joint Solution-Focused Practice Group: 25th January 2022

The joint Solution-Focused Practice Group sessions are for people who have had some training in solution-focused practice, and wish to meet with others to develop their skills.

The sessions, co-facilitated by Guy Shennan and Marc Gardiner, are a continuing professional development opportunity which aims to bring together people committed to working in a solution-focused way to develop skills and build networks. Sessions comprise any one or more of:

  • Teaching
  • skills practice
  • case studies
  • group exercises and discussions
  • SF sessional video footage

– all good opportunities for practitioners to step back from the daily work and reflect, learn and refresh.

Attendance at these sessions costs: £25 + VAT.

Book here

Further planned 2022 sessions (always 9.30am-12.30pm) for the diary :

For more information contact:

If a group session is cancelled, payments will be refunded or transferred to a future session. Cancellation by participants up to 72 hours before the date and time of the event can be refunded or the credit transferred to a future session.

Friday 25th March
Friday 20th May
Friday 15th July
Friday 23rd September
Friday 25 November

For those more local to Zebra in the Westcountry and who participate in or are interested in joining our South West Solution-focused Practice Group the next session will be on 17th February.

Zebra Facilitator & Trainer (Trauma-informed)

We continue to build our trauma-informed practice delivery team and are seeking an experienced facilitator to join us.

Hours: 15 pw

Start Date: As soon as available

Contract Length:  12 months – and hopeful of extending this post should we be successful with planned developments

Salary:  £35,000 pro rata.

Probationary Period: 12 weeks

Holiday entitlement: 30 days per annum, plus designated bank holidays.

Base: Most work currently online; some face-to-face, principally in Cornwall & Devon (this may increase through 2022)

Job description and person specification are available here

Applicants are asked to submit a CV & Personal Statement re: their interest in and strengths for this job, referencing both the job description and the person specification

Please email with your interest and for further information

Zebra Collective is a worker cooperative working across the statutory, voluntary, and community sectors. Zebra’s core value is social and environmental justice.

Further information about Zebra’s approach to trauma-informed work here

Welcome Hall: Monthly Update December 2021

All – we’re sad to tell you that we are having to close our project to re-open Welcome Hall.

Plymouth City Council has said that it can no longer support the project, mainly due to financial pressure as it is covering the maintenance costs. We were planning on applying to the government’s Community Ownership Fund (COF), with the Council’s support, and the next round has very recently been pushed back from December to ‘Spring’, meaning that they would have needed to continue paying those costs for a longer period. Also, the COF priorities for this round have changed, likely making us ineligible.

We know you’ll be as disappointed as we are, and we’re sorry we haven’t been able to make a success of this project on behalf of Devonport.

However, there’s good stuff we wanted to do at Welcome Hall, and we’re still keen to explore possibilities for doing these good things elsewhere in Devonport. We’ll take a break over Christmas and new year, but at the start of 2022 we’ll regroup to discuss options.

We’ll keep you posted.

Thanks all for your interest in this project.


Marc Gardiner

Jan Horrocks

We at Zebra are sad to announce that Jan Horrocks has died after a long struggle with cancer.

Jan was Zebra’s Organisation Coordinator from 2007 until 2016, when she stayed with POP (which was created by Zebra in 2013) as it established as an independent organisation.

Jan was always positive and friendly, and usually funny. She was the most organised Zebra ever, and her grounded questioning was frequently useful to us in checking ourselves as we developed our thinking, for example our equalities training content.

I last saw Jan, and her husband Paul, a couple of times during the winter of ’19-’20, at Pier One cafe on Plymouth Hoe, right on the rocks over the sea. Jan and Paul always sought out scenic local spots for a daytime coffee. Those were such enjoyable conversations, reconnecting having not met for some time. We agreed to arrange another long coffee: then Covid came, and I didn’t see her again. 

Jan is the first Zebra to go. She will be much missed, and will remain in our hearts.

Marc Gardiner, 22nd February.

