Making a difference, one small change at a time

17 October 2019

Dr Dawn Langley introduces Small Change® - our CPD programme for the cultural sector designed to help you explore change and transition and how it impacts on your work

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I feel like I have permission and am ‘emboldened’ to make change. What was most useful was learning from peers and their real-life experiences.

- Small Change Participant

We all want to make a difference with the work we do, but in an increasingly complex and fast-changing world, this can feel challenging and overwhelming. Talking to people working in the creative sector it is very common for me to hear teams and individuals talk about not having enough time, making last-minute decisions, and being expected to deliver more for less. This can prompt us to be increasingly resourceful and creative, but it can also feel stressful, and like we are unable to work to our strengths. The Small Change programme was created to address these challenges in as simple and practical a way as possible. Its aims are to:

  • Help participants navigate a busy world
  • Explore different ways of handling uncertainty
  • Take a practical approach to help participants make a difference

Previous participants have told us they wanted to do the Small Change programme to:

  • Understand and support their organisational changes
  • Learn more about change and build their change toolkit
  • Help with career change or development
  • Have more impact in their work
  • Focus on small areas of development that could have a bigger impact
  • Gain peer support and make new connections

The Small Change sessions follow an action-learning format where we make public commitments about the changes we want to make and are then supported by each other to make them happen. We start with the big change that participants are intending to make and then work on chunking that down into small achievable steps. We are so used to feeling we haven’t achieved what we want – we can’t control our inbox, we are constantly interrupted, we never get as much done in a day as we think we should - but Small Change aims to turn this on its head and show us what can be achieved, and remind us how good it feels to succeed.

I think people are often surprised about just how small I suggest their first small change commitment should be, but given that we meet every two weeks as a group, and we know how life intervenes, it is really important to keep the steps manageable. By taking these small steps we can see it is possible to make a difference and that small change can have a big impact. If you need an example just look at the work of Greta Thunberg, Selina Juul and the NHS end Pyjama Paralysis campaign. In the cultural sector, look no further than Ballet Black and their introduction of appropriately skin-toned ballet shoes.

My small change was to give focus to one project only (at a time when I was juggling many), for one day. I made no commitment beyond this. I didn’t expect to find solutions… by lunch time of the next day, I was able to overhaul the project delivery model. This revision in thinking and telling of the story to others then created an opportunity to speak to funders in new and exciting ways… we had our first successful funding application within two weeks!

- Jodi-Alissa Bickerton, Creative Learning Director, Graeae Theatre Company

Small Change is now in its third year and we have seen some fifty people focus on the changes that are important to them. Participants have found the simple approach has helped them have more agency in both their work and personal lives. It has also had wider benefits for their teams and organisations.

It was useful feeling like I had permission to spend time on myself - and realising that this was useful for my organisation. So were the toolkits that were shared about improving working practice and the tips from the group.

- Small Change participant
This programme has changed more than any other CPD I’ve done. It’s made me take charge of the things I’m finding difficult and I even use the Small Change method in my personal life.

- Small Change participant

Applications for this year's programme are now open, click here to find out more.


Small Change® is a registered trademark of Alchemy Research & Consultancy, who will be delivering the programme on behalf of A New Direction.