Education, Education and So Much More. What I’ve learnt from 2 Days of #behfest16


Here’s a rapid post to share a few of the things I’ve learnt from Days 1& 2 of #behfest16,the Behaviour Change Festival currently happening at Bangor University (details here).

Details for each day, and some of the resources can be found on Good Practice Wales here:

It is difficult to compress 2 days, but here are my 4 key learning points:

Evidence and Data Live Here. I know I shouldn’t be surprised by this but… in two days I’ve seen more data, graphs, error bars and ‘p values’ than I encounter in about six months. Proper statistical stuff that’s been generated through rigorous scientific methods.

The key point for me is that there is a goldmine of information sitting in Universities. I get the feeling that; whatever I could possible imagine as a challenge, or issue I need to get a better understanding of, there is likely to be someone who can help. They might not know the exact answer themselves, but they can certainly point me in the right direction. This leads onto my next point.

Experimentation. I’ve forgotten what it’s like to carry out proper experiments. Having an idea (or several ideas) about something that might work, and testing them to see if they do actually work (or not).

The work around the Gamification of the Behaviour Change Festival is a great example of this. There is theory and research about the approach, and it’s being tested here. What feels different is the ‘experimentation mindset’, where everything is about testing and learning.

I do wonder if we have lost this ‘experimentation mindset’ in the corporate world? Challenges often leap straight to ‘pilot projects’ that are in reality, just small-scale versions of the big project someone wants delivered. The testing of ideas, failing, evaluating, learning and moving on doesn’t always happen.

Schools are just like ‘Grown Up’ Organisations.  Monday night Professor George Sugai gave an excellent keynote lecture on the work he has been doing on School Wide Positive Behaviour programmes in the US and around the world. You can watch a video of his talk here, I very much recommend it.

This might be a bit controversial but, the challenges of creating positive behaviour with; individual students, in classrooms, in whole schools, across school districts and States felt a bit familiar. It sounded like many of the ‘transformation programmes’ and ‘culture change initiatives’ I’ve encountered over the years. The difference is that Professor Sugai was able to demonstrate that what he is doing has worked, he had plenty of evidence. By contrast, most of the ‘culture change’ initiatives I’ve seen…… anyway….. moving on quickly…..

The point I’m trying to get to is that if the approach to developing positive behaviour in schools works (a culture change?) could it work in organisations full of ‘grown ups’? It might be worth a look. To be frank, I’ve also met a few people in ‘grown up organisations’ who could do with re-learning some of the social skills taught in schools.

IMG_5186Integration Happens in Unexpected Places. I’m trying not to over use words like ‘inspiring’, but listening to Professor Judy Hutchings really was inspiring. Professor Hutchings talked about the KiVa work to reducing bullying in schools, which was developed in Finland and is being applied in Wales (link here). This is really important work that has a huge impact on individual students and their future prospects. No surprise, there was huge amounts of data and evidence to demonstrate it works.

One thing that really intrigued me was that Powys Local Health Board were delivering the KiVa programme with schools. This seemed a bit unusual, a health body delivering things in schools which traditionally look like the preserve of the educationalist. What’s going on?

The explanation is quite obvious when you think about it. Being subjected to bullying can have considerable negative effects on your emotional health, that can contribute to depression, anxiety and affect your ability to learn in school. Why wouldn’t a health body want to invest in something that helps to prevent some of those mental health issues, even if the delivery is happening in schools?

What does this mean for the Wellbeing of Future Generations in Wales? One additional thing I’ve been involved in over these 2 days is trying to draw out what might be useful for the implementation of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act in Wales. Linked to my 4 key learning points I hope this helps the group that are picking this up for the rest of the Festival, good luck.

  1. Data and Evidence Live Here. Bangor University (and others, I’m sure) have a goldmine of knowledge, data and evidence that can help. They also seem to be very happy to share it.
  2. Experimentation Mindsets. Lots of the people I’ve met are comfortable with testing ideas. If the Future Generations Act needs some different ways of doing things, this ‘experimentation mindset’ might help.
  3. Schools can help ‘grown up’ organisations. Does the work Professor George Sugai has been doing with the school system have application to other organisations and systems?
  4. Integration is already happening. There are some very interesting examples of organisations already working together to deliver long-term prevention activities. We should be on the look out for them.

Keep and eye on #behfest16 or Good Practice Wales for more updates on the Behaviour Change Festival. There might be some spaces left if you want to come along – booking via this link.


About WhatsthePONT

I'm from Old South Wales and I'm interested almost everything. Narrowing it down a bit: cooperatives, social enterprises, decent public services, complexity science, The Cynefin Framework, behavioural science and a sustainable future. In 2018/19 I completed a Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship, looking at big cooperative enterprises and social businesses in NE Spain and the USA. You can find out more here:

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