear the incredibly moving story of how Kathryn, a co – creator of School began her Journey with NHS Horizons and The School For Change Agents. Plus we delve into future and what’s in store for the School and it’s Change Agents.
This transcript has been created by Sonix:
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:08] Hello and welcome [00:00:10] to this episode of Agents Assemble. Brought to you by NHS Horizons today, I’m so excited to be joined by a Queen of change, a leader of rebels [00:00:20] in the change quarters. It is Kathryn Perera. Welcome to agents assemble Kathryn.
Kathryn Perera: [00:00:26] Thank you very much, Kerry. I think I need to write that on my CV, don’t [00:00:30] I?
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:31] Definitely do. They still do name badges where we work. We’ll just add it on. It might be a few pages, but. But seriously is so [00:00:40] good to chat to you. I think it was maybe a year and a bit ago that you were last on the podcast. So how does it feel to be back?
Kathryn Perera: [00:00:48] It’s great to be back. It’s great [00:00:50] to have another iteration of school and to have, what, a couple of thousand more people now learning with us through their School for Change Agents community. [00:01:00] So thanks for the invitation back.
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:02] No problem. So I’m so excited to just have a cosy little chat with you. We are in December. Christmas is coming and what better gift [00:01:10] than school and Christmas is worth celebrating. But also this year Horizons has been quite busy, haven’t they? So school is launched again. As you say, [00:01:20] we’ve got NHS advisors have been working with Aqua to create a kind of look back and celebration of the School for Change agents. And what that really [00:01:30] kind of is encapsulated is a celebration of a social movement and it’s all its different varieties. Looking back at the past ten years and [00:01:40] as one of the lead educators of school, I guess the fact that we’ve even got a report that celebrating such a long amount of time and so many people [00:01:50] taking part in the school, you must feel quite proud. How does it how does it make you feel that we’ve got this kind of document and showcase?
Kathryn Perera: [00:01:59] I think [00:02:00] it’s really important to celebrate your work, celebrate the work that we do with other people. That’s what the celebration report represents. For me. It’s a chance [00:02:10] for us to go and speak to some of the people who’ve really made it happen. In the report, you can read about some of the incredible frontline staff [00:02:20] in the NHS and others who’ve been leading change, who’ve been inspired by the school over the years. So yeah, that’s what makes me proud, is hearing [00:02:30] about the difference that it makes in people’s lives.
Kerry McGinty: [00:02:33] Because when I was reading it, I think well, and as it was being crafted, I think one of the things that really [00:02:40] kind of struck me is that when you’re working on stuff sometimes and you don’t take it for granted school because I do think it has got its very own special kind of magic. [00:02:50] It’s not your bog standard course or, you know, you’ve got to do a test. But from the testimonials from the celebration report, I think I think sometimes it’s it’s good [00:03:00] to have something like this to remember that actual impact. It was stories like from Joan and Danny and Lou where they’re saying like that. Basically it was life changing [00:03:10] and actually examples of how it changed their lives and made them completely rethink how they approach work and how they approach making things [00:03:20] better. And was there anything that kind of gave you a kind of similar realisation like me, like, Wow, we’re doing this is amazing. Like look at the impact that it’s having, or [00:03:30] is there anything that you kind of looked at and thought, Oh, I never really thought about that before because it’s interesting to get that other side’s perspective.
Kathryn Perera: [00:03:38] Yeah, sure. I mean, [00:03:40] I’m inspired when I read about Danny and Joan and others and how they describe the impact that school has had on them. It had a similar impact for [00:03:50] me in a different way. So I wasn’t working in the NCE. I’d been working in politics seven years ago, and unfortunately, a good friend [00:04:00] of mine who was a member of Parliament here, a woman called Jo Cox, was shot and killed. And there it was a huge [00:04:10] tragedy and it remains a tragedy for her family, of course, and for people who loved her. But out of that also sprung some incredible things, [00:04:20] one of which was a movement, the more uncommon movement, which was about thousands of people taking small actions in [00:04:30] their own communities, in their own workplaces to make change happen. And it was that that actually led me to the School for Change agents. That was how I first came to know about Horizons [00:04:40] and how I first came to know about Helen Bevan and rocking the boat while you stay in it, because it used the same principle that it’s [00:04:50] not about the position we have, it’s not about grand gestures, it’s about small actions that we can take with others that when they’re put [00:05:00] together, change the world. And at the time that Jo was killed, I was looking to see what I could do in the world [00:05:10] where I would find new purpose. And I came across the school for change agents and it spoke so much to her spirit and the [00:05:20] work that many of her friends were doing to try and carry on the mission of who she was in the world that it made her. Can I say this, Carrie? It made a spiritual [00:05:30] connection with me, and it was the reason that I decided to take a punt and come and work in the National Health Service. And [00:05:40] I’ve never looked back.
