Recent Work & Archive

We work in a variety of public and third sector organisations, networks and communities where social outcomes and social responsibility matter.

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Our action research approach offers a structure and facilitative process to support on-going learning throughout a change programme.  This might be about almost any social issue, organisational or community concern.  Here are some recent examples that encompass leadership development, caring conversations, appreciative action research and assets-focused work, as well as service evaluations and support for story sharing.

What Matters to You (WM2U) is a community-based systems change initiative working alongside families in two communities in Dundee and East Ayrshire. It focuses on shifting public resources to offer support earlier, thereby enabling children to flourish within their own families.  Funded by BBC Children in Need and the Hunter Foundation.

Research for Real is part of a Learning Partner consortium with Animate and Symmetric Scenarios.  The role of a learning partner is to help the people and organisations involved to be able to reflect on their work and build understanding about the process of place-based systems change.  The practice of ‘learning as we go’ is a fundamental part of the ambition of WM2U.  We are developing an intentional and systemic approach to embedded and experiential learning to enhance the immediate work, explore impact, and generate wider learning about investment in prevention and service redesign.  See the WM2U website for more information and links.


Early Action System Change – Learning Support for the National Lottery Community Fund Partnerships in Scotland

Working with Animate, we provide varied learning support include action learning sets, regular huddles, events and webinars.  Our aim is to foster a culture of collaborative learning with the eight partnerships, so that information sharing, innovation and problem solving are able to take place in a supportive safe environment. These briefings provide insight into the importance and challenges of foregrounding learning in systems change work.

Learning in New Territories, Thematic Briefing No 1

From Consultation to Conversation, Thematic Briefing No 2

Learning As We Go: Early Action System Change  Thematic Briefing No 3

Exploring Our Thinking About Generating and Using Evidence in System Change Thematic Briefing No 4

Finding Our Way Through Complexity Thematic Briefing No 5


Collective Leadership – Exploring new territories for evaluation

Drawing on action research, this paper recasts evaluation as ‘action inquiry’, an embedded evaluative learning practice that can help navigate complexity when enacting collective leadership.  Action inquiry can be helpful anywhere where success depends on the quality of relationships that can be developed.

Here’s a recent short video from One Thing At A Time Reading Circle session, May 2020


My Home Life and Learning and Innovating from Everyday Excellence (LIFE)

A UK-wide Leadership Support and Community Development Programme to promote quality of life for those living, dying, visiting and working in care homes. My Home Life Scotland

My Home Life continues to be an important part of our work and provides valuable experience of using appreciative inquiry and positive caring conversations as an approach to leadership development and whole system change.  Items of particular interest may include:

Putting the human into human rights with Belinda Dewar (UWS) and Fairfield Care Scotland, February 2020  As part of Life Changes Trust funded Rights Made Real we tested and refined the use of the Learning and Innovating from Everyday Excellence (LIFE) approach  Useful appreciative  method for anyone interested in how to move from stories to action.

Personal Outcomes A video in which Dr Cathy Sharp & Karen Barrie discuss Personal Outcomes at the National Care Home Research & Development forum meeting held at the University of the West of Scotland Hamilton Campus on 25th May 2017.

2016 Briefing Papers issued to mark 10 years of the My Home Life programme

What’s great about care homes in East Ayrshire?  A digital story

Validation reports from recent MHL cohorts, including care home managers, care at home, and health and social care professionals from the NHS and voluntary sector

Appreciative Inquiry in Mid North Coast Local Health District, NSW, Australia

Varied facilitation support and co-design activities including;

  • Design and facilitation of 2-day Future Forming Workshops, using stories and appreciative dialogue
  • Development, piloting and briefing guidance on Learning and Innovating from Everyday Excellence (LIFE) sessions
  • Co-facilitation of an Appreciative Inquiry Retreat

A poem about Caring Conversations


Making Recovery Real – What can we do with our stories?

A series of review reports for the Scottish Recovery Network that highlight how people with lived experience and those with professional skills can learn together to achieve the best possible wellbeing for people.  Co-production in action.