> About
Sue WIlliams working on a collage at a Sync event

Sync is about energising, informing and ultimately changing disabled and Deaf people’s relationship with leadership, by offering information and support, encouraging dialogue and designing leadership interventions. Its also about bringing into the spotlight the skills, experiences, techniques and approaches that come from these that are resonant to all.

a collage made by Rachel Gadsden at a Sync event

Who can join Sync?

Sync is open to any disabled person interested in leadership in the cultural sector. Through Sync we have given our membership access to monthly e-bulletins, invitations to face to face training and events, and opportunities to apply for a bespoke training programmes including personalised coaching and/or leadership placement activities.

We are now opening up access to the monthly e-bulletins to all, through InSync - we know the content is valued and valuable, so why limit who can get hold of it?

Sync has always been about exploring different perspectives, and the more perspectives we have, the better. That means all disabled people and people with long term health conditions have been able to get involved - whether there impairment has been a fundamental part of their work, or simply a part of their life.

Deepa Shastri at a Sync session holding up a flip chart sheet
things that represent coaching - sandpaper, a sewing kit, a plaster.

Why ‘Sync’?

Sync comes from the idea of syncopation, defined as the 'emphasis on a normally un-emphasised beat'. So as Sync has developed its thinking about leadership with disabled people and non-disabled allies, we have been particularly interested in where we place our emphasis and why!

Sync is underpinned by coaching principles, with an emphasis on personal development as well as on leadership knowledge, skills and behaviours.

What has Sync done?

If one accepts that one size doesn’t fit all as a general principle, it’s clear that one type of development opportunity isn’t going to fit all either. Disability Leadership: Sync Matters

Established by two freelance disabled cultural practitioners Jo Verrent (Ada inc) and Sarah Pickthall (Cusp inc) in Spring 2009, Sync positioned itself at the interface between disability and leadership. Designed from the outset to be radically different to any other training programme for disabled people, it took its inspiration and name from syncopation – the emphasis on a usually un-emphasised beat.

Sync places the diversity of the disabled experience at the heart of its development intention, focusing not on a deficit model and the lack of representation of disabled people in leadership positions in the sector, but on the way in which many disabled leaders navigate and run their lives: unleashing insight, intelligence and resources directly from this for leadership learning.

With over 200 members of Sync, all with different disabilities and all with different political ways of viewing their disability, impairment or health condition we have successfully developed a methodology and bank of resources of intrinsic value to leadership learning for the sector as a whole.

We felt that within the way in which many of us navigate the world, there were useful resources for leadership applicable to a wider audience. We also wanted to explore what it was within ourselves that was complicit in our marginalization and lack of representation as individuals in all our diversity. Disability Leadership: Sync Matters

Alongside the Sync programme, we were asked to develop Sync South East in partnership with the Legacy Trust and ACE SE working with 30 disabled artists and 10 disabled led/disability interest arts organizations and projects. This project ran from 2009 – 2011

"If we survive this period of uncertainty we will emerge a stronger and more sustainable animal. Clearer about its objectives and more linked to wider networks: more confident about its USP and its track record. Sync South East has played a significant part in helping us to evolve in the right direction." StopGAP dance company, Sync South East

To go straight to Sync South East's site...

Sync Seeding

We kick started the programme by asking for inspirational sound bites from as wide a range of disabled leaders as we could – Jenny Sealey, Artistic Director of Graeae, Lady Lockwood, founder of the Equal Opportunities Commission, Michael Lynch, then Director of the South Bank, Andy Kee, learning disabled Co-Founder of Oska Bright Film Festival, Bobby Baker, Artistic Director of Daily Life Ltd and Tony Heaton, Director of Shape.

Our membership on application requested that people talked about leadership and leading from their experience as disabled people and these ideas and opinions were shared on the web explicitly to show the diversity of thinking at the outset of the programme.

a note book with a half drawn picture of a camera on it

Sync events

Sync has been one of the most valuable career development initiatives that I have ever engaged with, It has had a profound and unexpected impact on my personal life in addition to my professional life. Rachael Wallach, Aiming High Programme Manager, Lewisham Council

Over the 2 ½ years of activity we have developed 6 face to face introductory events across the UK in London, Manchester, Bristol and Liverpool sharing Sync coaching theory and practice and Sync leadership thinking.

At the end of each Sync funding year, we staged an engagement event where those people taking part in our intensive leadership programmes were able to share new insights about their leadership learning. We staged one of these events in Spring 2010 at Tate Modern and our Sync Thinking event at The Wellcome Collection in Spring 2011, which brought the Sync programme under CLP to a close.

Since April 2011, we have been funded by Arts Council England.

To go straight to resources from the Sync Thinking event
Pillars of coaching.