Kerry McGinty: [00:05:43] I mean, I, I just feel like incredibly moved by that. I think the fact that that was your friend [00:05:50] and that for people that didn’t know her when the news came, it was so shocking. It was really striking. And many people in your position, in [00:06:00] the family’s position, could just sit back and think, you know what, I don’t know if I would be able to react the same way as you and find that strength to actually [00:06:10] know I’m going to go forward and make a change as you and as Joe’s family have done. So I think it’s so inspirational and I kind of was like nodding along as you were talking [00:06:20] there. But not many people would be able to do that. People might, you know, sometimes when the change is so kind of overwhelming and when you’ve [00:06:30] seen trauma and when you got that grief to actually battle on and decide, actually, I want to carry on their legacy, I want to make it better so that this [00:06:40] doesn’t happen to somebody else, I think that’s really brave and proper, inspiring, if that’s even in a sentence, proper sound enough and then like proper inspiring.
Kathryn Perera: [00:06:50] But [00:06:50] you know, carry the thing is that that ability to act doesn’t come in isolation. It comes because of things like [00:07:00] the School for Change agents. So the way that Brendan and Kim and other members of Joe’s family knew that they could take action was because [00:07:10] people reached out to them. People took their hands and says, said, you can make a difference. You can speak on this, you can act in this way. And it’s that same [00:07:20] energy that is at the root of school. We don’t focus in the school on all of the challenges in the health service [00:07:30] and more widely in terms of delivery of of health and care we could do. But what we choose to choose to say is that’s the context. But [00:07:40] what we have is choice and agency around how we act in response to that context. So, you know, whether it’s a personal tragedy [00:07:50] or whether it’s simply a sense that things could be a bit better if we did them differently where we work in our communities, [00:08:00] then the school is one of the ways that you can develop the muscles and the methods to know how to make change happen.
Kerry McGinty: [00:08:08] Oh, wow. Well, if [00:08:10] I wasn’t actually already on it, I’d probably sign up right now. Kathryn after that, to be honest. But I think that what really struck me as well is that from what you’ve just said, because [00:08:20] it is that kind of taking a leap and if you’re feeling stuck, if something has happened, it’s easy to. But there’s that niggling feeling. And also, you’re right, it doesn’t [00:08:30] focus on the one thing or here’s how you solve this problem. It’s about the tools to make those small changes and that description of how the [00:08:40] a kind of whole change agent community and enabled Jo’s family and friends to take action and to learn and get the knowledge in order for them to [00:08:50] do something I think just really speaks to so many people because when you’re on your own, you can kind of feel a bit like, Oh crikey, you know, I mean, I love a to [00:09:00] do list, but sometimes it gets a bit ridiculous and then you leave it on the pile of never done to do lists. But when you’ve got a whole group of people kind of rooting for you or can give that one nugget [00:09:10] of advice and then another person gives you another nugget before you know it, it’s basically a Happy Meal. You’ve got 12 chicken nuggets of facts and inspiration and you can just [00:09:20] make stuff happen. And the report is one thing and how the kind of ethos goes. But this run of school, you know, you’re one of the lead educators. [00:09:30] You’ve helped craft school throughout the times. Like how does it feel that we’ve got 2104 sign ups as of today? And if I had a [00:09:40] fact checker, I’d get them to fact check it. But I realised that to me from there, from over 70 countries, there’s over 3500 comments on the course already at the moment. [00:09:50] Like how does it make you feel to know that there’s still that appetite and hunger for people to come and learn and discover new things or even connect with people [00:10:00] that they might not?
Kathryn Perera: [00:10:01] Well, look, there’s rarely a week that goes by where Helen Bevan or I or other members of the Horizons team don’t have somebody who comes [00:10:10] up to us and says that this this school has changed their life, given them confidence, led them to do something, made a connection. So, you know, it gives [00:10:20] a huge amount to us as well as being hopefully a joy, a little a little bundle of joy for people who take part in it. And I think the [00:10:30] thing I always feel, though, is we have to keep it relevant. And that’s why I love love that we are partnering with Green or NHS this year. And I love [00:10:40] the fact that we’re showcasing facilities, managers, catering teams, porters, nurses, midwives, students, a huge [00:10:50] range of people who are making that change happen. So I’m hoping in like five, ten years we’ll still have people [00:11:00] coming up telling us new stories about the way that it’s changed their lives.
