Our story

As told by Helen Sanderson, Founder, Wellbeing Teams

It was two books, and on on-line programme called the Seth Godin’s AltMBA which led to Wellbeing Teams.

My Dad died when he was 53. As I approached my 50th year I started to ask myself,

“If, like my Dad, I only had three years left to live, would I still want to do the work that I am doing now?

My career started with Occupational Therapy, and then Learning Disability services in social care. For the last twenty years I have worked as a trainer and consultant. Twenty years of projects, courses, conferences, a masters, a PhD, advising the Department of Health, writing DH guidance and sharing what I have been trying and learning through twenty books. I have been immersed in a world of person-centred practices, personalised care and support planning, personal budgets and personalisation (I am clearly attracted to work that begins with ‘P’). I have supported different ways of thinking and working, and helped to show what these could look like in practice through. I hope I have had a positive influence in some way, but if I only had three years left would I do more of the same?

One of the two books I read around that time was Atul Gawande’s ‘Being Mortal’. This powerful book challenges the way we support older people and think about end of life. As a consultant I worked in home care, care homes and hospices and his words resonated with my experience. I wanted to contribute to better ways to care and support older people at home. How could I do that?

The second book had part of the answer. This was a book recommendation from a fellow student on the AltMBA, Susan Basterfield. It was Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. It introduced me to how organisations are evolving, and that the leading organisations of the future, called teal organisations, will have 3 things in common – bringing the whole self to work, focus on purpose, and self-management. Immediately I wanted to make that change, and for us to evolve as a team. I was CEO of a H S A, a small, international, health and care consultancy team, and the book led us to become a self-managed team. I stepped down from being CEO and over the next two years we learned how to self-manage.

One of the examples in LaLoux’s book is the self-managed organisation of nurses called Buurtzorg, in the Netherlands. It employs over 12,000 nurses, who all work in self-managing teams of now more than 12 people, supported by a coach. There are no managers. They have with a small HQ of around 40 people with no director of finance, no HR director, no marketing team. Against all measures of success they are highly successful.

Atul Gawande’s book helped me focus on the change that I wanted to be part of, supporting older people. LaLoux’s book, and the story of Buurzorg helped me see another way to organising support, through self-managed teams.

The AltMBA helped me have the courage to ‘get skin in the game’. This is a phrase attributed to Nassim Taleb who berates how most academics and consultants (me being one of them) did not have anything to lose for the ideas they propagated. This is a controversial view, but it struck a cord with me. In my time as a consultant I have learned that when it is someone else’s organisation, where I am not responsible for their finances, their registration with CQC or reputation, naturally, there is only so far you can go. I have learned that to go to the edges of what I want to test and learn, the risks that I want to take, it could not happen within someone else’s organisation. So I needed to start my own, and this is how Wellbeing Teams started, to answer these two questions:

  • Could we actually do what we had taught people as trainers and consultants in H S A? Could we implement the person-centred practices and deliver person-centred care to support older people to live well and be part of their communities?
  • Could we be part of demonstrating a new way to support older people through self-managed teams?

My purpose, my ‘why’ evolved to be “ to innovate, demonstrate and inspire change in health, care and community, where everyone’s wellbeing matters”. Wellbeing Teams is how I am trying to do this, together with my colleagues.

Who we are

Wellbeing Teams was founded in 2016 by Helen Sanderson with the aim of radically changing the way health and social care is delivered.

We do this through a variety of means – from working in partnership with Local Authorities to deliver Wellbeing Teams as a local service provider, being commissioned directly by people with a personal budget or by providing learning and development for other organisations who want to learn about and use our approach. We do this through our Wellbeing Team Academy, and also through our membership sites.

Meet the team

We are a diverse, experienced team from a wide range of backgrounds; and we have many years of experience in health and social care in particular. The National Team are supported by Co-Production Partners and Advisors.

National Team

Helen Sanderson – lead for strategy and partnerships

Mary Curren – lead for operations, wellbeing and nominated individual with CQC

Ben Rosamond – lead for learning and development

Michelle Livesley – lead for self-management

Cath Barton – lead for Community

Emily McArdle – lead for Compassionate Communication

Sharon Wilton – lead for delivering Values Based Recruitment

Advisors and Co-production Partners

Rod Kersh Person-Centred Physician – Learn More

Andy Brogan Improvement Advisor – Learn More

Clenton Farquharson – Strategic Co-Production Partner

Neil Dunford – Co-Production Partner for families

Helen Ratcliffe – Co-Production Partner for older people

Jackie Le Fèvre Living Values Advisor – Learn More

Dom Cushnan Digital Advisor – Learn More

Martin Routledge – Policy

Awards and nominations