Agents Assemble #5 – The School for Change Agents Podcast

Posted by: NHS Horizons - Posted on:

Agents Assemble - 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 5 was released on Friday 21 May 2021. The contributors were Kerry McGinty, Zarah Mowhabuth, Leigh Kendall and Olly Benson. A full transcript is available below.

This transcript has been edited for clarity:

Agents Assemble – The S4CA Podcast Episode 5.mp3

Kerry McGinty: [00:00:07] Hello and welcome to Agents Assemble. In this podcast, we bring you the behind-the-scenes of the School for Change Agents, the online learning extravaganza brought to you by NHS Horizons and hosted by FutureLearn. I’m Kerry McGinty, I’m a project manager here at NHS Horizons. And with us are the agents that we have assembled for this podcast who brought us together and helped make School. So everyone, introduce yourselves.

Olly Benson: [00:00:35] Hello, I’m Olly. I am the Programme Lead and Production Lead for School for Change Agents, so I am responsible for making this whole thing happen.

Leigh Kendall: [00:00:44] Hi, I’m Leigh Kendall. I am the Programme Lead for social influence at Horizons and I am the person behind all of the social channels.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:00:51] Hi, I’m Zarah Mowhabuth, I’m a project manager in NHS Horizons team and I’ve been part of the team that brought you school this year.

Kerry McGinty: [00:00:57] And can you ruddy believe it, guys? Session five is upon us. This is our fifth podcast. It’s been so amazing, hasn’t it? There has been such a big response to all of the sessions. But this one in particular, as it’s our last one, there’s a there’s a lot of love on there and it’s been really amazing. So what’s everyone thought about it so far in this final session five?

Leigh Kendall: [00:01:21] It’s been incredible. It really has. I’ve seen people; their minds are blown by all of what they’ve learned, and some of the comments on Twitter and on FutureLearn, they’ve been reflecting how mindsets have changed. They’re learning new things, new approaches, which is just fantastic to see that people are really taking on-board the learning and thinking about how they’re going to apply it in a day-to-day life, which will help make health services better for patients and staff as well.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:01:47] And it’s very nice to kind of get to know our audience as well, because you see them on FutureLearn and then on Twitter and you really see what everyone’s been up to during School, but also what they do in their normal day life. And I think that’s been really special. I see quite a few people that I’ve spoken to on FutureLearn on Twitter or spoken to on Twitter on FutureLearn. It’s been so nice to see those communities kind of grow within our audience.

Olly Benson: [00:02:10] But also for me, it’s really nice. So obviously, if you use FutureLearn, you’ve probably been asked to fill in some sort of sentiment surveys. And if you’ve got to the end of the school, you’ll be asked to fill in a post-course questionnaire and we get to see the results of those. And it just really impresses me. Like the numbers, but then the quality of just the feedback of what people say on that. And I think that, as others have said, having worked on this to make it happen and then suddenly seeing what people are responding and saying it’s really positive.

Kerry McGinty: [00:02:46] This session, it was a bit complicated, wasn’t it? Well, not really, because it was making sense of complexity, which is actually such a much-needed topic to cover because it’s all very well and good having the theories and stuff like that, but making them work when things are so complicated and layered and there’s different structures. No one size fits all, as we’ve been learning over the past five weeks. And it just been incredible. And one of the standout things for me in the Making Sense of Complexity session was about system convening. I hadn’t really heard of it before, if I’m brutally honest, obviously I am the newbie to the School for Change Agents group. This is my first one. But I just loved the video about system convening. It was talking about Manchester’s first rapid cancer diagnostic centre. And what amazed me about it was, it wasn’t just the theory and practice – oh we gave it go and it was a load of people in suits looking like Mad Men in the 1950s, like, “Yeah, we’re going to give this a go”. You had a nurse, you had you frontline staff, you have the people higher up in the system, but everyone was contributing equally to try and make a system work for them, but in a realistic way with all of the barriers that they had. So that was my real standout moment, because it’s such a complex thing. And then to see an actual example of somebody that’s tackled how complex it can be and we’ve made it work. And that’s quite inspiring, really, isn’t it?

Olly Benson: [00:04:15] I did the editing on that video. So it’s a 40 minute conversation. And I think we put the whole conversation on YouTube if people are interested in watching it. But I think it’s so interesting because a bit like you, these were people who hadn’t heard of System Convening before. They had been introduced to this concept and really went with it. It’s testament to the idea of, not that one is better than the other, and I think Anard says actually we still needed those programme management techniques of governance, of auditing and all those elements. But the System Convening was the bit where you got to the relationships. That’s how you got the things happening, because you were making those connections, allowing people to work in the way that that worked for them.