Kerry McGinty: [00:11:05] I think that’s what I’ve really liked as well, is the fact [00:11:10] that I never worked in the NHS before I joined Horizons. My background was working in radio and media and PR, [00:11:20] and if I’m going away, pack a paper around at 15, I’m not sure that’s quite as relevant to which one. Maybe [00:11:30] it was to say it was the leaflets that always got me. If any of them fell out and you didn’t deliver them and put them in. But anyway, I digress. But I [00:11:40] think the school is really evolving to represent what the NHS is, because it is obviously we’ve got clinical it’s not just clinical staff that make [00:11:50] it up. So many people contribute to oil. This big machine and actually the green are involvement this year and just feels right. And from [00:12:00] the responses on FutureLearn and the course right now, a lot of people are already thinking greener and doing stuff or need that [00:12:10] extra spark of inspiration. So that’s been kind of really enlightening to see. And from the things that you’ve seen new on the course so far, like what’s your favourite [00:12:20] kind of new addition that you’ve seen that you’ve thought, Oh, I love this, or I didn’t think about that that way?
Kathryn Perera: [00:12:26] Well, for me it’s always the comments actually, as beautiful [00:12:30] as the as the content is Kerry. And you know, we’ve both progressed from our paper rounds to doing more things in the world. I want to just give a shout out to [00:12:40] Kerry, even though she won’t like me doing this. As one of the main architects and the main producer of much of the content on school. So no disrespect to that content. [00:12:50] Content. What I love are the comments because if you go in and see and on some threads, we have dozens, if not hundreds [00:13:00] of comments on a topic, you know, people are sharing from their raw experience often around things like. Moral injury around [00:13:10] the power of storytelling, around how they’ve managed to rock the boat and stay in it. So to create disruption in a way that [00:13:20] takes us forward and listening to those, reading them, reflecting, replying is one of the biggest joys of my professional [00:13:30] year. And so I’d encourage you, if you’re listening to this and you’re on the course, we read everything. At least one of us, [00:13:40] if not more, will reply and respond. Do jump in. Because we often say between us, school is not an online course, it’s an online community. [00:13:50] And that’s what makes me happiest.
Kerry McGinty: [00:13:52] I think I completely agree with what you said. I think as well there’s something about openness, isn’t there? The [00:14:00] at the start of this podcast, you really shared something that is so heartfelt and personal to you. And I think people in the course [00:14:10] in in the school are doing the same. They’re opening up and taking that chance to be like, Actually, if I share this, this might inspire, this might help someone, or [00:14:20] maybe they can help me get to a point. And I think that takes so much courage. I think it’s it’s you know, it’s being vulnerable, isn’t it? It’s being vulnerable to change, being [00:14:30] vulnerable, to learn new opportunities and an open to it, I think as well with what you’ll notice and like as you go [00:14:40] through, because I know that you love getting on onto the platform and reading people’s comments because that’s that is where the gold is, but also the fact that everybody is in it together [00:14:50] and in journalism, you know, stories create stories. If you share something with someone, they’re more likely to share something back with you. And then it it’s kind of like that domino [00:15:00] effect. And so I completely agree with that. And in terms of you mentioned a little bit earlier about [00:15:10] how many people come up and say, schoolies change my life, or this is how it helped me get better at work or make this change. What? Looking [00:15:20] to the future? And you still want these people to come up to you in 5 to 10 years time. How would you like to see the school itself evolve? Like would you [00:15:30] in five years time? What would you like to see from the school or what would you like to see in five years time from those participants that come up to you while you’re trying to grab a cuppa and [00:15:40] have a little chinwag with you?
Kathryn Perera: [00:15:42] It’s a great question. I think two things for me. I’d love to see more content that’s driven by our [00:15:50] community and our participants. So we’ve worked really hard to include many of your case studies and thank you to everybody who suggests ideas [00:16:00] or stories that we should showcase. So I’d love to see more of that and I’d love people to come up and tell me, not the School for Change agents. [00:16:10] It’s a little secret, but it to be something that 1.3 million people who work in the NHS and the millions who work [00:16:20] globally know about. And we’re getting your dog on.
Kerry McGinty: [00:16:26] That’s my dog.
Kathryn Perera: [00:16:27] Bonnie sneezing In the background [00:16:30] of the podcast, everyone, I think she agrees with me.
Kerry McGinty: [00:16:34] She is. She just loves it. I mean, I can’t get the staff these days. She’s meant to be the co-producer and she’s ruining the content [00:16:40] honestly.
Kathryn Perera: [00:16:43] But you know, I think I think as Bonnie sneezes, she appreciates what I’m trying to say, which is Spread the word. Say it loud, say it [00:16:50] proud. You know, sneeze for the school, basically, and spread the word. I’d love more people to be involved. I’d love us to have 20,000 people every time we run it rather than [00:17:00] just 2000, because we’ve grown that organically.