Thoughts on a solution-focused response to Covid-19

What’s a solution-focused response to Covid-19? I’ve been asked this question a number of times recently and here are some thoughts.  Though please know that they are just thoughts, not intended as a neat answer, an oversimplification or trivialisation of this big challenge. And, as ever, you are the expert in your life, job, role etc… – you’ll know best how to be at your best in this crisis. So:

  • First, let’s acknowledge the problem, and the size of it: this touches most of us – loss of loved ones, loss of work, loss of purpose, loss of security, a personal sense of threat, and fear of the unknown.
  • And, thinking global social justice: its impact is likely to be greatest in poorer countries with less infrastructure, and in more unequal countries (such as the USA – and, in some different ways, the UK too), with huge differentials in health and access to healthcare systems.
  • Then, let’s recognise and value the role of the scientists who are investigating the problem and trialling solutions – a reminder that in some fields, paying attention to the problem is essential.
  • And then, during lockdown, let’s focus on our future: let’s build a rich picture of how we hope and intend our lives will be when we emerge into a post-Covid-19 world (or at least post-lockdown). Recall the solution-focused idea that, the richer the picture of that future, the more we can sense ourselves there already; and that can help to maintain the motive energy to take us in that direction.
  • We may think we can’t do it – these are unprecedented challenges. But any of us can identify occasions when we’ve surprised ourselves in how we’ve coped with unwanted, very difficult situations. What clues can we find in these instances, when we pay them really careful attention? Let’s engage with the qualities and abilities – the resources and resourcefulness – we have but which we may not notice.
  • How do we maintain a sense of purpose and meaning? The more individuals and families can recognise that the sacrifice of their freedom of movement & choice is a direct contribution to a collective effort to protect the well-being of all, the better we’ll be able to sustain those sacrifices.
  • And the more we can find meaningful activity within the confines of our homes, the better we’ll last. And, given that our primary need is connection and relationship, this is the time to help everyone in lockdown to explore and build their options for communicating virtually: phones are familiar to all, and even smartphones now have wide reach, but I wonder how many more people will, by the end of this, be connecting by Skype, Zoom, Facetime, Whatsapp etc.

For those who are continuing to work, your roles are essential, and you deserve the respect and recognition you’re getting for your efforts. I hope that one or two of the thoughts above may be helpful to you in your practice as you get alongside people some of whom will be quite distressed.

Finally, a reflection: it’s tough when our routine is disrupted – but how good was our routine? When we want to make changes in our lives, it tends still to be hard to break established habits.

So, now that many of our habits have been forcibly broken – for good reason – this can be an opportunity for us, individually and as a society, to reconsider our norms and see if there might be better ways to live. I’m thinking, just for example, of travel, consumption and work.

Marc Gardiner

Plymouth City Roller Derby

Zebra are delighted to be part-sponsoring the upcoming match of Plymouth City Roller Derby on Sunday 2nd February at the Marjons sport centre. Come along and enjoy the buzz and excitement.

Plymouth City Roller Derby (PCRD) started in Plymouth in 2010 by a small group of local women interested in joining the growing number of teams across the UK and worldwide.

Roller Derby is a sport started in the late 1920s but had a revival traced back to the Riot Girl movement in Austin, Texas in 2001. It creates a unique space, largely for women to learn and compete. It is a full body contact sport played on quad roller skates. It’s fast paced, embodies athleticism, body positivity, competition, camaraderie and skill. It also has a lot of style, with rock, punk and alternative music inspired dress and attitude throughout.

PCRD is an inclusive place for all gender identities, backgrounds and abilities. Players are supported by many volunteers, supporters and referees (affectionately called zebras ) and safety has a high priority. Every match must comply with the UKRDA standards and involve highly trained referees, paramedics with top equipment and non – skating officials who uphold the rules.

That said, there is a strong DIY punk culture, and a subcultural set of values where leagues are owned and operated by themselves. PCRD self organises, has an active democratic committee and strongly values participation, equality and inclusion of all. It is an incredibly empowering and encouraging sport. It’s more than a sport, for many needing a physical release, experiencing poor mental health or seeking an alternative place to build friendships and support, PCRD itself is a unique space.

PCRD is a CIC has often campaigned and fundraised for local charities as well as attending many plymouth events, often the less mainstream ones such as Plymouth Pride, reclaim the night and local domestic abuse and sexual violence fundraisers.

In the last few years, some of our most experienced players have naturally moved on. We are currently recruiting and we are entering the British Champs and starting back at the bottom to build our team again. To do this, we must host a game and travel to others across the UK. Our first game is coming up really soon on Sunday 2nd February at the  Marjons sport centre.

Zebra’s Day in Dublin and Radical Social Work

The Zebra learnt a lot from our day with the Irish Association of Social Workers Advocates and Allies Conference in Dublin. We were invited to speak on a topic on the theme of relationship-based social work, and chose to introduce Hilary Cottam’s work as presented in her recent book Radical Help, to provoke thought and see if it contains clues and possibilities for social workers in 2019.

