- Rethinking L&D
- About Us
In 2008 Jay Baughan suffered a nervous breakdown.
Before that day when his world came to a crashing halt, he had a successful career in the army and then in the world of retail where he helped build Ocado’s first online shopping experience.
But rather than take a break, recover and return to work, Jay did something incredible.
He found a new purpose: to help others who’re struggling with mental health and emotional resilience.
He founded an organisation called SESA - which stands for Social Emotional Skills Alliance.
SESA is a global ecosystem that enables individuals and communities to build capability that addresses emotional insecurity and un-managed anxiety.
He started in Europe, then out to West Africa and has since expanded to countries all over the world.
Now 12 years on from that day when Jay had that nervous breakdown, he’s now scaling SESA in partnership with Fuse.
This episode 👇 is Jay’s story.
*There’s a chance this transcript has a few spelling errors. I use a wonderful transcription tool called Otter to transcribe the audio. He's usually super accurate but he does get the odd word wrong. But please don’t hold it against him 😊
[Nihal Salah] 0:46
Thank you Jay so much for taking the time to chat with me today. I thought maybe we could start off with a little bit more about you and your background and your story.
[Jay Baughan] 0:58
Oh, that's an interesting one. So I was in business really. I left the army in 1988 and I moved into what was then a very changeable retail world. You know, at that point in 88, they were moving away from doing it themselves and going into third party. So I cut my teeth really in moving into third party logistics, understanding all of that change management process and ended up in retail with Ocado. Which was a fantastic experience, a blank piece of paper, builder, an E grocery from scratch and bring all your experience with you. So I had a fantastic career really, building solutions to keep up with demand. And in 2008 unfortunately, I exited a very bad management buy-out and ended up having a nervous breakdown. So I sort of came to a crashing halt in 2008 and decided, look you know, there's got to be something that I can do. There's a certain amount of need out there. And that's when I moved into what I call emotional safety and resilience. And I started working in the business community and moved into the student world. These are students coming out from university into the business space and what do they need to know? What's it going to be like for them? In 2012, I was approached through the University of Sheffield to support the Nigerian government with the Niger Delta amnesty programme as it was, because they'd found that the transition from quite an insulated community life into vocational skills training anywhere in the world and a 20 odd week process wasn't working. Because they've missed out this whole emotional dynamic of dealing with the trauma of the young people dealing with their emotional needs and that whole process. And I developed a way really of embedding a train the trainer in and being able to do a wrap around. And from 2012 till 2019, it's been a whirlwind of travel and understanding and realising that it's quite a complex need out there to equip communities with this capability to bounce back, as I've learned myself. so I've developed relationships and partnered with people and brought resources together and we were doing it on the ground. But I needed to go digital, I needed to scale this, and that's really what brought me into this ecosystem model now, which is to create an environment where people can come in and be supported. I can bring them resources, we can sustain ourselves, and we can reach more people. So it's been quite a journey and it's 12 years now since the, you know, the dreaded day where I had to pick myself up off the floor.
[Nihal Salah] 4:11
That's incredible! Though that turning point, you could have just said, I need to take a break, I need to take time out, had a timeout for a couple of months, you know, re-energized and come back. But you didn't, you almost had a complete... well, not you almost, it was a complete career shift. But it also sounds like it wasn't a plan that you had, it sort of happened accidentally and then you ran with it.
[Jay Baughan] 4:41
Yeah. Yeah, very much from 2012. Going to Nigeria was the changing point really, because then I realised there are charities, there are public sector teams, got no idea about some of the stuff that you and I would know is out there in the L&D space. So how do you connect people together and then you're drawn into this, well if I can do it, then I can teach others to do it. But equally teachers could teach children to do it and youth workers could teach youth participants to find out about themselves. And then the more I started to look, the more excited I got, because there are some great people out there who know their stuff. But you've got to create this sort of enabling environment. And that's really been the hard bit for me, although I'm not really a solutions architect in your part of the world, but certainly I understand how things fit together. I'm quite tenacious. So I've not really stopped but I have learned how to regulate myself and sustain myself and that's really what's kept it going.
