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Jo Taylor: “A shift in mindset”

Jo Taylor: “A shift in mindset”

From finding solutions to social problems, to facilitating solutions from other people

Educationalist, Jo Taylor was recognised by the Queen’s Young Leaders Programme for his work supporting teachers and designing learning experiences. Now, the Leading Change course – and being connected to an international network of young change-makers – has tweaked his approach to tackling social issues.

Looking back on 2014, before he became a Queen’s Young Leader, Jo Taylor says, “At the time I was in the middle start-up life. I was doing what I needed to do to have impact through social enterprises.”

The Leading Change course made him rethink how he plans, sets goals and what he needs as a leader. The module on mindfulness, The Island, created by Frances Brown, “made me think about the supportive structures I had in place.”

He adds, “It made me think about making formal space to reflect how I was doing things and then adapt my approach based on that.”

Reflection and flexibility are key to the way Jo works.

“I started thinking about how there maybe many different levels of solution to a particular problem,” he explains, “That led on to the acceptance of an offer to do a doctorate in education psychology.”

And it inspired him to develop the Change-maker checklist, a tool to help people get started on tackling social issues.

Change-maker checklist

So what is the Change-maker checklist? And how did Jo come up with it?

Jo describes it as “a bullet-pointed roadmap that people who want to work on social issues can use to get started”.

Its value is that it is fully comprehensive, so it equips people with what they need to begin working on a social issue. “It shows how you can get started,” he explains adding that not knowing where to start “is a major barrier to most social innovation”.

An image marking a checklist

Image credit: AJ Cann

Being connected to the wider network of Queen’s Young Leaders, Jo was struck by “the realisation that there were so many different people out there with so many different approaches to the same task”.

This got him thinking about how the Queen’s Young Leaders network might generate solutions to social problems.

“Across the Queen’s Young Leaders network there are so many people who have generated so much experience doing cool, impactful things in specific areas. They’ve all got niche expertise.”

According to Jo, this “niche expertise” could provide a valuable fresh perspective.

His original plan was to get a representative sample of people in the UK to list five social problems they think are the most pressing. This would give him a shortlist of social issues to cross-reference with expertise in the Queen’s Young Leaders community.

Jo wanted to then visit the relevant Queen’s Young Leaders and consult them using techniques from his PhD course. This would enable him to come up with new approaches to tackling social issues – to develop the Change-maker checklist.

The process would not be one way, however.

“It would then get fed back – the checklists and also the process for making them – into the Queen’s Young Leaders’ community,” says Jo. “Then Queen’s Young Leaders could use the process to come up with their own steps, to their own social problems, in their own context.”

Different levels of solution

Sadly, Jo has not been able to get funding for the first stage of developing the Change-maker checklist. But he’s not letting that stop him. As he says, there are different levels of solution.

A poster with the word 'CHANGE' pinned on the wall

Image credit: Kai Stachowiak

He had mentioned the Change-maker checklist to Frances Brown, Course Director of Leading Change, when he was applying for funding. “She thought it was cool and it fitted with her vision that Queen’s Young Leaders would start to deliver some of the content on the Leading Change course.”

So now Jo is collaborating with Frances Brown to include the Change-maker checklist in the Leading Change course.

“That’s quite exciting! Because it’s taking the idea and letting people pilot it and use it. And it figures really neatly with what I want to do in terms of using psychology in social change.”

Jo has adapted the idea of the checklist by reframing it so that it’s less about gathering information and more about allowing other people to act in an area they know well.

“I was thinking about how I could collect data to allow people in England to work on English and British problems,” he says. “Instead I’m using the same principle to allow people across the world to lead others in their own areas of social impact.”

He points out that this will probably cost less and have a much greater impact.

“From my point of view that’s the essence of leading change. No pun intended!”