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The latest insights on narrative, storytelling and leadership in higher education.

UWE Bristol: Aligning narrative with strategy

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We were looking for new perspectives of how we as a department could go forward in the future to meet the wider University strategy. Invisible Grail opened up the conversation, made sure collaboration and equality were central to the process and created materials we’ve been able to use and share with colleagues across the University.”

Dr Peter Clegg
Head of Department Health and Social Sciences
UWE Bristol

This was an ambitious project to capture the impact and narratives of the Department of Health and Social Sciences. With 150 staff, over 3,000 students and a wide range of subject areas, the department sought to use these narratives to articulate their future. They wanted to demonstrate as effectively as possible the strategic ambition of colleagues, and how they could actively shape the wider University Strategy 2030.

The role of Invisible Grail was to create a process that would bring people together and get them to think about and express their work and expertise in new and creative ways. Designed to ignite ambition around a common vision, these narratives would demonstrate the reach of the department’s work across the University and with their external partners.

How did we help?

The Impact Brief harmonised a collective desire and belief in shaping radical thinking beyond the University about health and wellbeing for the 2020s.”

Alongside Dr Clegg, we designed a three stage journey to map out a broad departmental narrative, then dug deep into each Subject discipline and its impact and aspirations, before bringing all the strands together to create an Impact Brief. The dynamic nature of the programme and outcomes meant that elements could be used and applied immediately to shape the department’s business planning and broader strategy.

Stage one: A high-level narrative

The first stage was to create a high-level departmental narrative that would set the tone for the final Impact Brief. In step with this this, we agreed principles for engaging teams from the different subject areas.

A one-day event was designed and facilitated that unpicked the department’s vision, and the contribution it makes to the local and global social landscape. Colleagues identified a range of possible actions that the department could pursue to strengthen and shape the University Strategy 2030, such as: how they could meet local and global needs; further embed co-creation and the student voice, and accelerate enterprise, innovation and growth.

These outcomes and the sense of aspiration from colleagues were captured in a Storyboard that was shared with people leading the development of the wider University strategy. Shaped by a tone of self-belief and reflecting the department’s unique culture and people, it would be the starting point to tell compelling and relatable stories about the department’s outstanding learning and teaching, research, and external engagement.

Stage two: The impact and expertise of the Subject areas

This stage was all understanding more deeply the respective narratives of the department’s different subject areas and people. A series of creative workshops was designed to encourage colleagues to identify the key drivers which shape their work and its impact.

Each subject area focused on what made the experience of their learning, teaching and research distinctive, and how these led to positive graduate outcomes. By the end of each workshop, subject teams had drafted arresting openings for what would become their contributions to the Impact Brief. In the weeks which followed, subject teams crafted more detailed narratives.

Stage three: Gathering narratives to create an Impact Brief

The final part was to bring everyone together to share their narratives and collate these into a single and compelling story of the department, their Impact Brief.

The Impact Brief harmonised a collective desire and belief in shaping radical thinking beyond the University about health and wellbeing for the 2020s, from perspectives and expertise in Politics and International Relations to Social Work, and from Public Health to Psychology.

Following this day, we collated the stories, ambitions, and ideas into an artefact that could be used by the department to articulate its work, or repurposed into smaller, bite-sized pieces for a number of different audiences – postgraduates, funders, students (current and potential), peers, or businesses etc.

This Brief is a manifesto of what the department stands for, how it measures success, and how it can shape the societal, cultural, technological, economic, and policy landscape on the horizon.

Find out more

If you would like to explore how we can work with your team please contact our Academic Director, Paul Gentle.