PVM Chief Exec appears on Voice America’s ‘Story Powered’ radio show

PVM Chief Exec Gary Copitch was asked to appear on the Voice America internet radio station. The show hosted by Lianne Picot talked about employee stories and how stories can be used to increase the health and success of a business. Gary talked about the Community Reporter programme and gave examples of how stories are being used to gather insight which are being used to produce better services and products.

The broadcast can can be found here at Story Powered Voice America

Storypowered VA

Where’s the Story? Story Listening for Leaders

Story listening is not an art. It’s a practice. And it’s really easy to develop if you are willing and able to listen. Stories exist everywhere in your organization. You just need to be intentional about hearing them. A story does not have to be a particular length or a particular structure when it comes to listening. It may be a short anecdote about how an employee has helped a customer or an example of a time when a manager helped someone develop a skill. Or it may be a longer narrative of a long term employee’s experience of the company. Whatever the length or subject, there is always opportunity to become a better leader by listening to stories.

So why listen?

Stories provide rich information about customer experience, about the temperature of your staff team and about how you are doing as a leader and as a business. Stories exist whether you are listening for them or not. The people in your organization and who come across it are telling each other things about their experiences. Listening to stories enables you to respond to what is happening in your business. Note the word respond. Not react. Reacting would mean involving yourself in the conversation and either taking credit or being defensive. Responding involves remembering the stories you’ve heard and allowing them to influence you in developing your policies, creating communications or evaluating progress.

Listening to stories also builds connection. As organizations grow, people can sometimes get disconnected. They may be segregated into departments or work spaces. Strange silo behaviour can erupt into your corporate listening-wide (2)culture where it was never there before. Stories get created about which department is getting more money in their budget or is favoured by the CEO, etc. These are often based on not having enough information about what others are doing or better stories to latch onto. If you have a regular practice of listening to stories, you will be able to be proactive in heading off the negative growth of stories and steer your staff toward more positive tales of cross connection between individuals or teams. Creating a culture of story listening by modelling it yourself will also help keep staff connected to you and the bigger picture of making a difference in the lives of your customers.

How to Listen


Surveys are a great research tool. Unfortunately, too often we rely too much on the numbers and don’t give room for people to actually tell us about their experiences. We go for the easy percentage rather than introduce the hassle of trying to bring together what can seem like random information. However, asking people to ‘Tell us about’ their experience can provide more benefits than are immediately obvious. Yes, the number of people who rated the service to be 4 out of 5 is important. That is good information. But what does it mean? For the business overall, maybe it meets some targets. That’s great. But for the people on the frontline it means nothing. Collecting stories that they can read provides them with valuable information that informs their service delivery. Yep. It’s unscientific. But I guarantee you that your staff will remember the story of why the customer gave them the 2 rating more than they will the overall percentage relating to their performance that month. And they will make changes along the way. Isn’t that what customer feedback SHOULD do? These stories also provide great case studies for training or testimonials for your marketing.


This is my favourite leadership tool. I will admit to sometimes utilizing it because I was bored with some admin task but it is always a valuable thing to do. The key to wandering is being comfortable with not having an agenda or a reason to be talking to your staff. Drop in to an office and see how they are. Ask them what they are working on or about how things are going and listen. Really listen. Ask more questions. You don’t need to stay there for too long.  Then move on to another person. Doing this once a week even makes a real difference to your understanding of what is happening in your organization. AND, it gives you lots of great stories to pull out of your back pocket when you have speaking engagements, meetings with potential partners or in performance reviews. Wandering takes you beyond the monthly reports and gets you in touch with actual experience. And that is where you will find the stories.


If you are wandering as a leader and using story based surveys, you are creating an atmosphere of inquiry.  So your customers and employees may be ready for this little known ancient techniquBusiness man asking questione called ‘asking’. You may not have heard of it in our world of being very ‘busy’ and relying on technology to communicate for us, but it’s a real bonafide way of finding stories. Directly ask your customers or employees to tell you a story. To you personally. If you want to use Skype, Facetime or even your blog, go for it. If you are talking to customers, ask them how your business has made a difference in their lives. Ask them to tell you a story about how you or someone who works for you has helped them. If you are talking to your staff, ask them to tell you about how they have been helped to grow (or not!) in the company or about a time when they felt proud of their work. You will find out how well your Managers are doing and how engaged your team is in your organization.

So get story listening! Not only will it improve your effectiveness as a leader AND help your people feel heard, it will help you to tell better stories. And that is definitely good for business.

If you have any other suggestions about how to listen for stories as a leader, please let us know in the comments!