[Nihal Salah] 5:46
I'm half Egyptian, and I lived in Egypt for 18 years and travelled quite a lot across North Africa. I haven't been to Nigeria, but worked with lots of people from Nigeria, and I think it's amazing how much of an appetite there is to learn and share and improve. And they'll, in that region through my experience living there, people will take the knowledge and tools that you give them, that they will willingly and joyfully share that with, you know, with their community. So I can, to a small degree, relate to what you're talking about. But tell me a little bit more about SESA and, you know, how the organisation came to be as it is today and maybe a little bit about the model and the purpose of it as well.
[Jay Baughan] 6:37
Yeah, so Social Emotional Skills Alliance really is the acronym SESA. And the whole idea really is that you are creating a collaboration to build this capability. So that's really where I started. So in 2012 through to about 2014, I was in West Africa. So I was, that's where I was. But I was reaching out to southern and central Africa and I was realising that everybody had the same need. So the SESA community really is a sort of a hybrid of how do I get skills and translate that and push that into the community so they can run with the same capability. And it was at that point that I started reaching out into mindfulness. I started to look into autism, social emotional learning, which is effectively a teacher based capability building process that dates back to the late 90s, emotional intelligence of course, but then also trauma. And wherever I was, because I moved then into the Middle East and supporting from Dubai, and I realised that the further I looked into education and youth work and particularly families, trauma was quite a defining factor. And the research that tells us that early years trauma, or ACEs as they're called, really shapes brain development and it shapes future well-being. And health was something I felt quite passionate about making sure was available. So this created the sort of five learning zones where I could sort of bring a sort of an Amazon, or an eBay type approach and say, look you know, let's bring the best that I can find into these learning zones and encompass that with some professional development as well as some self development and make an environment. So SESA has evolved, it's still evolving, even working with you guys now it's evolving. But it was very much about making sure that if I can create access, then people will learn and I found Europe to be the toughest continent to crack because there's a lot of people that wear the T-shirt “I've done it before”, “I'm very sceptical” and a little bit dismissive of genuine attempts to help. Whereas in southern Asia and Africa and North Africa, I find them very, very receptive. And the only challenge was connectivity, but we've overcome connectivity issues by going into mobile apps and allowing people to sort of, as you would call it, snack on content. So there's the formal learning but then you've really got this great way of sort of drip feeding content for people to sort of go to a centralised area and find content that's sanitised. It's not just stuff that anybody can post on the internet and put a video up and they assume it's true and good. And I formed alliances with institutions and we've brought research in through a very long standing relationship with an organisation called RocheMartin, where we can measure competency developments in social emotional skills and they were very kind to help me gather data. So I went out to the communities across Africa and Asia in the European countries, and we brought in youth data and we normatized that. And they built a tool which allows us then to help teachers and youth workers, impact measure this social emotional skills development. And so we know it works and the research from around the world says it works in educational spaces. So this really, SESA’s about scalability now, and building an ecosystem means that we can sustain it properly and we can roll it out. And that's certainly the objective now and this partnership with you guys is very important because it gives me a community feel. It's not just about a learning management system, it's very much about sharing, experiencing, commentary, interaction and engagement, and really getting people to sort of meet the experts and we've got a great little widget now that says meet you're experts within your community and you know, we can connect the two together.
[Nihal Salah] 11:06
So it sounds like the social community component or the absolute foundation of the work SESA’s doing. Could you talk us a little bit through the journey of your community managers?
[Jay Baughan] 11:23
Yeah, I created in the early stages a Social Emotional Development Institute. So effectively, that's the structure that you'll see within our four part ecosystem diagram. And that structure is really where we've brought partners in from all different shapes, sources and all their resources. So they're the experts really that sit, if you like, in the room and people can go to them. So managing content, you know, bringing new members in, as we call them members, is an administrative function. But really it's the engagement with experts, like minded people, that this community process focuses on. And we've got a Resilient Me Community which is for self development. And then we've got an Education and the Youth Work Community. So there's professional development going on as well as personal development. By default, everybody does self development first, from a teacher to youth worker to parents. You all do yourself first, you learn for yourself, and then we give you access to another community and you can really upgrade and the five learning zones allows and again, the learning zones release material that's sanitised and validated, it releases topics as you would call them. We call them CPD bundles, and they can build their competency across five areas. So you're talking about a multi disciplinary capability and we support that. So the resources are fed out of the Social Emotional Development Institute's to the communities, they’re accredited through our partnership with the Institute of Training and Occupational Learning in the UK, and the whole thing is designed to become seamless. So it's not sit-down formal learning, it's very much the 70:20:10 model that you know, 90% of which he's saying, get out there and do it, use the resources we're giving you and talk about it, and that really is working. We've been doing that since January of last year, inside Canvas, in a very sort of LMS very cold way, but we've tried to do it through alerts and emails. But now we're in with you guys, the communities are very much autonomous, you know, we'll make sure the content’s going in and it will go out and people can digest it and, you know, comment on it, share it and even upload their own experiences. And it's, that's what we're focused on there.
[Nihal Salah] 13:55
That's fantastic. Just picking up on what you just said about people uploading their own experiences. So we talked about user generated content quite a lot, and often one of the barriers is that fear of putting yourself out there and sharing that content. What's your experience been with your audience and users on your platform?
[Jay Baughan] 14:22
So let's talk about Resilient Me as a community, a dedicated community, we have adolescence, we have young people, which depends on where you are in the world could be anything up to 35 years old, and parents/adults. And within that, there are different levels of willingness to engage openly. But what I do find is that the Fuse environments does encourage people to sort of connect together on a local level or in a context level. So what's happening now is we're finding that through the canvas experience, people are used to having, because we do a foundations phase, a six week sort of daily journey, people are having to sort of say, well this is what I did today, this is what I found. And people then comment on that, so they get used to it in the early stages. When we get to the professional communities of SESA education or SESA youth, you know, what I find is people are willing to share best practice that, you know, it's one thing talking about an experience, another thing is actually uploading and saying, I just thought I'd share this, maybe somebody would want to try this. And then when you start looking at different countries in different parts of the world, Africa and Asia do look to the European side of the world, and particularly to America where a lot of our partners are and they are willing to sort of follow the thought leadership. So what we're looking to do is to really stimulate that some more and get everybody really interacting. So you know, you're doing your learning but then you really are practising it. That's, as I'm seeing it, that's following the sort of big clients that you've got, like Hilti and Avon and all those that have got 10s of thousands of people sharing snippets. But it's, that's the way of the world, people do use Facebook, they do get used to using WhatsApp groups. And what I found is your environment encourages that, and we're very much on that theme.
[Nihal Salah] 16:26
That's wonderful. And I'd love to hear more about, because we're talking about them as people, and I'd love to hear more about the impact, the great work you're doing, that SESA’s had on these people. If there's, are there any particular stories you could share with us about that?
[Jay Baughan] 16:46
Well, from the COVID-19, let's go recently. So from the beginning of April, we have an intake each month, so new members will come in and they'll start at six weeks sort of foundation phase, we call it. And we brought a lot of students in. So these are students that one would expect are either at school, so they're not at school anymore, or they're at University, but they're not at university. So in some way, we wanted to sort of make sure that this was still being provided. And what I found was that people we're really appreciative of the ability to sort of learn about themselves at such an isolating time. Why am I feeling like this? And what's driving this? And you know, some of the commentary that comes back, some of its private by the way, you know, you can do an instant message back to an expert and say, “I want to post this, but I'm really struggling. And likewise, we also encouraged, we've got a blue light campaign going in the UK which is, families of police, ambulance, and fire and rescue. And so what we found was a lot of the younger people as well were from blue light families. So the activities that we were usually getting people to go out and do online were, you know, go to work, practice this, observe, reflect, you couldn't do it, you know, you're sitting in the house with your family. And you know, a month down the line, people are crawling the walls, they're having all sorts of arguments. So the activities of the foundation phase were encouraging people to actually sit down and talk about active listening for example, or talk about emotional needs and doing the activities as a group like you would have a family game of some kind. So the information coming back was fascinating and the feedback has been very positive. That you know, this has helped me understand myself away from the normal sort of hustle and bustle of life, but more so in the confines of the domestic environment. But equally there are those that are on their own. They're isolated in their flat on their own, and how have they sort of coped with that? And a lot of the activities around reaching out to other members of the cohort and do the activity with them, make friends. So that's really been revealing to me. And I think as well, where parents have been a little bit nervous about their adolescent getting involved with us, it's been good because it's got mum and child together or, you know, students that are disassociated to reach out on WhatsApp and say “look, he's got me doing this activity. Would you do the feedback with me?” So we've got a 360 thing going on and then we say, right so what did they say about you? And it's been good because it's got a new narrative that's enabled people to sort of stay in contact. And I've been able to use that in a lot of conversations with things like Student Union discussions, where we're saying, look come on board, partner with us, and this is what it would look like. But imagine that in the campus where you're not asking them to sit in their room, they could meet you periodically, and this is where the outreach comes in, we could discuss the topics that are going on. So it's been really good because it's quite an unusual situation to ask people to engage in.
[Nihal Salah] 20:12
It well, it certainly has been a unique couple of months. We're all learning as we go, aren’t we.
[Jay Baughan] 16:20
[Nihal Salah] 20:23
Speaking of learning, and social learning and community, this is something that sounds like it's been kind of the core, you know, of what SESA’s been about. How would you advise or support a learning and development professional who wants to pursue more of the social learning, but just they're not sure where to start? And they might be a little bit worried because you do have to let go of some control, right. So what would you say to someone like that who's in that position?
[Jay Baughan] 20:58
For me, it's all about encouraging integration. So if you've got learners, encourage them to talk as you would do in a workshop in a room. So you say right, get into a corner and discuss the following, and we do talking circles and all sorts in the workshops. So for me, the digital approach to this, is very much encouraging people to interact and communicate as part of an activity rather than share something, you know, because people just won't do that. So it's mimicking that local workshop experience in a digital way. And this is a great format. So, when was this now? So this was in May, we got youth workers from Lebanon, from the UAE, from Saudi Arabia, from Egypt, from I forget the other one, Sudan. So I've got all these little boxes at the top of the screen and you know, they're all on mute, and you’re thinking, goodness me, how am I going to get them to all interact? So I just said, right. So here's the, so I did a screen share, here's the activity, it's the emotional needs. Now you need to map that and then I need you to reach out and choose somebody to make a comment to on a private chat, and we started to explore. And I think for a learning and development professional that's looking to use the medium of social learning, it's starting off with that. Effectively then, you know, after you've had lunch in a workshop, you come back, somebody's got to know each other, they've had a coffee together, and they'll sit together. And you can recreate that, particularly you can do that in the Fuse environment, because you've got all the mediums you need.
[Nihal Salah] 22:40
I think it's interesting, the point about start small, because sometimes there's this perception that social learning is about going all in at once. But actually what I'm hearing you say is, you know, see if you just start with two individuals.
[Nihal Salah] 22:59
So yeah, thank thank you for that, Jay.
[Jay Baughan] 23:03
And I will add to that if I may, that I mean, we've spent many years doing on ground stuff without digital. When we introduced digital, so you've got workshop (physical), and then you say, right, okay, everybody, off you go and between now and the next workshop, we'll be reaching out to you. And we use the Canvas app for that, which effectively was just alerts with an embedded activity to go and do, but we encourage them to actually meet up. So you know, while you're doing this talk, go and meet up with somebody and do the exercise together. And we found that really really works. So what I was looking for with this then is, how do we replicate that? Encouraging people to actually reach out to each other? To me, that's social learning. It's not some big you know, stage everybody got to sit and go on mute. It's making it as you say, small but continual. And I think a lot of people are used to doing video diaries as well, you know, sort of looking at the phone and talking into the phone. And once you get people used to that they can upload that as part of their evidence, if you like. And I think again, that's sharing with yourself. So social learning is equally sharing, verbalising, what you think's going on?
[Nihal Salah] 24:21
That's an interesting perspective. I haven't heard anyone talk about it that way. So would you say that's sort of, could that be a first step to getting someone to feel a little bit comfortable?
[Jay Baughan] 24:34
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I've watched a number of people over the last, I don't know 10 years, posting little video things to either LinkedIn or Facebook or Instagram. And you can see them grow in confidence. And they find their voice, whatever that voice is, whatever their message is, and then before you know, you can fast forward and I'll give you a great example, Jay Shetty. So you go back five years, and some of his early stuff was good. He was very articulate, he wasn't as slick. He's now found his voice. He's found his channel, got 3.5 million YouTube followers, he's got great stuff going on. But he's very comfortable doing it now. Whereas in the early stages, he was still sort of finding his way around. And I find a lot of people like that, “there's no way I'm going to stand up in a workshop and talk”, but then, you know, three days in, people are quite comfortable. And I think it's being able to create that warmth, that safety to allow people to do it. And that's the challenge, I think for L&D professionals is, move away from what you're used to doing and create using mediums and processes. People are getting used to doing, and get them to do it more, and then then it will flow.
[Nihal Salah] 25:44
What's the vision that you have with this partnership with Fuse? So what ways do you see Fuse facilitating the growth of SESA? What does that look like?
[Jay Baughan] 26:00
Well, my experience so far has been one of real, how can I put it? Awe I guess, because you've got a leader in Steve, and I've been following and connected to Steve for a while now, but he's got a vision about disrupting a very staid and very underappreciated part of professional life, which is L&D. And then you've got technology and innovators that I've met since sort of moving in with Fuse and setting up our environments. And they really understand what's required to use technology, drive content, breadcrumbs, and you know, drip drip drip. And what I found is that that works well with somebody like me who wants to push the barriers. I'm not an L&D specialist so much as you know, many of the other people are but I know what I want. So I think the partnership, what it's given me now is, it's given me a fantastic technology to move into. You know, somebody could either go from an app experience to a browser in an app, sorry, browser in a mobile phone experience. But what they're getting is this, Facebook feel, and I mean that with the greatest respect. So I'm able to say to people, look, you're already in this space, but we're going to make it a lot different for you. So whenever I say, well you know, fancy doing this. Next thing I know, and I'll shout out to James Gale and to Shane, what they come up with is hard. But what you could do is you could do this, and we've got an app that does that, or I've got a client that's already doing this. And so what you've got is this technology meets social impacts partnership. And you know, I've had a number of team meetings with a lot of people that are involved with me And they’re like, “oh, but how does it do this? And how does it do that? And I say, well what do you want it to do? Because that's the beauty, I think, of groundbreaking technology specifically that’s been built around components that you can put together and mix and match. And having come from the Ocado world where they built it from the ground upwards, I know it can be done, you know. And so I find that the partnership now will give me scalability. I've been able to, and this is sort of hot off the press, I've been able to see how, from a digital marketing perspective, an organisation could see the benefit of sponsoring membership within the SESA community. So for our sustainability model, the grey sort of piece on the icon there, we're saying to brand marketers look, either cause marketing, brand placement, whatever you want to call it. We can put you front and centre into a community of people that you're adding value to for your sponsorship. Now, you could call that CSR, you could call that cause marketing, brand marketing, sponsorship marketing, I don't care. But what I am saying to you is that we can put your brand through tags and everything else that I've been taught to do right into where it needs to go. And we've even been able to build a community, for sponsors to be seen in and listed in, for public sector.
So for social value by sponsoring blue light families, immediately a supplier can say to a police force, wherever they are, we’re part of this initiative that you've already signed up to and are collaborating, we are a listed sponsor.
And the level of sponsorship that we can talk to them about makes sense to them because they’re used to advertising and events and all that sort of stuff. But the conversation with you guys has allowed me to know how to create that story and then have webinars to say yeah, I'll show you what it would look like. And similarly, I could do the same with the public sector teams and say, this is where you'll find everybody that's sponsoring. So it's been great. So I can see a very good future, you know, we've come through difficult times.
And again, I'll say that to John and everybody that you have made sure that we've got on and built this, instead of worrying about the usual sort of, you know, we've got to get the commercials in. Let's just get on and do it Jay because we believe in you and that's been phenomenal.
[Nihal Salah] 30:31
That's an absolute delight to hear, Jay, honestly. I mean, that's why we all come to work. So thank you for feeding that back. I will make sure the team listen to this because it will really, really make their day. So thank you. You've given us a lot of joy through that feedback. I'm curious to know what gives you joy because your journey has been an absolutely fascinating and inspiring one. What's the thing that really gives you joy?
[Jay Baughan] 31:02
In a nutshell, seeing somebody’s life change like mine did. So all of the component parts that you will see in a topic within the foundation phase that everybody goes through as a new member to this community, has been built from the ground up from me. So, you know, the videos, the processes, the activities, and when I see a young person write to me and say, “this has been amazing, I thought it was me and the way I am that cause problems at home. And now I know it's not, it's about my emotional needs and being able to speak properly to my mum or my dad or my sister or brother”. And likewise, when I'm on the ground, as I have been for years in another country, and you see the light bulb come on in a workshop, and then you come back in months to come, and they're still doing it, they're still following that process. That's what makes it worthwhile. And that's what's driving all of this. You know, if you look at the website, it just summarises that we're building capability for personal emotional safety and resilience. And that is not difficult. It's just been complicated by avaricious commercial terms, which makes a workshop too expensive for the average person. It boils down to people trying to hold on to their crown jewels instead of sharing them. And so for me, if I can bring everything together as I have done and get that into the masses, then I know those light bulb moments and I know that through your technology, will make that an easier learning process. I will see an impact and I've already seen the impact over the years through the relationship with RocheMartin and these ECRs, as they're called Emotional Capital Reports, where a young person, even in a very well to do school in Dubai. They took the test and you could see the start points of their social emotional skills and you know that after a period of time when you take that test again, there'll be an upturn. They will have more empathy, they will have greater control of their emotions, they will be able to adapt without getting emotionally overcome. That's why I do it. And I've even, you know, over the years of coaching and bringing up my daughter to do the same, you know, it's not easy because at home, they push the buttons. But seeing how young people can learn this, means that all the science and all the research is right, and that's why I do what I do. I've just got to make a living out of it. And I've got to scale it to a point where everybody else makes a living because that's the only way that people keep creating content, keep being engaged. I've been very blessed to have some great people stick with me through a lot of false starts and you know, dead ends. But we're now at a point with technology behind us, we really can do this and I'm so grateful that Fuse have decided to support and engage with me.
[Nihal Salah] 34:00
I think it's an absolute honour for us Jay, to be able to work with you and be part of this incredible journey. So thank you. And my last question is really, what's the one thing you've learned since that day when you went through that mental breakdown? When you reflect back, what's the key lesson that you've learned over the past several years?
[Jay Baughan] 34:33
Listen to your body. Your body will be telling you that it's tired. Self awareness, as I have since learned, is about tuning into those emotional responses. And if you ignore them, if you keep working and you know, pushing yourself and ignoring what you actually need as a human, those six emotional needs, you will burn out. And it's a bit like a phone battery, the more you mess about with the charging of it, the less charge it will contain. So the ability to actually bounce back is not easy. So listen to your body. I've been fortunate to talk to occupational health specialists in the UK in the last year and they're all talking about prevention, which is teaching people to listen to their bodies and be self aware, and give them the coping mechanisms and strategies to get through life in a different way. Because you come to a point where you then tip into what is now known as mental ill health and that's dangerous. And thankfully, I've never sunk into depression, self harm, substance abuse, destructive behaviour or all consequences of just burning out. And, you know, for me, the lesson has been about; listen to yourself, your body's telling you I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm not responding the way that I normally do. Timeout. That would be my advice.
[Nihal Salah] 36:07
That's perfect advice and it's been an absolute absolute pleasure speaking with you, Jay. Thank you so much for taking the time.
[Jay Baughan] 36:15
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