Which City?

Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Open Channel Newsletter

If you missed The Open Channel's new format Newsletter last weekend, I've reproduced it here. We would really like to have your feedback on the issues that are challenging you at the moment; if you think we can help, do get in touch.


We are delighted to welcome you to the latest edition of The Open Channel Newsletter. 

The Open Channel was created from the germ of an idea in February 2011. Since then we have launched our website, set up our regular blogs and social media links and delivered services to clients. 

This newsletter brings you quality content on a regular basis. Do contact us to find out how we can assist you to manage your change challenges. 

Find Out More 

If you are a public body, private service provider, voluntary and community delivery organisation or social enterprise, you will find the services we offer just right for your needs. 

Led by Janet Dean and Steve Loraine, two highly respected and experienced independent public service advisers, The Open Channel has a fresh and highly cost-effective approach to helping you lead and manage change. 

Our approach is based on the view that people and organisations are inherently strong and capable and that supporting strengths in times of change is a positive and more sustainable way to lead and manage.


We report on our Leadership Development Programme for Harborough District Council, where we used a mixture of coaching and facilitation techniques to develop the leadership capacity of the Council. 

Find out how we use Action Learning and Appreciative Inquiry with great success and how these approaches can benefit your organisation.

We also update you on our involvement in various new projects. 

Contact Us to Find Out More 


Initially invited to bid for a short intensive programme of support for the Senior Management Team, Janet Dean introduced The Open Channel to Harborough District Council in July 2011. Our involvement has lasted for a year during which the organisation has faced one of the most transformational periods in its history.

Our work has fallen into three phases:

An initial programme of support for a Senior Management Team facing change; we provided three themed workshops, three Action Learning Sets and telephone and Skype coaching for the Chief Executive and six senior colleagues.

In phase two we were commissioned to provide a programme for 30 senior employees including the Senior Management Team. 

Based on Harborough’s Leadership Competencies we delivered four one-day interactive workshops on Managing Change, Leadership, Working with Others and Communication and Strategic Focus.
Between the workshops we facilitated four Action Learning Sets linked to each of the themes, enabling participants to bring practical issues from the workshop to a shared problem solving arena.

Phase three, which uses Appreciative Inquiry to explore leadership themes is focused on the Council’s new Leadership team, which includes senior leadership posts shared with neighbouring local authorities.

This is what participants told us:

‘I felt it gave a common language and a platform from which to challenge (appropriately) others when behaviours could have been better’

‘The Action Learning Sets were the most positive outcome for me and I intend to continue to commit to them.’
‘It introduced me to new concepts with regards to leadership – and I found the appreciative inquiry element particularly interesting.’
‘I feel more confident in my leadership style and the impact I have on those around me.’
‘I found working with others especially useful and I feel now that I have a much better working relationship with colleagues and will be in better position to share issues and problems.’  



Training your people to support one another through Action Learning

Action Learning is a method for developing real-world solutions and the reflective practice skills of employees at all levels through the shared exploration of workplace challenges. It is particularly suitable for people who need support for the difficult leadership and managerial challenges they experience.

At a time when public services are changing rapidly and resources becoming ever scarcer, Action Learning is a cost-effective method for building the capacity and confidence of your key people.

We offer Action Learning on site or through webinar-style meetings. Sets work best with between four and eight people in the group. We not only facilitate the Action Learning; we also transfer skills to the participants enabling them to self-facilitate their sets in the future. In Harborough DC for example, we provided over 20 Action Learning sets through the year. 

Finding your Strength through Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a view of the world which enables organisations and communities to cooperatively explore what is working well, understand their strengths and address challenges based on the best of what is. It provides a balanced approach to change that does not over-concentrate on weakness or failure, as so many other frameworks and models can. 

Our clients tell us this approach really releases energy and enthusiasm through the appreciative conversations stakeholders have, capturing what works well, imagining their future, followed by creating shared goals. The actions focus on harnessing a community or organisation’s productive energy and aiming it at measureable and positive outcomes. Concrete actions, real results and sustainable change are several of the benefits of this approach.

We provided an introduction to AI for Harborough and then used it as an approach in the Workshops, Action Learning Sets and Executive Coaching. 

Elsewhere, Steve has introduced AI to and worked with clients to realise the benefits of AI in Fire and Rescue Services, city Councils, strategic partnerships, voluntary and community bodies and individuals. We will share the stories from these in future issues. 




The Open Channel co-founder Janet Dean has been appointed Chair of Compass UK with effect from the 1st September 2012. Compass UK is a charitable social enterprise which delivers almost £10m of services to families, young people and adults who want to become free of drug and alcohol dependency. Janet’s experience as a commissioner of health and social care, her wide public sector knowledge and extensive networks and her commitment to supporting people to live fulfilling lives will all help Janet in her new role.