Lianne is also the Owner of Very Good Stories and a social licensee of the Institute of Community Reporters . You can find out more about Lianne and Very Good Stories at www.verygoodstories.com

Young people passionate about social enterprise @SE_Mark @cosmic_uk @cosmicDAs

What could be better than an apprenticeship to give young people skills and experience to develop their careers?

A social enterprise apprenticeship.

Offering another layer to the traditional apprenticeship, young people can make a social impact by working for a social enterprise. Not only are the young people getting paid for hands-on experience in their chosen trade whilst filling business needs, but they are experiencing how social enterprises can enjoy great success benefitting people and the planet alongside profit, versus just operating business ‘as usual’. This isn’t a lesson you can learn in text books, the hands-on experience is what resonates. ‘Social impact’ apprenticeships will hopefully inspire social enterprise entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.

Cosmic, Social Enterprise Mark-certified business, offers IT services to businesses across the South West. At Cosmic they are very aware of the growing issue of youth unemployment and, since 1998, have been offering apprenticeship positions to young people. Earlier this year, they employed a new apprentice.  Jamie was recruited to work for Cosmic and to offer support to the Social Enterprise Mark Company.  Cosmic needed help with its own digital marketing, social media and website support and the Social Enterprise Mark needed a social media assistant. Jamie became the shared solution.

 Cosmic’s CEO Julie Hawker said:

“For several years we’ve been looking into a new approach to offer meaningful and sustainable employment to young people. Growth in our own needs, and those of a key partner organisation, the Social Enterprise Mark Company, led to the recruitment of Jamie.  He works for Cosmic but on 2 days a week, he is contracted to do work for the Social Enterprise Mark.

Jamie Dabrowiecki, Digital Assistant at Cosmic said:
“Working at Cosmic has given me a wide range of experience in digital marketing and social media, and has extended my technical knowledge and understanding.  I really enjoy being part of the team at Cosmic, particularly as it is a social enterprise.  Their Social Enterprise Mark certification fosters a social enterprise culture throughout the organisation with all the staff passionate about the work we do and how we do it – where profits are used to provide opportunities for more young people.”

Anne Mountjoy, Marketing Manager at the Social Enterprise Mark said:
“It is the perfect solution for us. Working for Cosmic, Jamie understands the values and passion surrounding social enterprise.  He’s perfectly placed to help us with our social media channels of communication. I work closely with Jamie to help him understand our social media strategy and in return he is an enthusiastic and proactive member of the team, helping our business efficiency and productivity.”

Why and how do we train the way we do ?

 This was my speech to the Agora event on September 16th 2013 as part of the Leonardo Corporate Learning award.

The Speech 

I want to tell you about my experience.

My academic career is not distinguished. I struggled with passing  exams struggled with written work , and struggled with getting recognition for my learning. I enjoyed school but was just not very good at it.

At least that’s what I thought.

But there was another side to this. I was motivated  and had self confidence . I knew I could learn and would often win arguments with people who were academically better than me. I was perceived to be a communicator  who engaged with people and presented well.

Where did that come from?

I volunteered in a Jewish youth movement which used informal adult education as an approach, this included peer to peer learning, participatory leaning activity such as role plays and discussions, and involving the learners in all aspects of the learning.

I could do that, not just do it but I was good at it. I  could learn facts, I could present things I could lead groups  I could be part of a team

What a revelation.

I was diagnosed with dyslexia during my second year at university, something I never realized I had but explained why the education system did not fit my style of learning it also helped me recognise that my dyslexia was an asset it allowed me to think differently and creatively and gave me resilience and a desire to succeed.

However, was the world ready for Gary Copitch the answer was no.

I applied for over 300 jobs  got one interview  and was rejected from that.

I mentioned earlier that I volunteered for a youth organisation and this is how I got my first job, volunteering has saved me . And once working my skills in  team work and communication  shone. this lead me onto an international community development job training people in community work.

My next role took me into the world of Corporate Learning, when I went on to work for Intel . During my time there I did some cost control developed a CPD and certification programs for the Facilities and Health and Safety department which lead me to became a senior manager in the training department where I ran Intel University a  corporate leaning programme

So I went from the community to corporate world  what was the difference

My experience  of community education was there was:

  • a high motivation to learn but few resources including poor environments ,
  • whereas at Intel, like many corporate, there were good resources but not a willingness to freely participate in learning activities  In most cases people were asked politely by  mangers to go on  training because it would be good for their career  or advised to join to improve their skills

Why do I tell you this history?  Because I believe that my experience has shaped  People’s voice Media a community learning provider and the way we train.

