Agents Assemble #1 – 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 1 was released on Friday 23 April 2021. The contributors were Kerry McGinty, Leigh Kendall, Olly Benson and Zarah Mowhabuth. We talked about New Power, case-studies from Benash and Mo and some of the feedback and comments we had had. A full transcript is available below.
This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:06] Hello and welcome to the School for Change Agents, Agents Assemble, podcast. So in this podcast, we’re going to let you have a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at what’s going on with the people that helped make School for Change Agents 2021. So I think it’s best to start if we all do a bit of an intro.
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:27] So I’m Kerry, a project manager here at NHS Horizons, who’s helped on school. And joining us on the podcast, we’ve got Olly, Zarah and Leigh, if you want to go ahead and introduce yourselves.
Olly Benson: [00:00:40] I’m Olly. So my role in Horizons – I am never quite sure what it is – but essentially communities and digital. I’ve looked after the School since about 2018 and probably the School historian, I guess, as much as anything else.
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:56] You’re the veteran. You’ve got all the badges of honour, like the brownie badges, your sash overflowth.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:01:04] Hi everyone I’m Zarah. I’m a project manager as well as the Horizons team and I have been working on School, I think since 2019. So as soon as I joined the team, one of the first projects that I was on was School. So it’s actually really fun to see how it’s changed and developed since then.
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:20] And last but certainly not least, we’ve got Leigh Kendall with us. So Leigh, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Leigh Kendall: [00:01:26] Hi everybody. Hi, I’m Leigh. I am the programme lead for social influence. So I do all things social media. So I’m the one who post the Twitter posts. You probably see my name on the Facebook group and on Instagram as well. I’m loving seeing all your posts. And I have been with the Horizons team since 2016. I think this is my fourth school and I’m loving seeing how it has been evolving over the years
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:54] And this is actually my first proper school. So I’m a newbie. So we’ve got a good variety of people here to give the proper insight. But what I found is, obviously, my first School and helping create this content. It’s just so exciting. There’s so many amazing stories to be told, people that you’d be sitting next to on the bus or you would walk past in a hospital are doing some incredible things. So it’s pretty amazing. Is there been any standout moments for anyone so far?
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:02:26] Well, for me in the first module one special moment for me is the conversation between Helen and Benash around New Power and Old Power. And the reason why it was a special point for me was because I actually met Benash, I think two years ago at a maternity event. It was actually called From Surviving to Thriving Maternity Conference. Benash introduced herself and told me all these plans she had. And two years down the line, she’s just transformed; done all the things she had initially told me about two years ago. And I thought this is change agency. This is exactly what she’s doing on the ground, frontline, doing it and making that change happen in the NHS. So I thought what an amazing fit for School this year. And seeing that conversation come to life and seeing how she’s using, New Power ways with the Association of South Asian Midwives and also kind of Old Power ways with her job title. And if you’ve already seen the module, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, please do. But, yeah, that was really exciting for me. And seeing it come to life,
Olly Benson: [00:03:39] I was going to say I really remember when you first introduced her and you said ‘this person, you’ve just got to meet them’ and you were so enthusiastic about it. And I was like, ‘OK, if Zarah is this enthusiastic, they must be pretty good.’
Leigh Kendall: [00:03:52] Now, I remember that too. Yeah. Yeah.
Kerry McGinty: [00:03:54] She just radiates, she’s a woman on a mission and it’s so inspiring. And to use a bit of a weird analogy, you know in Peter Pan, if Tinkerbelle rubs off any of the pixie dust and everyone goes flying: it’s that kind of energy, isn’t it? Where actually her enthusiasm for change and adds a bit of sparkle to all of us. So it’s been really amazing having her on board with School for Change Agents 202`. And also people like Moe. For me, I found Mo’s story just completely inspiring. And I think the way she tells her story of her own change, it’s a kind of stop-still moment like everyone get ready: It’s story time with MO. I like that a kind of calm comes over you and you’re completely transfixed with what she’s got to say and the fact that she is now in maternity voices partnership only because of her own experience. And instead of many of us would you be like, ‘oh, I had a bit of a rubbish time, but, you know, these things happen’ she just decided, ‘actually, I want better for me. I want better for my daughter in the future and anyone around me’. We’re only one week in and the comments are popping off and really her passion is showing through. So for me, that’s been quite a standout moment as well. And it’s just these amazing normal people that we’ve got on School, completely just giving us that magic and creating energy.
Olly Benson: [00:05:39] And I think the behind-the-scenes stuff was just booking Mo, in terms of getting a recording with her, because the reality is she’s she’s a mom with a young child. And I remember the first time we spoke to her, she was just literally having to hold a baby and feed the baby at the same time.
