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Action Research projects:

1. Dance United Yorkshire

PSW colleagues Marsaili Cameron and Sheila Marsh worked with associate Dr Louise McDowall during 2021 - 2023 to support Louise's work as the project's embedded researcher, providing critical reflection space and assistance in analysing and presenting findings - in a 4 year intensive project, this was a huge task. Not surprisingly then a suite of materials was developed by all three for the final reporting on the project in January 2024. These are presented below.

The team gratefully acknowledges the vital role of the funding provided for the study by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the willing and generous participation in the research by Dance United Yorkshire and its staff, the Holme Wood dancers and their families and local workers and stakeholders. 

                                                                                * Overview report

                                                                                * Narrated presentation

                                                                                * Learning note 1 (2021) 

                                                                                * Learning note 2 (2023)

                                                                                * Four case studies

                                                                                * How was the research done? Methodology note

                                                                                * Researcher reactions - audio files:                                                                                                                                                                      1 Working in Holme Wood, 2 What helped me,

                                                                                   3 Working with DUY & 4 Surprises & challenges

Action Research projects:

2. ADVANCE Programme  

Is good leadership about:

  • knowing all the answers, pretty much all of the time?

  • coming up with clear-cut solutions to complex problems?

  • keeping your thoughts to yourself and not being swayed by other people?


Not so, according to our three-year impact study of ADVANCE, an innovative volunteer mentoring programme developed by Carers Trust for leaders of local charities in The Carers Trust Network across the UK. The traditional ‘heroic’ approach to leadership was considered by participants in the 12-month programme to be much less effective than the ability to:

  • ask searching questions

  • listen carefully to different views

  • take time to reflect before acting.


Participating in ADVANCE enabled board members and chief executives to re-interpret their leadership role to fit a drastically changing world. In this world, charity leaders benefit greatly from support in focusing on the key decisions and actions needed for their organisations to provide sustainable services. In this world, flexibility trumps rigidity every time.


There is much to be learned from the experience of senior leaders who learned ‘on the run’ to enhance their confidence and skills in order to regain control of their lives and organisations.


The independent impact study, commissioned by Carers Trust and carried out by Marsaili Cameron and Sheila Marsh from PublicServiceWorks, developed materials to support chief executives, board members and others to work separately and together in a focused way to ensure effective strategic leadership.

Findings from this action research study fed in regularly over three years to the ADVANCE mentors (senior volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds) and to the Carers Trust design team for the programme. This process enhanced the learning culture that characterised ADVANCE, supported by the work of Lead Mentor, Hilary Samson-Barry (

Want to discuss ADVANCE further?

If you would like to hear more about the context of ADVANCE and its introduction, in the first instance please contact Carers Trust via email:


If you would like to know more about the methodology of the impact study, please contact Sheila Marsh or Marsaili Cameron of PublicServiceWorks via email: or

What materials are available, and how might you use them?

Want a summary of the impact of the mentoring programme?

  • Deep Learning for Hard Times, a booklet summing up the impact of the mentoring programme.


  • Info cards to support implementing the learning in similar local charities:

Cards A-C focus on building sustainability, strengthening governance and developing partnership/collaboration – the three top issues tackled through the mentoring. 

Cards 1-5 focus on transferable skills and practical insights gained by participants in the programme.


Want to make a presentation or work with a group?

Interactive format

The two sets of info cards designed to support learning are available in an interactive format. Cards A-C interactive focus on building sustainability, strengthening governance and developing partnership/collaboration. Cards 1-5 interactive focus on transferable skills and practical insights gained by participants in the programme.

Printer-friendly format

The summary booklet, Deep Learning for Hard Times, is available in a printer-friendly format that will not tax your ink supply unduly. The two sets of cards (see above) are also available in printer-friendly format: Cards A-C print-friendly and Cards 1-5 print-friendly.


Want to know more about the impact study and see the evidence behind the summary?

  • See the final research report, Creating the infrastructure to produce sustainable carer support: evidence from the ADVANCE impact study.

New ways of thinking and doing in difficult times.

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