Practice development principles in action – blending creativity with learning

Last month I talked about the new practice development principles (Hardy et al.,2021)and how they were revised by members of the International Practice Development Collaborative in conjunction with key stakeholders. This resulted in 8 adapted principles with the aim of making these more accessible to both the novice and the experienced practice developer.

This week I want to explore another principle:

Practice development blends creativity with learning, freeing people’s hearts, minds and souls to achieve new ways of thinking, doing and being

At FoNS, the use of creativity is key to how we work with people on our development programmes. All of our programmes feature dedicated workshops/ online events which include an active learning approach where participants are encouraged to use creativity: This might be using picture cards, arts and craft, mindfulness exercises or visualisation. When people use creativity, they start to see their practice and that of others through a different ‘lens’, revealing different perspectives to reflect and gain understanding of themselves, their learning and their actions going forward. When I introduce the use of creativity, I often use this quote: ‘If we always do what we have always done, we will always get what we have always got’ (Albert Einstein).

The ultimate aim of the PD principles is to promote person-centred practice, which promotes safe and effective workplace cultures where all can flourish. Culture change requires a change in the way things are done. This in turn requires transformation in people and practice, and ‘creativity blended with learning’ is crucial to this transformation (Dickson and Sanders, 2021). Here are some examples of how people on FoNS development programmes have used creativity as part of their learning journey and written about these in their blogs:

Nicola White – Inspire Improvement Fellow 2019

Nicola reflects on her first two workshops as a fellow where she used creativity for the first time.

‘The day started with an approach which was outside my usual comfort zone; using creativity as expression of our thoughts of ourselves as facilitative leaders, so this initially felt overwhelming. We worked in groups to discuss the purpose of developing, leading and facilitating a caring culture. Who would have thought so much could be achieved with glitter, glue and sticky back tape! Jo (FoNS Lead for Inspire Improvement Fellowship) was supportive, encouraging and understanding in guiding us to try different ways of learning. Already l was thinking of my own team and ways of working that should be so obvious such as ‘How do we do things around here?’ and I was thinking how currently we do not often take the time to pause, reflect and include the team.’

Sam Jones – Inspire Improvement Fellow 2020

Sam wrote a poem (extract below) to express how she had applied some of her learning from the fellowship into practice.

So here it is, it’s service delivery change oh yet again,

Oh lovely change you’re becoming my best friend.

So how can I implement it and what shall I do?

I guess my only thought was it simply starts with you.

So my brain is whirling and I start to think about a plan,

But I must remember what if there’s no Sam!

I need to keep talking and sharing what’s new,

So when I’m not there our team can follow it through!

Sheeba Jefferson and Isobell McDowell – Inspire Improvement Fellows 2020

Sheeba and Isobel reflect on creative initiatives they have used in practice.

‘The pandemic altered the landscape of many teams. In response, Isobel initiated a well-being tree within her department as a way of checking in and promoting connectivity and belongingness within her team. The team were asked to complete a tag which contained the questions ‘What is important to me?’ and ‘How can you support me?’. This was completed anonymously and put up on the well-being tree.’ On hearing about this Sheeba used her creativity to connect this reflection with the Banyan Tree in India. ‘As Isobel reflected on these golden moments of collaboration and togetherness with great pride, I was reminded of the great Banyan Trees that are native to India. At first glance, a banyan tree looks like a group of smaller trees beautifully and carefully placed to grow together, however, it is one large tree. The branches of a banyan tree grow out laterally and new roots grow out from the branches which provide support and nourishment to the main tree. It is the perfect sight of unity and strength.’

Joanne Mohammed – Inspire Improvement Fellow 2019

Joanne, as a ward leader, wanted to do something different to help her team undergo the ward accreditation process as a positive experience for everyone:

‘The day began with my team being encouraged to step out of their comfort zone and experience something different. Using the Evoke cards ( and exploring what was important to us, in teams we used our creativity and came up with 3 distinct but complementary visions of the care we wanted or aspired to deliver as a team. The key ideas were that we all put the patient at the heart of everything that we did. We were aware of the pressures that we were under in terms of time, staffing, workload etc. but also that team work was key and that we actually had a good team. And also we recognised that we needed a more in depth understanding of what was expected of us in terms of the internal inspections.’


Caroline A.W. Dickson and Kate Sanders (May 2021) We are creative – are you? International Practice Development Journal. Volume 11. Issue 1. Editorial.

Sally Hardy, Simone Clarke, Irena Anna Frei, Claire Morley, Jo Odell, Chris White and Valerie Wilson (2021) A global manifesto for Practice Development: Revisiting Core Principles. Chapter 8 in International Practice Development in Health and Social Care (2021) 2nd Edition (Eds Kim Manley, Valerie Wilson and Christine Øye)

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