Kerry McGinty: [00:05:59] Yes, it was multitasking at its best.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:06:09] Reality for everyone right now. Like in the in the past year, we had that. Actually, it’s such a good thing of the the craziness that we’ve had to kind of get used to this year.
Kerry McGinty: [00:06:18] I totally, totally agree.
Olly Benson: [00:06:21] It’s good. Andit keeps it real. I think my standout for for week one is is probably slightly different. I really like Benash and Mo’s stories, but for me it’s always the new Power page. And I was thinking back pre-COVID when we were allowed out; one of my favourite things was doing that presentation and just watching people-the eyes coming back from you-if you are presenting a session or whatever, where you suddenly see the penny drop. We’ve worked with Jeremy and Henry since about 2014, and if you read the New Power book Horizons and Helen Bevan feature in it, as one of the case studies. And I think what’s really nice is it’s such a clear example of something where when you present you give people a framework that they suddenly understand their world in a completely different way. Nothing’s actually changed, but you’ve just said here is a way to think about it. And suddenly you see people going, ‘Right, I get this now and I can now see why things happen in a certain way and what I can then do as a result of it’.
Kerry McGinty: [00:07:40] And I think it has been such a lightbulb moment for me as a newbie. Sometimes these kind of things can be a bit daunting, as I have not got that book on a bookshelf—it’s mainly Harry Potter—but then this is the whole purpose of these kind of courses. It is expanding your mind and so many people in the comments it’s a lightbulb moment for them. And of course, we’ve been sharing some fantastic stuff on social media and especially with the Old Power, New Power. And so many people have been responding to that in particular, haven’t they?
Leigh Kendall: [00:08:12] They really have. I think the New Power Old Power graphic and the sense of that is a real seminal moment for people. That the lightbulb goes over their head and they realise that there are different types of power. And I think it connects with the bit that always stands out to me from session one, which is change starts with me; that you don’t need to be in a position of positional power. So you don’t need to be the CEO. You don’t need to be the head of a big programme with a huge budget in order to make change happen. And it’s a beautiful thing to see people’s pennies drop and have that lightbulb moment. That’s just like Mo and Benash exemplify it in their stories and their own personal experiences. Anybody can make change happen. So you can do that by making a patient’s experience a little bit better. By being kind, compassionate, you can make a colleagues experience be better, can be by being kind and compassionate and just like Mo did. She saw that other mums in a position similar position to her: it doesn’t need to be like that. So you can make a difference by using your own experience to help make a difference for other people. And also connects to another point in session, one which is about public narratives and telling your story. That’s how you bring other people together. And to make change happen, you explain your story, explain why it matters to you so much, calling from the heart, calling other people to work with you. And that’s explained beautifully in Session One.
Kerry McGinty: [00:10:17] I’ve kind of like got transformed there Leigh. You gave an impassioned speech – you can tell you’ve been on School. I’m still working my way through it and just dropping these bombs. And again, we talk about penny dropping light bulb moments. That’s kind of it, really. And, you know, going at your own pace and just enjoying the course and the learning is for what they are. But we’ve had some fantastic feedback so far, which is always nice to have. There’s been some amazing comments. One of the ones that I picked up on FutureLearn was just saying how amazing it’s been to to see so many marginalised voices up there in the conversation making positive change. And I think that’s a really important point. You’re more likely to do something if someone that’s like you or your friends, you get that advice from them instead of seeing a load of high-wigs telling you all this is what you should be doing. Here’s a bunch of normal people with some amazing insights and teachings that we can all learn from together. So I really loved that comment as anyone else. Any standout comment so far?
Olly Benson: [00:11:48] I was just going pick up on that because back again, I think it was January 2020, we had a two-day planning session for School and I really remember discussing how we want to be intentionally making sure that we’re bringing the people that people haven’t heard before. Different voices. When you kind of look through the list of people you can quote from and they all end up being a white man, that doesn’t excite me. And I’m a getting-older, white, male. So I think it’s about wanting to go out and find those exciting, different, different voices.
Kerry McGinty: [00:12:35] And just for it to be relatable of real life, your everyday people that you work with, that you were around with. That’s been really inspiring.
Leigh Kendall: [00:12:49] There’s been some fantastic comments on FutureLearn in relation to that. People are seeing these very real people. Again, they’re not the the old white men; they’re not the people in positional or hierarchical power. They are people like you and me who’ve made a big difference. And you can see again, people say, wow, I can do that. And I’m saying it’s the smallest things that they can make the biggest difference. So that’s really transformational for people. And it’s a lovely thing to see.
