I had a brief flirtation with Economics, then trained as a Research Executive with MORI (now Ipsos-MORI).
I've had a long, successful career in market research, social & government research, and behavioural research.
As the first Research & Engagement Manager with City of York Council, I pioneered an approach to research and engagement that helped shape the way all UK councils plan policies and deliver services today. 'The York Revolution, 1989-91
' is written up as a case study on Medium @PaulVittles.
I was Awarded Fellowship of the Market Research Society (FMRS) in 2001, in recognition of my pioneering work with government (local and national), NHS, and public services to use research and citizen/community/customer engagement in policy and service planning and delivery.
The MRS Fellowship was also in recognition of my development work with young researchers (I facilitated workshops with young researchers to help develop the young researchers' network, R-Net, and mentored the Steering Group - and I'm now an MRS Mentor).
I was CEO of a research agency (RBA Research - no longer exists) which, under my leadership, grew from 5 to 50 people.
I developed a specialism in complex and sophisticated community engagement and empowerment, and pioneered what's often referred to today as 'deliberative and participative democracy
My most famous project was the engagement exercise to decide what to do with the site of 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester - the former home ('House of Horrors
') of the serial killers, Fred and Rosemary West. I met with the victims' relatives in phase one. Then, in phase two, worked intensively with the local community, police, architects, surveyors, media, etc to find a suitable resolution.
This case study is written up on Medium @PaulVittles along with several articles, covering transformation case studies, online engagement, the history of deliberative & participative democracy, and recent innovations, including 'York 100% Digital City
Whilst CEO of RBA, I also trained as an Executive Coach and coached many other CEOs, business owners, and busy executives, and started running workshops on visioning, strategy, leadership, listening, creative thinking, and non-directive coaching.
RBA was the first research agency to gain ISO9001 Quality Accreditation and Investors in People (IIP) Accreditation, winning many awards for innovation in research practice and innovation in people development.
However, after 13 years of relentless long days and long weeks, and periods of burnout, my wife and I had a complete lifestyle change and moved to Sydney, where we were from February 2005 to August 2019.
Whilst in Australia, I held director-level leadership roles with Nielsen, Urbis, Kantar TNS, and Instinct and Reason; I set up my own coaching and consulting business in January 2010 after getting dual Australian-British citizenship; and I held two leadership roles with one of Australia's biggest employers, Ausgrid - first as Customer & Stakeholder Engagement Manager (putting in place an appropriate and effective engagement framework, and establishing a Research & Insights programme), then as Strategic Workplace Wellbeing Adviser (reviewing policies and practices, working with managers and Mental Health First Aiders, adopting external good practice, internal group sessions, one-to-one counselling).
I trained and qualified as a professional counsellor (AIPC), with a particular specialism in loss and grief counselling.
I worked with major charities and the Mentally Healthy Workplace Alliance to develop and implement a national framework for workplace mental health and wellbeing.
I designed and facilitated a global forum on 'Breakthrough Ideas for Suicide Prevention
' in 2013-14; then facilitated the stakeholder engagement that led to the launch of a National Suicide Prevention Research Fund ($12 million seed funding from the Department of Health, recently topped up with an additional $4.7 million for COVID19) and the development of Australia's first National Suicide Prevention Plan.
I was awarded Fellowship of the Australian Marketing Institute (FAMI) for my pioneering work in the fields of government research and engagement, including being a pioneer in the development of long-form online engagement - including radical online forums among gambling addicts and homeless people, and online visioning exercises, eg for City of Ryde Council - and helping to develop and launch the ground-breaking National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), speaking at the launch event in Melbourne in June 2013.
I was a Non-Executive Director and Advisory Board Member for several not-for-profit organisations, coached many people and businesses, and was Chairman of The RSA in Australia and New Zealand, 2008 to 2015.
When my wife and I left the UK, we didn't have any grandchildren. Now we have 5 - all granddaughters. So it was time to return to the UK.
We re-located back to York; sold our apartment in central Sydney, and bought a house in York for a 'green home
' renovation and extension to our specific requirements (an optimal mix of Aussie design and British design).
I'm now working as a consultant, coach, counsellor and facilitator from my York base, as well as being a Non-Executive Board Director for York Community Consulting (YCC - for young consultants at University of York, gaining experience on projects whilst having social impact) and joining the Board of Trustees for Age UK in York in March 2020 (just before Lockdown).
I've completed an important assignment for the Zero Suicide Alliance (ZSA) to develop and launch a new ZSA Resources Hub (as well as promoting the excellent evidence-based, peer-reviewed, NHS-endorsed online suicide prevention training), and I work with several mental health and suicide prevention charities, as well as facilitating a global network for the world's leading suicide prevention 'experts
', and helping to develop a new charity - The Jordan Legacy Foundation.
My suicide prevention work is research-and-evidence-informed, with appropriate monitoring and evaluation (of 'what works
') but the focus is on innovation and practical steps to move towards zero suicide, not set low ambition targets like '10% reduction in 5 years
I'm lead facilitator for three Suicide Prevention Transformation Projects (SPTPs): #DigitalLifeSaving (using digital technology to save lives) - which I launched at TEDxSydney in 2014; ground-up Community Zero Suicide Plans (again, launched in Australia, now imported to the UK - with 'lots of micro zeros adding up to a macro zero
'); and, a new initiative, Design Out Suicide - taking a design thinking and process engineering approach to designing out suicide and access to the means of suicide.
Now back in the UK to be closer to family, especially granddaughters, I aim to work as much or as little as I want, and as flexibly as I want, whilst supporting my clients in transformational change.
I'm currently working on 'Survive and Thrive Strategies
' with clients like Kings Place in London (which I helped create via stakeholder engagement for the original development) and a new community in Scotland "designed around the happiness and success of its people
I write and perform poetry, and occasional improv comedy or stand-up. I trained in improv comedy and theatre in Sydney - to help improve my listening skills, and to have a bit of fun - and once performed a 45-minute piece on stage, totally improvised. It sounds scary, but I loved every minute of it - just like I did jumping out of a plane at 12,000 feet (with a parachute!).
My goals for improving quality of life for older people (in York) included tackling loneliness and digital exclusion (as well as tackling age discrimination, utilising inter-generational wisdom, eliminating fuel poverty, and advocating for the right to die with dignity).
When COVID19 Lockdown came, I threw myself into trying to give digital access to all older people living alone. I found others in York were also trying to tackle digital exclusion so we've formed a partnership group, and all signed up to 'York - 100% Digital City
2021 is Age UK York's 50th Anniversary, and I'm facilitating 12 months of activities, campaigns, and celebrations. By December 2021, we aim to have all residents aged 50+ online and 'digitally confident
This recent article provides an overview of all of my work, and links to further details if interested.