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Transformative Conversations Programme

The Advance HE Transformative Conversations Programme supports participants in developing an understanding of context, self and others and builds confidence to handle challenging conversations within their teams and higher education institution.
10% Early Booking Discount on selected programmes and events when you book before 30 September 2022

Developing our emotional intelligence, self-awareness and empathy to help convert challenging conversations into transformative ones.

In uncertain times, sensitive and potentially challenging conversations can become increasingly daunting. The recent realities of Covid-19 have, for many, created unprecedented levels of change and ambiguity. This combined with the move to using online platforms to communicate can make relating virtually a complex skill to develop.

The Transformative Conversations Programme is a series of three half-day workshops with reflection and asynchronous working between sessions to support participants in developing an understanding of context, self and others and to build the confidence to have challenging conversations within their teams and institution.

Effective conversations are informed by an understanding of how issues of privilege, power, diversity and bias can impact on the way we communicate. A focus on the skills required to build authentic and positive relationships which acknowledge diversity, respect lived experiences and address unacceptable behaviour, will help those involved navigate their way through issues as part of transformative conversations that are both supportive and challenging.

Focusing on what we want to create – the new reality that we aspire to be a part of – can transform the conversations that we are currently having for positive change.

To equip themselves to navigate challenging conversations effectively, leaders and managers need to develop emotional intelligence, enhance self-awareness, build empathy, and hone their ability to influence changes in behaviour.

Booking information

Next cohort starts 12 October 2022. 3 half-day virtual modules with some asynchronous work

Book your place
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Share and celebrate your achievements and learning with digitally-verified badges

Participants of this programme will be recognised by a digital badge award.

Digital badges make it easy for you to share and celebrate your Advance HE learning achievements by adding them to your email signature or including them in your social profiles including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Your certificates can also be easily downloaded as a pdf.

Find out more about Advance HE digital badges
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How is the programme delivered?

The programme is delivered in three half-day virtual workshops with reflection and asynchronous working between sessions.

  • Workshop 1: Key Principles and preparing ourselves for transformative conversations
  • Workshop 2: Developing Self and Others
  • Workshop 3: Understanding and Practice

Each workshop will explore the challenges of having a range of difficult conversations, with particular attention to what works well. 

Difficult conversations may include those exploring the lived experiences of marginalised groups or encouraging the exchange and dissemination of different ways of thinking about and new approaches to key equality, diversity and inclusion challenges.

Additionally conversations within the institution across faculties, schools or departments can often involve discussion about the use of limited resources, strategy and priorities or organisational structure and performance improvement.

The workshops will aim to help participants increase their confidence in having difficult conversations and develop the ability to ask more transformative questions to face challenges in a new creative way.

The workshops will also help participants to look at ways to change the language used when addressing difficult subject areas to unlock a possibility of seeing things differently and instigating different outcomes.

new programme for 2021-22

What are the learning outcomes of the programme?

By the end of programme, delegates should be able to:

  • Take a proactive approach to handling challenging workplace situations
  • Detail and apply practically the steps involved in transforming conversations
  • Prepare for conversations more confidently and assertively using an appreciative and strengths based approach
  • Understand the range of contexts in which difficult conversations can manifest and apply a conscious and appropriate level of distinction between them
  • Implement a range of techniques to defuse potentially challenging or hostile reactions.

Who is the programme for?

The Transformative Conversations Programme will benefit leaders in higher education who wish to have better conversations that build strong relationships and improve organisational performance and is broadly aimed at participants up to and including head of department/school level. The facilitation team will pay close attention to the diversity of the cohort, their roles and experience ensuring that the content focusses on supporting the conversations that participants need to be having.  

These might include those difficult and hard-to-have conversations for example:

  • Discussions to promote engagement around equality, diversity and inclusion
  • Discussions to support the mental wellbeing of staff and students
  • Discussions around resource utilisation, performance management or team or organisational restructuring
  • Discussions around complex projects or strategic direction of activity

Delivery team

Barbara Bassa

Programme Director, Senior Leadership and Organisational Development Adviser and Executive Coach
Advance HE
Barbara Bassa
Barbara works for Advance HE as a Programme Director, Senior Leadership and Organisational Development Adviser and Executive Coach.

Kim Ansell

Senior Adviser and Managing Consultant
Advance HE
Kim Ansell
She has worked across higher and professional education providing support to groups at all levels including senior leadership teams and Boards, to facilitate change, strategic thinking, planning and performance improvement. Kim has recently led the Advance HE membership themed month on the topic of Transforming Organisations from student to board. 

Clare Pavitt

Transforming Leadership Programme Facilitator
Advance HE
Clare Pavitt
With a career spanning central and local government, the voluntary sector, broadcasting, the police service and higher education, Clare has more than 30 years’ experience supporting organisations on their equality, diversity and inclusion journeys.


Hear from the delivery team

In this introductory podcast, programme facilitators Barbara, Kim and Clare reveal their 'top tips' for approaching challenging conversations.

Listen to podcast


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