Olly Benson: [00:13:19] One of the things I really like on the comments, and I do try and read as many comments as possible – it’s one of the things that is a guilty pleasure. I think it’s really, really nice to working on something where you get so much feedback. But the comments I’ve been really enjoying this year, which I’ve never seen before, is a discussion going on about whether New Power Old Power is the right terminology to be using. And I think that’s such a fascinating, if slightly meta discussion: challenging the very notion of using the terminology that we use. So we probably have to invite Jeremy and Henry to respond to that. But I think part of that when it came out, and the book was published three years ago, it was new. And almost now, particularly with the pandemic, the idea of new power is not so new. And what we see with Black Lives Matter and even this week with Europe Super League; the response to that is quite a New Power response.
Leigh Kendall: [00:14:30] Absolutely.
Olly Benson: [00:14:31] So maybe it’s not so “New” Power. I don’t know.
Kerry McGinty: [00:14:34] I just love the fact that people are having them discussions, like you said, because now I’m like, quick, let’s private message them ‘Are you free for School for Change Agents 2022? Because these are the people that are already – they’re in the future; we’re like “We’re still on this course, guys”. Zarah – is there any one standout comments?
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:14:54] To add to what Olly was just saying now. I think one of the best things about School for me is that community aspect and the fact that we can all discuss this, but there isn’t a ‘right’ answer here as such. We’re here to discuss, we’re here as a community, we all have ultimately very similar goals, and that’s to make health and care the best that it can be for patients, for staff and for everyone: every service user, right? So I think that’s the special thing about it. We’re all here with the same kind of purpose. And this gives us the space to just discuss the as a community, support each other and see the real connections that are being made, whether that’s on Twitter or FutureLearn or Facebook, whatever the social media platform is: it’s real connections with real people doing the work on the ground.
Kerry McGinty: [00:15:41] I’ve seen even a few people that are like, “Oh, I didn’t know you were on this course too” – probably in bordering offices or like you neighbour down the road. Why is it always more exciting to see people somewhere where you wouldn’t normally be? It’s like if you see someone in a different city. So we’re on the same course, how can this be? It’s really nice seeing them kind of moments as well. And, I think with the course, hopefully for everyone, only going to get better. There’s so much learning, there’s so much more discussion to be had, and actually sparking more conversations as you made that point, Olly: Right, we want people to challenge and question the things we’ve got in School, because that’s the whole point. If there’s stuff that we can change and improve, that’s the whole point: we’re the change agents so, let’s get to it kind of thing.
Leigh Kendall: [00:16:33] That’s true, I think, because we don’t have all the answers. It’s not like one of those courses where there’s a test at the end and you’re either right or you’re wrong. It’s very much reflective and about having discussions and having those constructive arguments almost, about is this the right term to use? People reflecting on their own experiences as well and thinking about how they put those learnings into action. And of course it’s all adaptable to everyone’s own individual experiences.
Kerry McGinty: [00:17:07] Definitely. And, just as we’re kind of rounding up now on our little behind-the-scenes first Change Agents Assembled podcast, I think it’s been such an amazing first week, especially, this is my first year, so this excitement and buzz. But I can see from Leigh, Olly and Zarah, you’re all still absolutely buzzing. It’s like all the pubs are open or something! But it’s been really fantastic. And the conversation doesn’t have to stay on FutureLearn. If you’re interested in finding out a little bit more about what Horizons does or you want to keep these conversations going, then follow us on Twitter @HorizonsNHS. And obviously, if you want to follow the School for Change with more like-minded people @Sch4Change. Give us a follow. Let’s keep the chats going. If you’ve got anything you want us to discuss next week or on any podcast, then please do do let us know.
Leigh Kendall: [00:18:17] No, I agree with that, Kerry. It is one of my most joyful things every day at the moment. You look at the comments on FutureLearn and also on Facebook and on Twitter as well, seeing what people’s reflections are, how much they’re enjoying things. So, yeah, please keep them coming. Please keep me busy, doing all of those replies to people.
Olly Benson: [00:18:35] I agree with that. I always say is if you enjoying school, then think about all the people who could be enjoying School and make sure you invite them. My favourite stat is we had 4,000 people in School in 2019, which sounds a nice number, but it’s still 400 years to get around the whole of the NHS. We want as many people to experience school and just have that experience of thinking differently about something. Definitely make sure other people know about it if you’re enjoying it.
Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:19:09] Yeah. And speak to us. Carry on sending in your comments. We love hearing it. And we’re a friendly bunch. Send things in, we love hearing it whether it’s about the course or a new idea that you might have.
Kerry McGinty: [00:19:22] Fantastic. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for being involved in School. And I know I’ve signed my mum up to School, Nurse Debs in Cov, so I’ll be checking her progress, makiAllng sure she’s completing it. And thank you so much. And we will speak to you again soon. Thanks.
All: [00:19:44] Bye bye. Bye.