Leigh Kendall: [00:04:54] So my favourite bit from session five is the ACE framework. It was an acronym: So the A is actionable, C is connected and E is extensible. It connects to what Olly and Kerry what you’re saying about the Systems Convening in Manchester. As so often in the NHS, we try and replicate pilot programmes across the country. And as the comments on FutureLearn reflect, it’s not just a matter of saying ‘we think you should do this’ and doing to; as School teaches us, it’s doing with and it’s taking people with you. And it’s using those things that we learned during School about personal narrative: not just calling to the head, but calling to the heart as well, and using your power to make a difference and using those social connections, building those networks, having the spectrum of allies and the weak ties, as well as the strong ties, to make change happen. It’s not just about we say you must do this, therefore it will work. It’s not as simple as that, because, of course, the NHS is very complex. There’s so many variables. Each demographic is different, each geography is different. So it’s about using all of those things that we learn in the School for Change Agents to make successful change happen in a way that’s relevant to the people it will directly affect. And it reminds me of the quote by Einstein that insanity is doing the same things again and again and expecting different results. So it’s reflecting the NHS is complex and you need to do different things in different ways each time.

Kerry McGinty: [00:06:14] Zarah what’s been your favourite bit from session five?

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:06:16] I think I’m going to steal Olly’s a little bit here and say that it was the iceberg image that I know Olly you made that floating GIF for it, which everyone loves on Twitter at the moment, which I do as well. But I think the reason why I picked that is because it’s something that we apply to our work in the team quite a lot. And what it is, is that below the waterline, it’s the feelings, the beliefs, understandings, unwritten rules that we look at. And it’s not only above the waterline, which is the strategy and the policies and things like that. And that’s very much how we work as a team. And I found that a lot of people resonate with that idea. But I really like the idea that we can see it in our daily work. And it kind of reminds you that this is what we’re aiming to do and we’re trying to make change through both of these sides, both above the iceberg and below the iceberg.

Kerry McGinty: [00:07:07] We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Sir Olly Benson of our team creating a moving GIF of that very image that you’re talking about, that kind of absolutely blew up on Twitter. It was absolutely incredible – a moving iceberg – and it’s just brilliant. So if you haven’t seen it, definitely go to our School for Change Agents Twitter page so that you can see Olly’s handiwork in action. He’s ever-so-good; up to all sorts in his laboratory.

Olly Benson: [00:07:35] I was just going to say for the record, that was done out-of-hours. No NHS time was wasted creating an animated GIF.

Kerry McGinty: [00:07:44] Hey, this brought our ideas to life it is all contirbuting to the learning Olly.

Olly Benson: [00:07:50] Jokes aside; I think it does show sometimes having a really simple visual can make a point that can be quite difficult to get across in words. So that was used as part of the stuff that Dr Anna Birney we made use of. I find that stuff really fascinating. Perhaps the behind-the-scenes thing was, so last Monday, he Monday before the Sunday when School goes live, we suddenly decided that we should probably include Anna’s work, Helen suggested it as a piece of content. And I set about reading the paper and then trying to work out how we would include it. So I tweeted Anna and said, was she up for an interview? So she did. We made the little video. And what you might not realise is she’s actually camping at the time and she’s going into her friend’s barn, and she sat in a barn which has decent enough Wi-Fi that she was able to do the interview. We recorded on Thursday, and it went live on Sunday. We talk sometimes about freshly picked content, well I don’t think you get much fresher than an interview recorded on a Thursday and live in the course on the Sunday.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:08:50] That’s amazing!

Kerry McGinty: [00:08:51] Hey, but it just proves the point: Change can happen anywhere. You could learn and do the course anywhere, like you could be in a field camping, bit of cow and field Wi-fi going on. Jobs a goodun.

Kerry McGinty: [00:09:03] I honestly can’t believe that we’re at session five already. But save your tears, everyone. It’s not over until I sing, or we sing. Of course, we’ve had our live sessions. So it’s like a Brucey-bonus to the FutureLearn learning experience. We’ve got the live session hosted by Helen Bevan and Kathyrn Perera, which kind of delve deeper into the School for Change Agents theories and learnings and topics. And we had our first one; it’s been absolutely amazing. That’s my first experience of the live session. Watching Helen in action, it was all systems go. It was just such a great learning experience. Loads of people came to watch. How did the first live session of 2021 go for everyone?

Leigh Kendall: [00:09:52] It was amazing. I mean I was doing the live tweeting on Twitter and there were – so I live tweet what’s going on during a session. So just in case people can’t come they can still get involved that way. And participants who were in the live session were tweeting as well. Then there was amazing feedback, which I really, really enjoyed. And there was one tweet which I really liked, which was about how anybody can make change happen. No-one is just whatever your job title happens to be.

Leigh Kendall: [00:10:19] And I really liked your quote that you added Kerry to that by Tolkin, which is that even the smallest person can change the course of the future. There’s a tweet by Lou Waters as well that reminded us that change is 20 percent technical, which is the skills that we tend to get taught about, the skills about this formal QI methodologies, which are absolutely really, really important. But what the School for CHange Agents teaches us, which is the agency, the qualities to make connections with people and the knowledge that we have the power to make a difference no matter who we are, that makes that the boom, makes it come alive and makes it really happen and stick.

Kerry McGinty: [00:10:54] Twitter was wild yesterday, in the best possible way. And you’ve reflected on some really good ones. I imagine you’ll still be going through them until the next School actually Leigh. The amount of tweets that were popping off. And Olly, you always can see a bit of a difference in the energy obviously we’re all on FutureLearn working together, we’re reacting to comments together. But what’s the difference for you between the FutureLearn and the Live Sessions?

Olly Benson: [00:11:25] School, for those of you who remember long ago started as a series of webinars. So I think that’s always in its history, there’s an element of doing stuff live. And we know that works for some people, but we also know that it’s not a great experience, particularly if you are working at a point-of-care where just being able to take an hour of your diary is quite difficult. As school grew, we looked to move to the FutureLearn format, and that works with a lot of people and it’s great, but I think they’re really complementary. Part of what school is about is bringing people together and allowing people to make networks and get people together. And I think that’s what the live session is really good at . It’s people seeing that other people are responding to this and sort of developing together and you just get that really nice energy. And I think that just brings a different kind of energy to it.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:12:13] So was on chatbox, I was seeing all of those live comments coming through during the live session. That was so fun to just read and see the energy. And a lot of our team were there, and you see a lot of people who are watching the live session were just commenting away and some of the comments that really stood out for me was Aasha, who remembered when the School launched in 2013. And I thought that that was incredible; this is someone who’s done School through so many different phases and seen so many different versions of School now, but is so committed to kind of being a change agent and still being there when we do live sessions, which was amazing. And we had Niven from Spain who joined us as well, which was really nice to see.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:12:51] Everyone was just sharing their ideas in there, and one of the ideas that stood out with from Jane, who said that instead of doing a to-do list, they do a ta-da list. So A ta-da list as all your achievements that you can cross off at the end of the day and everything you’ve achieved in that one day. Obviously, we can’t let go of our to-do lists, I think we all are quite obsessed with writing down what we need to do for the day. But actually having a ta-da list and celebrating everything you’ve done is so amazing and such a good idea. So I think after this podcast now I’m going to go to myself a ta-da list.

Leigh Kendall: [00:13:23] That’s a lovely idea.

Kerry McGinty: [00:13:24] And a chance to use all your stationary; and buy more pens, everyone. It was my first live session and it was really nice to see all the people, the names you recognise that commenting on FutureLearn popping up, like admitting them to the meeting, it was like, oh, I kind of know you, but then you realise you don’t know them because it’s just in the virtual world. But one of the real standout moments for me, I mean, Helen and Kathryn are just absolute pros. They go into zone of wizardry and magic when they’re speaking, that they take you all along for the ride. And I was like, oh, we’ve just started. And then it finished. And I was like, what? And we absorbed so much information.

Kerry McGinty: [00:14:05] I completely loved this quote that Helen puts up. And it’s an Ethiopian proverb about when spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion. And so people I saw on Twitter and just commenting in the box were just going wild for that one, because it’s such an amazing imagery. But that’s what we’re all trying to achieve and talking about the small changes that we can do, even though we don’t think that they are a massive change, actually, that proverb just really summed it up beautifully for what we all collectively are trying to achieve, which was absolutely amazing. And if you did miss that session, well, luckily we recorded it and it’s on the Horizons website. So there’s two more live sessions isn’t there Olly, coming up?

Olly Benson: [00:14:49] Yeah. So next Tuesday at 3pm UK time, I think we’re going to be talking about a lot of the stuff we talk about in the FutureLearn course, around power and movements and narrative. So you’ve done the live sessions before, you’ll know, it’s the area that Kathryn’s particularly interested in and brings her expertise to. So definitely worth checking out. And then the following Tuesday, again at 3 o’clock UK time, we’ve got our final session, which is on complexity and future of change agents and sort of what we cover in the final session on FutureLearn.

Kerry McGinty: [00:15:25] It’s kind of like that refresher. When you learn something, you feel really inspired and then you go into the live session actually sparked that memory of, “Oh, I just learned about this. Oh, yes, I agree with that point”. And it’s just a really nice space, and if you do want to find out more, all you need to do is go to, and then you’ll get all the information that you need for the live sessions and to watch any ones that you’ve missed.

Kerry McGinty: [00:15:52] We’re coming to the close, but I didn’t want to let this podcast end without us reflecting on some of the amazing comments that we’ve been referencing from the FutureLearn platform as some people are finishing the course for themselves. Obviously, once you click, go and you started, you’ve got eight weeks to complete it, so don’t panic. But some people are finishing now. So has anyone got some standout comments or anything that they thought was really nice that they’ve seen from people participating?

Leigh Kendall: [00:16:22] I’ve got one. It’s from session five, so simple rules of complex systems. There’s a fab sketchnote from the work that our very own Helen Bevan has created with her collaborator from Sweden, Goran Henriks, which is seven simple rules for leaders. That’s some really fab comments on FutureLearn about that. People saying they sort of do that anyway. But now we’ve got a name for it and know how important it is to do those things, to make change happen. And there’s one in particular from Cathy Swainland saying it reminds her that there are different paths to making a difference. So it connects back to what we were talking about earlier on, about there’s no one way to do things, it’s about flexing up and changing the way we do things for different settings.

Kerry McGinty: [00:17:05] I love that flexing up. It’s like the School for Change Agents gym – we’re so many things now. One of the comments I really liked and it’s actually quite simple, but it just made me feel a little bit warm and fuzzy, was a comment from Elizabeth and she said “It was really brilliant and just what I needed right now. Thank you”. And I think that’s so simple, but it resonates with so many people. It has been a weird, horrible, crazy year and a bit. And we’ve gone ahead with this because we all felt that this is very much needed. Just because things are going off kilter, doesn’t mean we can stop trying to improve things and make change. So I love at that comment from her: it was simple and to the point, the opposite of me.

Zarah Mowhabuth: [00:17:53] I had one from Georgina, who said, “I’ve taken so much away from School, thank you so many useful tips that I’ve been sharing with my team”, but also added “my inner chimp is back under control and I resolved to be more pirate as I work through some complex systems, challenge assumptions, maximise engagement and have a truly shared purpose. I absolutely love that summary of so many different parts of the different modules.

Kerry McGinty: [00:18:17] Look at all this growing and learning together, all the self-improvement thanks to school,

Olly Benson: [00:18:22] Even if you finished, just remember yesterday we had 85 new people join. So new people are still coming on to School. And if you’ve got to the end of School and you don’t know what to do next, one thing you can do is go back and particularly the sort of introduce yourself page, so Step 1.2 in the first week. Go and say hello to some of those people who are just joining. And similarly, if you know people who you think should be joining School, do invite them. They’ve still got another couple of weeks that it’s open for.

Kerry McGinty: [00:18:47] Yeah, basically what we’re asking is a Mexican wave of change throughout you and all of your friends across the world; learning about the School for Change Agents. And although we’re at session five, as we say, what live session is coming up. And in our podcast, we want to be introducing more people from our Horizons team and the people that contribute to the school over the next few weeks. So do stay tuned. Give us a listen. Give us a follow and subscribe.

Leigh Kendall: [00:19:14] Please do keep tweeting us. Our hashtag is #s4ca and our Twitter handle is @sch4change. And we’ve also got a Facebook group, so come and join us on there. It’s a private group, so it’s a safe space to talk about how you might want to put your learning into action, reflect on things, float some ideas and things like that as well. So a couple of people have done that already; they’ve got an idea and they had asked for some help about how they can put it into action. And I got the help, which is really lovely to see. So to use it for your learning and progression.

Kerry McGinty: [00:19:49] And thank you so much. And we will see you again next week. So ta-ra for now.

All [00:19:54] Bye.