We have clear goals for are learning

  • we want to impart a passion for learning
  • we want people to be active and engaged participants in our programmers
  • we want people to contribute to there leaning  
  • and we want people to continue to learn

So we created a learning community of community reporters.

people who want to tell their stories and have a voice.

people  who were often from disadvantaged areas where formal education has failed them 

But they shared common emotions, values and  beliefs, they are actively engaged in learning together and from each others

sounds lofty and in reality people also joined us because they wanted to part of something, wanted to improve there self confidence,  wanted to learn new skills.

Paul a community reporter found it helped him socially, boosted his confidence, reconnected him with his local area and improved his job prospects

We recognized that our role was to  provide individuals with the tools, technical knowledge and confidence to express their own lived experience and To share their experience with others,

we said tell us your story  and will support you to tell it to others. We will give you a voice.

This leaning community is 2000 strong and is spread across the UK and Europe and it is growing and are target is 10,000 people involved 

so what do we do?

we create  different interventions.

These may include

  1. formal training sessions on video, photography, audio or blogging they decide the path .
  2. We undertake social activities such as film evenings or xmas parties
  3. we run regular meet ups  drop in sessions, and peer led training  session where people swap skills and advice
  4.  We make it simple to use “technology in the pocket devices” to develop stories
  5. we recognise that they part of a network through our community reporter badges, which not only identify them as part of there community but also a wider network they are part of a movement of community reporters. the badge gives them validity with peers  but also represent the individual’s own achievement and self worth which has been externally validated by their peers and beyond .

One reporters said that “the badge gave him recognition in his community and status ”

Our Community Learning model doesn’t just teach skills, we have tapped into the need people have of wanting to belong and feel part of something, a chance to express their thoughts and feelings, a chance to help each other and listen to each other, a chance to show that they care about the world around them. But most importantly through our social licence or franchise model people can do this  within their own communities with the agencies and the people they know.

Embedded in our learning community is the  notion of  peer to peer learning, the notion of  doing and not just listening, the notion of  sharing and the notion of supporting others. or as we say

Teach it, practice it, peer review it, share it. 

Kevin one of our reporters said

“The main point I think is that you don’t feel like you are in an education process where you have got to achieve something by the end of the year, it does feel like a much more gentle process, I don’t feel like I am under achieving if I mess up, I feel like I am part of it and we are all in the same boat.”

But there was another side to this.

I mentioned story before as a motivator i want to go back to this.

People like  telling their own stories,   In fact we found that everyone  has a story to tell   they want to articulate that story to others, and that people want to hear other peoples’ stories..  Perhaps this is unsurprising, as storytelling is a constant through all cultures.

we wanted to validate that story and developed the community reporter programmer as a way to do this.

One of our a reporters said

“community reporting  gives you a sense of importance, that you are important to the community because you are also reflecting the good side of that community.”

But the stories also serve another purpose.

They showed insight into issues and the way things could be better.

We worked with a group of young  people struggling to find employment. they were frustrated  and isolated  They struggled to tell there story and be heard. They struggled to fill in the forms needed to apply for jobs because of literacy issue or simply not understanding the process or what was required, and were never offered an interviews.  they had skills and experiences and wanted to participate. Sound familiar 

There had to be a different way? We listened to there stories and then developed with them  multimedia CVs,

Effectively allowing them to tell there own story through video, and blogs and in some case other people talked about them. including their tutors, and teachers.

This not only increased their skills and self confidence which helped them in finding jobs. But Just as  importantly we changed the way that a number of  organisation recruit staff. they know  use multimedia CVs and video application forms as standard parts of there recruitment process.

This gave  companies access to people they would never have previously considered.  It worked and companies and people have both benefitted.

Another  group of  people were from communities that one could call difficult or disadvantaged, communities   that from the outside seem to be “not nice places to live”.

These people were tired of only hearing negative things about their communities; They wanted to tell the story of the positive things that were happening.

Their stories included how people came together to improve their communities, how the community were growing their own veg, putting on community events; how they overcame the barriers they were facing.

Fundamentally, they were trying to change the narrative from a negative to a positive, and in the process they were increasing their self-confidence and at the same time  learning communication and technology skills and well as sharing their knowledge and skills .