You can keep up to the minute with The Open Channel through our blogs and Twitter feeds. We engage with our clients and stakeholders at @janetdean and @steveloraine and via Linked-in.
Check out the links in this newsletter, visit our blogs or add us to your favourites lists via

Friday, 14 September 2012

What's Another Year? A personal and professional look back

I'm always full of ideas; there's plenty I want to talk about. I know I keep putting it off, never making the time to sit down and write. But today I have been shocked to see that it is more than a year since my last post on this blog. I feel like I am emerging from a long - not all dark - tunnel. What has happened in the past year?

September 2011, I know, was busy - a Leadership Development Programme for Harborough District Council for The Open Channel was just gearing up, as was an exciting new project for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called Dementia Without Walls

In October, I moved across from the Board of Yorkshire and Humber Strategic Health Authority to support North Yorkshire and York PCT as Associate Non-Executive Director in its final 18 months as NHS Reforms began to be implemented. I started another project with Innovations in Dementia looking at Dementia Friendly Communities which was part of the LGA Ageing Well Programme Sheffield Council began the consultation with tenants to decide the future of Sheffield Homes, where I chaired the Board.

In November our daughter was looking intensively universities and we visited Liverpool, Newcastle, London (LSE and Goldsmiths) and Hull to understand their Psychology and Sociology courses and what else they had to offer. The hard decisions about fee levels had already been made, and at Sheffield Hallam University I had just started my term as Deputy Chair when we decided on £8500, just below the £9000 threshold.

In the run up to Christmas, I was busy with all this - some extremely creative and stimulating work, some difficult challenges. Family concerns were uppermost - we hoped our son would get through his degree without further illness, and I heard just before Christmas that my brother's health was deteriorating.

As it happened, in January he was in intensive care fighting pneumonia, a serious alcoholic with advanced cirhossis. I got to know Palma de Mallorca well over the next few months, visiting him in hosptial and a nursing home. I tried to see that experience in such a lovely city as a gift from him, rather than a burden. Charlotte applied to Liverpool, first and second choices.

February, March and April were dominated by my brother and there was mutual support from colleagues experiencing family tragedy whilst trying to work professionally. In particular my friend and colleague Janet Crampton's husband died sooner than expected after his diagnosis of lung cancer, prompting some deep reflection and a bit of crisis management. Sheffield tenants voted to get rid of the ALMO and go back in house, or as some said 'stay with the Council'

We went to Paris for my birthday in early March as we always do, but this time with friends - more joyful but also a bit more stressful! At Easter we rented a flat in Palma's Arab Quarter behind the cathedral and combined visits to my brother with trips to Valdemossa and Soller. Our son and daughter joined us for the Easter weekend and the spectacular if lurid parades.

In early May, whilst birdwatching at Spurn Head, my brother checked out of his nursing home and flew home. Later that month he moved to York. He is chronically ill, but active, cheerful, grateful, which is wonderful. Having survived earlier resits and panics, both our children faced final university and school exams in May. It was a stressful time, but they did it and I was proud of their effort regardless of outcome. At the end of May Dementia without Walls reached a climax with a Sounding Board event in York where our stakeholders gave their robust response to our findings

In June I spent a lot of time finishing fieldwork and writing up, helping my brother to settle in, and supporting our daughter through A levels. The financial position of the PCT was in sharp and public focus, the university's future was less clear at that point, but the waters everywhere were choppy. The Olympic flame started to move around the country, and the rain which followed it tolerated.

By July the LGA work was complete, the Dementia Without Walls report written and The Open Channel was reflecting on the success of Harborough and taking stock for the coming year. Charlotte went off with a friend for a month in Thailand and Tom secured a prestigious JRF paid internship. I was really pleased to have been offered the role of Chair of Compass UK which provides support to help people become free of problems with drugs and alcohol. Based in York, the charity works in London, the Midlands and the North and has a great range of services for young people, adults and families.

We enjoyed the Olympics from the cycling road race to Ellie Simmonds - we had tickets for the Olympic Stadium won in the ballot in 2011 when I used to write a blog. So much has happened in this year, both personal and professional. It's been great to work with brilliant colleagues and friends and to make some new connections - The Velresco Boys (yes we do call you that, you are so young!), Richard Bryan and QA Research and LinkedIn Regeneration Leaders' Group, to which I was introduced by David Marlow of Third Life Economics

It's September again, not a new year, but a new 'term' for many. Charlotte is going to Liverpool tomorrow, Tom two weeks into his internship. I've got a new piece of work with the Jo Webb of Webb Enables, which is a great re-connection, the prospect of some coaching and some facilitation through other networks, and a new Board appointment which I hope to announce soon.

Yet these are hard times for so many people, I see that everywhere, shops are empty again, people live on the streets, welfare reform is looming. This week I have been sad and angry this week about the Liverpool 96 - a blight on our generation. Over this past year I have often felt concerned for my own and my families future, and will continue to do so. But having looked back, I am going to try to be positive and optimistic about the next 12 months. I hope it won't be that long before I blog again.