Sync Intensives selection

Sync 20 was not only a privilege to belong to it also gave me fantastic practical and creative support through a Capital project and time of change. Jenny Sealey

We have run three intensive face to face programmes, formally Sync 20, then rebranded as Sync Intensives. These have made a dramatic impact on those taking part (42 people from across the UK over 2 ½ years). Many of those on the programmes have made radical shifts in their professional lives - several of these moving into striking new roles within the sector and managing their projects and organisations with new set of resources and constructs at their fingertips.

As part of the programme, individuals developed leadership articles and case studies for the website.

  • Jenny Sealey OBE – Artistic Director of Graeae used Sync 20 and in particular, Sync Coaching at a critical point in her organisation’s development. Jenny is currently Artistic Director of The Paralympic Games Opening Ceremony.

  • Caroline Ward – freelance artist, filmmaker at the BFI is now heading up Britain in a Day project for BBC2

"Sync Leadership has proved instrumental to my own development as a leader, in leading my own disability and creativity and developing ways to navigate through the world. I’m certain I wouldn’t be working on the projects I’m now working on without the support and challenge Sync offered".

  • Robin Meader – learning disabled poet and storyteller is now Artistic ‘Leader’ of Open Storytellers in Frome.

"Sync made me step up and into leading my own ideas and thinking, like a lion on the plains. I know what I need to lead and grow my organisation. I am happy to take those risks."

Caglar and Simon McKeown chat at a Sync event
a star with the words - the first step towards getting somewhere else is recognising you don't want to be where you are.

And other elements...

Sync Coaching, designed by Sarah Pickthall has been developed as an intrinsic part of the programme through direct consultation with those on our Intensive programmes. Based on an accredited coaching model developed by the Institute of Human Development, its methodology focuses on authenticity and tapping into natural skills and talents, both positive and negative.

Sync Placements - As part of the programme and following the Peach placement model, Sync supported two of our Sync Intensives cohort - Theresa Kiyota Rahman de Swiet and Deepa Shastri- through additional placements at LOCOG and at the Whitechapel Gallery.

"The Sync Placement at the Whitechapel Gallery was the most stimulating and creative environment I have ever worked in and challenged all misconceptions of leadership that I had when I started." Theresa Kiyota Rahman de Swiet

Sync site - Sync’s website was developed by one of the leading accessible web design companies – Surface Impression. Designed to have a shelf life beyond the CLP set of moments, it has platformed Sync in all its diversity. Currently the web holds:

  • a short film exploring Sync’s impact to date, as well as
  • a summary of our 2011 event Sync Thinking.
  • 36 articles (on leadership and coaching) and 16 case studies in easy read and standard formats
  • an archive of our monthly bulletins

Oh and as part of an engagement drive, we produced and disseminated 500 Sync notebooks across the sector. We've still got a few left so email your address to us if you want one (email joverrent@adainc.org).

Articles, case studies and more

We've case studies in written, video and audio formats, from people as diverse as Maria Oshodi, Extant, Rachel Feldberg, director of the Ilkley Literature Festival, Michael Lynch and Cathy Woolley, South Bank Centre, Tony Heaton, Shape, Rita Marcalo, dance artist, Tom Mauger, Babyhead, Robert Softley Gale, then Equalities Officer for Disability, Scottish Arts Council, Anya Ustazewski, Musician,Simon McKeown, creator of Motion Disabled, Jez Colborne, musician, SarahGem Tonin, Creative Routes and Bonkersfest, Robin Meader, Artistic Director, Open Storytellers, Sue Williams, Senior Officer, Diversity, ACE, Rachel Bagshaw and Jenny Sealey OBE, Graeae, Tanya Raabe, artist and creator of Who’S WhO, Defining Faces of an Arts Movement and Revealing Culture: HeadOn, Faye Stewart, Relationship Manager, ACE and artist... More go up each month.

To go straight to Sync's case study resources....
Jo Verrent holding up a flip chart sheet at a Sync event
Faye at a Sync event sticking out her tongue cheekily

And a whole series of articles in both standard and easy read format

There are Leadership Articles including:

  • What makes a good leader?
  • Leadership and power
  • The Shape of Leadership
  • The Caves and the plains
  • Reveal-ations
  • Is there a disabled leadership style?

Coaching articles including:

  • From Apology to Subversion
  • Choosing how to feel
  • Success and failure leadership
  • Putting ourselves out there
  • Coaching Conversations

And a series called Fresh Thinking on leadership where different people give their take on the interplay between disability and leadership, including:

  • The Synergy of Geese
  • Leading with All of Me
  • Rank and Circumstance
  • Leading with Deafness - the Hidden Nation
  • Reaching the Tipping Point
To go straight to Sync's article resources....