Kerry McGinty: [00:17:04] I think that’s really important because school isn’t a secret and I like your ambition. I’m already thinking, [00:17:10] How can we do this? But I guess as well, school is free and there isn’t a catch to it for people to take part, which I think sometimes is kind of hard to get across, [00:17:20] especially sometimes in the world that we live in now. Where do you want to learn lots of good things? Nope. It doesn’t cost you. Yes. Get on board. So do you ever get [00:17:30] people be like being a bit wary of school? Because I know that some people have asked me like, Oh, how much does it cost or do I need to do this? And it’s like, No, we just want you to learn and spread the word [00:17:40] and like improve and live your best life essentially.
Kathryn Perera: [00:17:44] Yeah. No, it’s a great question. I don’t think I do. I mean, I think in the UK [00:17:50] most people understand and love the principle of the NHS, which is free at the point of use on the basis of need. So you know, if you feel like you need [00:18:00] a bit of change agency in your life, a bit of inspiration, then this is an NHS product. It’s a true NHS gift. It’s free at the point of use. And it’s there for us when we need [00:18:10] it. So, no, I don’t ever have people sort of say, Where’s the catch? I do have people say, you know, why don’t you develop a business model around it? And. [00:18:20] Yeah, on a serious point, if we be kind of serious for a moment, if we as a team [00:18:30] were to put our efforts anywhere, it’s not towards making money off the school or having some kind of model that makes people buy [00:18:40] in. It’s to recognise that we have some serious challenges in the NHS and wider health care system. And [00:18:50] often we approach those as structural challenges. We need a bit more money or we need different ways of working or we need [00:19:00] different processes. And those things are important. But we know that where we engage with our staff better, we have better patient [00:19:10] outcomes. We know that where people feel they can make a difference in their own context, there is more retention, [00:19:20] less attrition of our staff. We know that where people feel involved in their own care, then they are more likely to be able to manage their health [00:19:30] more effectively. So school is really pushing with the grain of that and I would much rather that we put our energy into equipping people with [00:19:40] the inner skills they need to live longer, happier, healthier lives than be worrying about the structures and processes around what we’re doing.
Kerry McGinty: [00:19:50] I [00:19:50] think that’s such an important point because it’s daunting. All of the changes and working in the NHS and health and care things do tend [00:20:00] to change quite often. So what would you say to everyone listening is kind of to round up our amazing conversation. What would you say to anybody listening [00:20:10] that is coming up with a lot of changes, things, things are looming. What would you say to encourage them of why they should join the school or why they [00:20:20] should even just have a look or a gander and consider how that might help them in changes to come, whether that’s now or in the future.
Kathryn Perera: [00:20:29] So sometimes [00:20:30] when people have ideas or they’ve tried to make a change happen and it hasn’t worked, we have the scars of that. We have the feeling that we shouldn’t reach out or maybe what [00:20:40] we’re thinking isn’t worth doing, or maybe people just don’t get us. So I would say go the opposite way. Reach out, connect. [00:20:50] See what you can learn, Post an idea, see if you can find a constituency which in its literal sense is a group of people who will stand with you. [00:21:00] See if you can find those people who will stand with you and use the school. Use it shamelessly to make that happen because there’s really no [00:21:10] downside to giving it a go.
Kerry McGinty: [00:21:12] I love that. And that could be made into a jingle. But why not? But no, I think that’s I think that’s so important. [00:21:20] And I think it’s that first step and that first making the try. I always say to people, you know what, back in the day when I used to interview a lot of people, [00:21:30] I’m like, This bit’s worse before you make Take the Leap. Once you do it, once you’re in it, you’ll feel a bit better because you’ve actually made that decision to do something. And whether [00:21:40] that works out or not, you can’t. You can regret not trying things a lot more than trying things. I think so, but I didn’t sound [00:21:50] as wise as you there. But we will. No, I would say amen.
Kathryn Perera: [00:21:53] Amen to that. I agree.
Kerry McGinty: [00:21:55] Fabulous. Well, I’ve just had the best time and it’s kind of actually flown by [00:22:00] Kathryn. So thank you so much once again for joining us. For agents, assemble and gathering beside my mythical fireplace for a [00:22:10] little chat. It’s been so amazing having you on. I’m sure it won’t be the last time. And thank you to everybody that’s listening. And this is [00:22:20] agents assemble. Brought to you by NHS Horizon. I’ve been your host, Kerry McGinty. I’m joined by the absolutely amazing and inspiring Kathryn Perera. And [00:22:30] I hope you enjoyed and do listen in next time. Thank you so much. Goodbye.