by | Sep 24, 2020

Unleashing social power – from the micro to the macro

As Head of Training and Consultancy, I oversee a great deal of the client facing work of SMK and as a result I get to see the huge variation in the kind of work we’re asked to do. This makes my days and weeks varied and interesting.

Our training programme is incredibly popular – with this autumn’s courses nearly all sold out. (And look out for announcements on a new way of engaging with our training that will be coming in the New Year).

The consultancy side of our work is no less vital to what we do in championing civil society and unleashing social power. We work with organisations on a range of different levels – and offer a range of different approaches from the macro to the micro.

We can work with organisation offering a fresh view on the world and their role in changing it. We can work to help an organisation reshape its culture or even its mission to ensure that it is fully ready to create – and adapt to  –change. Or we can work with teams on specific campaigns – helping them to identify goals and plan a campaign.

Just this week, for example, we have worked with clients on two different types of consultancy – from helping on a specific campaign to redesigning key parts of their community offer.

We are working with the Royal College of Nursing’s many regional campaign leads to help them convene and feedback on member focus groups to ensure that work on their flagship ‘Staffing for Safe and Effective Care’ campaign and their work on pay run in parallel. We use our ‘radical listening’ skills (one of the 12 habits of effective changemakers we unearthed in our research as to how change happens) to help them surface what members want from the campaign and which areas of safe and effective care they are currently most concerned about.

As coronavirus has hit these frontline workers it is vital that RCN go back to them to re-examine a campaign that was designed in the pre-covid era. We are able to provide a dispassionate overview of what members want and what they are saying in these groups. We have the detachment, the right approach and the skills to help RCN translate that into successful and deliverable campaign actions.

On the other hand, we have also been working with London Youth – again to help them work with members – to look at how their networks are working and how they could better enable their members to make change. We designed a session that was an amalgam of training and focus groupings and delivered it to two cohorts over Zoom and offered detailed feedback from each of the groups.

Where the RCN work is looking at a specific campaign the London Youth work was more about the shape of their whole offer as an organisation. Day to day, SMK get to peek under the hood of so many organisations and work with them in so many different ways. Whether it be looking at the whole ecosystem of change and helping organisations to understand their place in and relationship to it, or helping to meticulously plan a campaign we have the pleasure of working with so many different parts of civil society as they seek to effect transformative change on individual, community, national and international levels.

What is consistent in our work is our approach to campaigning, to change and to civil society and its power. We take our own background as changemakers and campaigners as a starting point. We share our own knowledge and skills. But we also take the work we have done investigating in depth how change works in society and the ways in which change champions can identify their tools and opportunities. We work with our clients to devise tailored consultancy depending on what they’re looking for.

This week, that has meant focus groups and facilitation. Next week it could be a strategic review, developing a tailored training session or support in campaign planning.

Change is messy and exciting and unpredictable. It is exactly right that our work reflects that. That’s why our consultancy offer covers so many areas. But it is also why we have a range of expert associates who work with us and whose own vast range of experience and knowledge we can draw on across the work we do.

At SMK what we try to do best is to live our values. We believe in championing those who seek to improve the world – at whatever level and in whatever way they are doing so. We help organisations to unleash and understand their power. Out consultancy work allows us to work closely in a tailored way to ensure that we can do that in the way that best suits whoever we are working with.

If you are interested in talking to SMK about how we could support you and your work, contact Emma Burnell at

Emma Burnell

Emma is Head of Training and Consultancy at SMK



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