All posts by Thrive Admin Team

Rob Green Talks Progress School

Rob Green from the NHS Leadership Academy shares his thoughts and experiences of Progress School, and how it helped him to convert a van into a camper van, become a drummer and get a promotion at work!

If you are interested in attending Progress School you can book here

If you are interested in commissioning Progress School for your community or organisation please get in touch using the contact form below.

Miska Lesayova talks Progress School

Miska is newcomer to Progress School, coming to her first one in Autumn 2019.  Here she talks about her experience of it.

If you would like to know more about Progress School or commission it for you organisation or community please get in touch using the contact form below.

Penny Andrews talks Progress School

Penny came to Progress School 5 or 6 times several years ago.  She talks about how Progress School helped her to find a way forward when the route wasn’t clear and how she still uses what she learned from Progress School today.

Penny is now a writer, performer and journalist.

For Progress School dates in Leeds – click here.

If you would like to know more about attending Progress School or commissioning Progress School for your organisation of community please use the for, below to get in touch.

Nick Morgan talks Progress School

Nick Morgan has been coming to Progress School in Leeds for almost a decade.  In this video he talks about what Progress School is for him and how it has helped.

For Progress School dates in Leeds – click here.

If you would like to know more about attending Progress School or commissioning Progress School for your organisation of community please use the for, below to get in touch.


Progress School! Get booked on!

So you want to come to Progress School?

Here are the upcoming dates – just click to go to the booking page for the relevant dates that you want to book…

January 20th – Swarthmore Centre, Leeds

Swarthmore Education Centre is a friendly learning Education Centre situated in the heart of Leeds offering a range of courses to suit your learning needs.

February 23rd – Hyde Park Book Club, Leeds

Hyde Park Book Club is a cafe, bar, record label, plant shop and gig venue…

March 24th – Playlab Leeds

Playlab Leeds is a wonderful hub for all things play in the heart of Leeds

More dates to be added soon…

Sparks in York 2019

Friday 13th December – SPARK, York

So it was the morning after polling day that we got to host our second Thrive Together Event in York.

No doubt for many of the folk it was a morning full of hope and possibility.  For others of fear and sorrow.

But we all gathered together to meet people with passion, responsibility and sometimes both to talk more about what might effectively transform our experiences of health and care in York.

A group people from a range of backgrounds, and all over the north of England, came together to take part in the ‘Open Space’ afternoon to explore how technology might be used to transform health and care.

We held a total of 8 conversations over the afternoon.  These are listed below and each is accompanied by a short write up and some graphics too.  Just click the links on the ones that interest you.  And please do join the conversation by using the comments to add your experiences and insights or to ask questions.

Once again, it was a pleasure to see people smiling, connecting with new people and generally enjoying the work despite the divisive circumstances of the election.

Here are the conversations…

    1. Rebecca Carr, Kaizen Arts Agency:  Does Community Led Housing Work?
    2. Jake Freeman, Secret Helpers of York: Mental health and everyday life: getting past the stats
    3. Griselda Goldsborough, York Teaching Hospital: How can we use VR in health and care settings?
    4. Chris Bailey, Guild of Media Arts: How can we use public space to enhance human rights?
    5. Mike Richardson, City of York Council: Humanising health and social care 
    6. Nicholas Dugdale, Hapnin: What does social health look like? 
    7. Ian Smithies, City of York Council: Smart tech: what are your experiences and expectations? 
    8. Laura Howard, Artist: Can we use healthcare images to empower and educate patients?

We’d love to know what you’ve learned, reflected on, what you feel you want to continue talking about. If you’d like to write a post for the blog, share your notes or help us connect with other people who might like to join the conversations please do let us know through the comments here…

If we can connect people with passion and responsibility around some of these conversations perhaps we can start to make a change…

Why Conversations to Transform Health and Care?

I was Head of Applied Leadership at the NHS Leadership Academy for three years and was asked to sit on the ‘Building a Digital Ready Workforce’ National Steering Group.  This led to me thinking about what we needed to do to help the boards of NHS organisations in particular to lead the transformation of Health and Care Services making the most of ‘digital’ – whatever that meant.

After much thinking I started to believe that it didn’t really matter what we did to develop boards; workshops, bootcamps, maturity matrices or conferences about AI and genomics. Until we changed how they saw their world and tasted different ways in which they might be able to lead in it, they were unlikely to make substantial changes in their strategy.  They might drop a few tens of millions on a new patient record system – but would that really transform? Would that allow new patterns of power and relationship to emerge? Or would it just take some kinks out of the current system?

For me it felt like doing ‘the wrong thing better’.

But what was the right thing?  The thing that might ‘develop’ the system?

Conversations to Transform Health and Care

The thing that went against the habit of Board rooms, Board tables, agendas, PIDs, rag ratings and budgetary decisions?

Against hierarchical expressions of power delivered through plans and Gantt charts and (not so carefully) managed variances?

Well for those of us that have worked a lot in civic society, in community development, the place to look for some clues was clear.  Self organisation. Emergence. Transparency. Relationships, Inclusion, Diversity and Trust.

Work in the spirit of pioneers like Harrison Owen, Peter Vaill, John McKnight, Peter Block and others.  It was about leading with communities not over them or for them.

Connecting small groups of people with the passion, responsibility and power to make change happen locally and to invite the formal power structure to sit with them and listen. To be influenced and to influence. but mainly to encourage and support.  To ‘unleash’ the power of these small groups that care to do their work.

And so we started, with the support of James Freed and Maeve Black at Health Education England and Ian Macintyre from the NHS Leadership Academy, on our project to use Conversations to Transform Health and Care.  To see if ‘Leadership as Convening’  might help to really transform Health and Care.

Open Space Events were planned for York, Hull and Scarborough to see if we could find the people who might really have the passion and the responsibility to transform health and care and whether we could help them to find their power….

Just follow the links to see a short film about what we did in each location and to explore what the people that can wanted to talk about.

What is Open Space?


The future of a community…

What determines the future of a community?

Whether it becomes a place where most of its members live happy and fulfilled lives or ones that are full of misery and fear?

Does it depend on the decisions made by planners and politicians in national and local government? On what we might call ‘the planners paradigm’ where architects, planners, policy makers and property developers shape the places in which we live.

Or, does it depend on which entrepreneurs decide to operate in the community? On whether ‘Big Business’ comes to town or not?  On whether we can encourage enough of the creative class to join our community?  On what we might call ‘the entrepreneurial paradigm’ where the presence of many vibrant and creative entrepreneurs (that special breed) provide employment, products and services for those of us somehow less gifted?  Who create the wealth and taxes that provide the rest of us with our livelihoods and public services.

Or does it depend on the extent to which everyone is supported to recognise their passions and develop their capability to act in ways that make things better for themselves, their families, their community and the planet as a whole?  On the extent to which people are valued by others in the community and able to use the resources of knowledge and experience available to them to make progress?  What we might call ‘the capability paradigm’.

Of course all of these things have an impact.  If the planners provide poor infrastructure, or if big business hoovers up money from the community and filters it back to distant shareholders then it may be more difficult to develop a sustainable and vibrant community. But not impossible.

I believe that communities which learn how to respond to and support individuals and groups within their ranks who are seeking to make progress; who learn how to access, channel and develop capabilities and potentials will steadily become both more cohesive and harmonious.

I believe that ‘the capability paradigm’ holds the most effective key to building great communities.  Communities that embrace it, and learn to master it, will be reported by those living in them as good places to be.  They will start to become wealthier and healthier than their more fragmented, less connected counterparts.

But most importantly they will become more fulfilling places to live.

Paradigm Shifting and Thriving together

Paradigms are tricky things, sometimes almost invisible, certainly not often directly observable. But they are well worth thinking about, and learning to work with for those who want to try to improve things a bit.
If we can recognise our paradigm and change it a bit, then all sorts of new possibilities can emerge.
They are a bit like ‘the system’ that we live in. The system of widely accepted and normalised beliefs, methods, values, customs and practices that we usually just take for granted.
And just like fish don’t recognise that water exists, until that moment they are removed from it, most of us don’t recognise the paradigm that we live in. It is an almost invisible context or medium that we operate in.
Paradigms matter because they give us a context and ways of working, but they also bring with them limitations. They rule certain things out, or at least relegate them to the ‘unusual’.

The Horse Paradigm

For a long time the main paradigm that shaped transport policy, planning and practice was the paradigm of the horse. Horses were the most cost effective way of providing power to our transport systems. The paradigm was so powerful that at one time it was thought that the limits to growth of major cities was the capacity to remove horse shit, urine and carcasses from the streets. By the late 1800s most major cities were drowning in horse manure and urine. With more than 50 000 horses on London’s streets each producing 7-16kg of manure and a litre or more of urine it wasn’t just the smell and the mess that was the problem, but also the flies. But this is what ended the horse as the dominant paradigm. But it didn’t start that way. To begin with only the rich could afford to travel by horse. The rest of us had to walk. The horse was not the dominant paradigm to begin with. It was walking.

And this tells us something about paradigms that seems generalisable. They first appear in our world as a minority activity that gains in popularity before fading away. Sometimes this happens in the course of a few years and sometimes it take decades or even centuries.

Back to the horse paradigm.

Most of the experts of the late 1800s were seriously consumed by the challenges of the waste products of the horse paradigm and how to remove them from our cities – preferably without using more horses! Most were really not focussed on alternatives to the horse which all appeared outlandish, dangerous and rife with problems of their own. When the first steam engines were being turned into locomotives hardly anyone thought they were going to be the next big thing in transport. Canals were seen to be much more viable propositions than railways. When Henry Ford was messing about with the first motor car his customer research didn’t go well. People didn’t want his dirty, expensive, unreliable cars, they wanted ‘faster horses’.
And this tells us something else about paradigms that seems to be generalisable.

The clues to the paradigms of the future are to be found co-existing alongside the current dominant paradigm. Often ridiculed or feared, as the dominant paradigm outlives it usefulness or creates more problems than it solves, they gradually become more popular until perhaps they become the dominant paradigm.

And as one paradigm declines to be replaced by another there can be conflict. The dominant transport paradigm in most of our cities at the moment is of course the motor car, still largely petrol driven, already taking up too much space for our road system and still getting bigger, using a ton of metal and plastic to transport usually one <100kg passenger, killing and maiming people every day at a disconcerting rate and endangering our very existence through pollution and climate change while spending most of the time parked up consuming valuable land space.

Contenders for an emerging paradigm?

More but different cars, clean power systems, driverless cars and shared car fleets? Or public mass transit systems? Or bicycles, scooters and e-bikes? But we can be sure that the current dominant paradigm of the car won’t go without a fight. Often literally. And it will probably take a very long time to go completely. I mean we still love our horses.

Why does this stuff matter? Why should you think about it?

I suppose to some extent this depends on how you characterise the current dominant paradigm and whether you want to see it develop and grow, or whether you want to see it replaced by a new paradigm.
If you think that the current dominant paradigm is working well and has room to create more value then your focus should be on resourcing and supporting this work and perhaps ensuring that you don’t invest in emerging paradigms that might threaten this one. I mean if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
If on the other hand you think that current paradigm has become toxic, creating more problems than it solves then you might choose to invest your energy in supporting emerging paradigms and potentially undermining the dominant one, or at least trying to limit its growth.
Unless you think carefully about this stuff you may find that, while you would love to see a new and different paradigm emerge, you have been effectively captured by the current dominant paradigm and compelled to work in ways that support it, either directly, or by earning a living clearing up the mess that it makes. Our cities used to be full of people whose job it was to carry away the shit and the dead horses so that the dominant paradigm of the horse could continue unaffected. These days perhaps our cities are full of people clearing up the mess created by our own dominant paradigm; global warming, homelessness, mental health crises, plastics, crime…

Paradigm Shifting…

So can we shift a paradigm? Can we consciously act to accelerate the demise of one paradigm and the emergence of the next? Can we manage a transition from one paradigm to the next without a full blown crisis. And if a crisis does hit, is the new paradigm waiting in the wings, oven ready, to step up? Or do we have no alternative but to put the defibrillator on the old paradigm and spark it back into life? Like the banking crisis in 2008 for example.
Some people might focus their energy on bringing about the demise of the dominant paradigm while others fight to maintain and develop it. Some might focus on developing ideas and technologies that might lead to possible new paradigms while other innovate strictly within the dominant paradigm, reinforcing it further still. And often these players all co-exist side by side in the same place, at the same time. And learning how to work together to ensure that the dominant paradigm creates as much value as it can, while allowing new and perhaps better paradigms to emerge seems like a worthwhile leadership challenge. And at the heart of it is

  • paradigm awareness,
  • the effective management of power and resource imbalances and
  • the building of trusting relationships between those that could otherwise easily come in to conflict.

I work in a wide range of settings, from cultural education partnerships, local authorities, the NHS, the private and third sectors. In every setting I have found that an exploration of new and emerging paradigms and the implications this has for leadership, decision-making and partnership working has had profound and very practical implications. If you would like to explore whether some considerations of paradigm shifts might be helpful to you and your work please do get in touch.

Conversations to Transform Health and Care in Hull

Our third set of conversations to Transform Health and Care took place in Hull.  It was quite an emotional experience for me to go back to the Thornton Estate, home of the Goodwin Development Trust where I did quite a bit of work many years back!

People from a range of backgrounds, and from across the city, came together to take part in an ‘Open Space’ afternoon to explore how digital might be used to transform health and care.

We held a total of seven conversations over the afternoon.  These are listed below and each is accompanied by a short write up and some graphics too.  Just click the links on the ones that interest you.  And please do join the conversation by using the comments to add your experiences and insights or to ask questions.

It was such a pleasure to see people smiling, connecting with new people  and generally enjoying the work!   Hull has a population of about 285 000, so it is not a big city, and yet people working in the same field in the same town met each other for the first time.

Here are some notes from the conversations we held in Hull and some of the images that Tom drew to go with them…

    1. Who is Not in the Room? – a conversation about inclusion
    2. Shared Language – on all levels
    3. Technology, Productivity and Workforce
    4. Technology and Smart Cities
    5. Social Prescribing
    6. What do we do if the Connectivity isn’t There?
    7. Linking Up Services to Support People’s Needs

We’d love to know what you’ve learned, reflected on, what you feel you want to continue talking about. If you’d like to write a post for the blog, share your notes or help us connect with other people who might like to join the conversations please do let us know through the comments here…

Conversations to Transform Health and Care

To see what we talked about when we visited York… click here

For Scarborough…click here