Also speaking were: Michael, a Dublin man who’s benefitted from the work of some of the social workers present, about what he found most helpful; Vasilios Ioakimidis, Prof of Social Work at Essex Uni, on lessons from the history of social work; and Guy Shennan on “radical hope” and the Solution-Focused Collective.

The day was designed such that most of the time the delegates were talking in smaller groups, perhaps stimulated by the presentations, and taking their conversations wherever they went.

The closing plenary discussion was rigorous and balanced awareness of the constraints under which professional social work teams operate in 2019, with plenty of energy for thinking and operating beyond these constraints.

Guy and Zebra are wondering if there might be appetite for us to return offering solution-focused training.

Wellbeing in Nature – a social prescribing project

The WIN project has just completed its first six week programme in partnership with @fotonow and working with participants from @thezoneplymouth’s Insight team. 10 participants took part in a blend of #greenwoodcraft, bushcraft, #forestbathing, photography and sound recording activities in 40-acres of semi-ancient woodland in Cornwall and creative workshops at @fotonow’s Ocean Studios.

Longer slideshow:  CLICK HERE

One minute slideshow with sound: CLICK HERE


Two soundscapes-” Life is Good but the World is Angry” and “Hammock Time”: CLICK HERE

Wellbeing in Nature is a social prescribing project designed to facilitate the opportunity for groups of people to improve their health and wellbeing by coming together on a programme of nature-based activities.

The project is a collaboration between the Zebra Collective, Fotonow CIC and Greenwood Music CIC and funded by the Big Lottery’s Awards for All programme.

There are ten places per programme, with the Spring programme starting in June and the Autumn programme starting in September. Project starts on Thursday 13th June 2019

Wellbeing in Nature is informed by robust and extensive research about factors that can improve wellbeing and the cathartic experience of engaging with and within nature. The project is built around the Five Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Be Active, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Give.

Wellbeing in Nature is looking for participants who want to improve their wellbeing through a progressive programme that will allow them to connect with each other and nature; be active in the outdoors; learn new skills, such as bushcraft. greenwood craft, photography; take notice and practice mindfulness and  give through conservation work and supporting each other.

Participants will help design the workshops and the programme will start with an engagement and planning workshop.

The outdoor nature workshops will take place in Caradon Woods, a 40-acre semi-ancient Woodland Trust site managed by Greenwood Music.  Running alongside this participants will take part in media and photography workshops with Fotonow CIC at their Ocean Studios facility.

Over the course of the programme, participants will take part in woodland wellbeing workshops whilst capturing their experience using the media skills developed with Fotonow. At the end of the programme, Fotonow will support participants to ‘tell their story’ through video, photography and/or sound.

This is a fantastic opportunity for people to boost their wellbeing and thanks to the Big Lottery funding it will be completely free to all, including transport to the woods and a lunch cooked on the open fire whilst there.

“This project provides people with an opportunity to build their wellbeing and resilience through taking part in experiential workshops in nature and exciting media workshops. They will shape their journey and inform how the project develops to better offer a social prescription to the natural health service.”

Aydin Boyacigiller, Wellbeing in Nature Project Manager, The Zebra Collective

For more information contact: Tel: 07919 172804 email:


Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and clues for social work

Marc is looking forward to the innovative Advocates and Allies Conference of the Irish Association of Social Workers which is bringing together Radical and Relationship-based Social Work Practices on 30th September in Dublin. He’s a speaker and will be talking about Hilary Cottam’s Radical Help: possibilities and  clues for social work?

In 2018, social activist Hilary Cottam published Radical Help, her account of several action research projects conducted around England over a decade seeking answers to the question of how the system can be helpful to people in the 21st century.

 Her findings are truly radical, and yet perhaps rather intuitive – even obvious: we humans need meaning and purpose, and a picture of how we’d like our life to be; we all, always, have strengths to draw upon in our efforts to get there – and building our capabilities further is essential too; we want human connection, so excellent relationships – with friends, neighbours, workers – is key; and we engage when we’re in control, setting our own agenda.

 Ms Cottam’s projects were tightly evaluated and demonstrated some very encouraging results. So what clues do these projects offer to statutory social work? The duties of the department and the social work role may currently constrain, but here’s an opportunity to see what possibilities we can tease out.