In short, the Community Reporter programme supports its participants in being involved in learning through telling their stories, Through this combination of telling and listening, we engage with real people’s learning, while encouraging the listeners to use the reporters’ input to consider new ways of working and provide different type of services

so some challenges 

Lets cross the divide between community and corporate and co produce solutions together linking people who are networked inside communities and can open doors but at the same time ensure  a two way relationship a partnership where mutual learning and skills sharing can take place

Lets experiment and explore ways to create passion and self belief in learners

Let’s swop are stories let’s swop are  lived in experience and  let’s build together

But the core message is if we want to support young people back into employment   Lets listen, lets listen  to what young  people are saying, listen to their stories and experiences and then and most importantly let’s  change the ways we do things-


Patient involvement increases public confidence in health research

Interesting piece of research here.  An Ipsos MORI survey of 1,295 British adults has shown that public confidence in health research studies can be increased by knowing that patients have advised on the design of the study. They say:

77% of adults surveyed said that if they were made aware that a Research Ethics Committee had reviewed a health research study it would increase their confidence in the study.

Similarly, 44% of respondents thought that involving patients to ensure that the information given to participants was easily understandable and meaningful would increase their confidence in the study.

– See more at: http://www.hra.nhs.uk/news/2013/11/22/patient-involvement-increases-public-confidence-health-research/#sthash.NfVgUn1K.dpuf

Thinktank @IPPR commission Institute of Community Reporters in UK-wide listening exercise

When we started to develop the social network across the UK and beyond, we were aware that the network offered incredible reach into communities. We have a fantastic range of organisations in all regions of England and South Wales who are delivering grassroots activity with communities, so if anyone wants to know what communities are thinking, feeling, wanting or needing then it would make sense to talk to the Institute of Community Reporters.

We got our first opportunity to put this to the test with a commission from thinktank IPPR. IPPR said,

In the early 1990s, IPPR ran the Commission on Social Justice and redefined the mainstream political response to core social policy questions. Now IPPR has launched a major new flagship programme called The Condition of Britain with similar scope and ambition. 

A key element of the project is to ‘hear from ordinary people across the country’ about their everyday experiences, the stresses and strains they encounter, and what is needed to help them to live more fulfilling and less pressured lives. Part of this will be achieved through the primary research project, but in addition IPPR wants to launch what we are calling a ‘Voices of Britain’ initiative. 

This initiative would aim to give a ‘snapshot’ impression of this country in 2013 through creating an on-line ‘collage of voices’.

Between July and September this year, we deployed out Community Reporters from across the UK to go out and capture these voices, and the result is  powerful, sometimes moving and thoroughly engaging. You can see all 100 interviews on the project  video wall.  Common themes that emerged were the challenges of caring for elderly parents whilst raising a family, actual and fear of unemployment and lack of opportunity for young people. But there was also a reflection of how communities become more resilient in difficult times and turn to each other for support.

The experience was incredibly positive for us, for a number of reasons:

  • It enabled us to work with our partners and offer them financial reward for taking part in the project
  • It offered Community Reporters the chance to develop their skills and be part of something of national significance
  • It proved that the model of sustaining organisations to deliver community reporting activity at a local level is the right model in being able to get the voice of communities out to a wider audience.

We are extremely proud to have been part of this important research. And what is like for IPPR to partner with us? Tim Finch, Director of Communications at IPPR, said, “We are very happy with how the project went and it’s been great that we’ve been able to do something that takes us out of usual think tank territory.”

And the social licencees offered this feedback:

“Loved the way it was flexible for  us, so our reporters could film who they wanted, when it suited them – they (and I) really appreciated that aspect of it.”

“For us being able to say we have worked on a project with IPPR gives us extra kudos.”

“It was a straightforward piece of work for us to do (these things usually aren’t).”

@Caring_Together launch innovative ‘integrated care’ animation

We are all aware of the burden on health and social care resources – it seems that not a day goes by without there being a story in the news about pressures on services, limited resources and an ageing population. So what’s the answer?

Well, in Eastern Cheshire, the answer is to commit to a process of ‘integrated care’ – finding ways of avoiding duplication, thinking smarter, being person-centred and generally trying to do more with limited resources.

Talking about integrated care, in all its complexity, is a challenge. So we were thrilled to be asked to work alongside Participate UK in developing an animation that tells the story in a more engaging way.

Louise Booth from Participate UK says, “An integral part of our communications and engagement work with Caring Together is to share the vision of joined up care across Eastern Cheshire with multiple audiences. The animation itself has been exceptionally well received on a local and national level. It really will help Caring Together to not only enable further insightful dialogues with its stakeholders, but to also share its case for change and its call for Champions in health and social care.”

The ground-breaking animation shows real commitment from the all the agencies involved to think differently about how to share a vision for a new way forward and we are proud to have been involved.

Find out more at their website here:


And watch the animation here: