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Sarah Burbedge

Consultant, Facilitator and Presenter

Changemaker role: Corporate rebel

Change must have: Inclusion

Top change tip: Bring people together and build in the joy!

‘If you’re doing something for a really good reason, then it’s ok to push your luck!’ 

Sarah Burbedge on rebellious change

So, what got you into change?

I always describe my career trajectory as being somewhat ‘Bridget Jones to W1A’.  Having started as a reporter, turned live events producer and then moving to more strategic change and transformation roles in the BBC, the common thread is a passion for people, their stories, what drives them and making things better.

Working in continually evolving newsrooms I’ve had a natural curiosity and enthusiasm for transformation too.  I’m always keen to pitch a big idea and bring amazing people together to see it happen.

I’ve gravitated to projects and causes which bring people together for good; working on Children in Need, the Olympics and BBC News School Report.

Now that I’ve left the BBC, and most recently having the privilege of producing and launching the IBC Changemakers programme and podcast for the International Broadcast Convention, my passion for broadcast and change continues,  I’m currently busy pulling together a tapas of projects to keep me interested and interesting.

You’re passionate about the rebellious side of change – tell me more…

I suppose that comes from my journalistic roots. If there’s a story or a call to action, I always wonder what’s driving that and the need to challenge convention – the ‘why’ at the heart of the change.  I’ve always found myself very drawn to – and motivated by – the passion and purpose people feel.  And it’s about really striving for more than a ‘new normal’.  In Lockdown, I found myself discussing the very ‘underachieving’ nature of a new normal and to combat this set up a conversation and community beyond the workplace, called A Life More Extraordinary.  Through this forum we curated authentic, real-life conversations sharing people’s inspirational stories and insights that dealt with things in an upfront and very real way.  I like to bring different perspectives into a conversation and ask if the right people are in the room because being inclusive is massively important to making a well-designed change happen. And the rebel in me is always daring to really push my luck – consider the small, thoughtful details that really count within a big change, and dare to strive for MORE than the new normal.

I’m always going to be a little bit extra restless if I know I’m doing something for a really good reason. If you’re changing something for good, then it’s ok to rebel against norms that maybe aren’t working anymore.

In times of constant flux, how do we make change feel less repetitive and cumbersome?

Meet people where they’re at and put in the right kind of support. Make sure your leaders are checking in on a well-being front and being alongside people. In addition, I think making sure there are opportunities to celebrate and build in the joy. Let everyone be heard, build communities that support people through the changes, have the quizzes where the teams get together over silly team names, have the picnics. There are always successes to be celebrated and struggles to be shared, especially when you’re doing hard things!

How do you come out on top in turbulent times?

Make sure you’ve got your fundamental building blocks and support network in place and go back to your ‘why’.

Tapping into your bigger purpose (even if – or especially if – it’s a bit rebellious) is massive.

It makes me think of my first experience of trying to paddle board actually (not a huge success!). When you’re riding those waves and about to fall off the board, you can sometimes forget that you’re not in deep water or you can actually swim when you fall off!  I think that has some good parallels. Remind yourself, ‘you’ve got this’.  And you’ve navigated change every single day of your life. Taking a fresh perspective or a step back too is really important.  Taking a walk with Ginny my dog, or watching my son Oliver nail his latest skateboarding trick.  And the funnest, wisest person I know is my 6 year old daughter/guru Gracie, whose mantra is ‘joyful is important’, so we can always have a quick twirl in the kitchen.  It’s really important to stay agile and keep dancing!

Sarah is a freelance culture and digital transformation consultant, producer and content specialist. Before this, Sarah held numerous change leadership roles at the BBC, including Head of Change for Content Production Workflows.  She’s the Chair of Trustees for young people’s wellbeing charity Soulscape and a champion for