Looking out on 2020, Part 2: What’s in Store for Positive?

An Interview with Positive Co-Founders, Will and Brian Marien

Brian, Will – welcome back! Last week we talked about trends for 2020, looking in particular at habits and psychological health. Now it’s time to look at what’s in store for Positive…

For anyone who doesn’t know, can you start by telling us what Positive is all about?

W[ill]: Positive is a specialist learning provider that champions a proactive approach to psychological health. Our psychological health affects every single aspect of our lives – our work performance, relationships, physical health, general satisfaction… Our mission at Positive is to help individuals, teams and organisations to proactively manage their psychological health, so that they can perform at their best and better manage life’s ups and downs. We do this by taking a sustainable, whole-system approach, equipping individuals and groups with practical knowledge and tools that drive positive, protective habits.

There’s obviously a lot of work being done in this space at the moment. What is it that makes Positive so unique?

W: One of the things that’s really core to us and what we do is our cross-sector experience. So we do a lot of work in the corporate space – from finance to legal to pharmaceutical – but we also work with universities and with schools. This is so important because everything is linked. Where do employees come from? They might be graduates fresh out of university. Earlier on they would have been school students. As employees they might also be or become parents, with children of their own going through the school system. Teachers might have a corporate background or have partners in business. Of course, each environment is different, but having this awareness and understanding of the bigger picture gives us a huge advantage. We know the different sectors and the different stages of the journey; we know the different pressures and challenges they can bring and we also know the things that can be most helpful and most protective throughout.

B[rian]: I think the other thing that makes us unique is our team. We have an incredibly passionate team and we have an enormous amount of in-house expertise. We have an educational psychologist who’s worked across the private, statutory, voluntary and educational sectors; we have a psychologist and strategist who specialises in psychological resilience; we have medical doctors, clinical psychologists, coaches, business change specialists… We’re constantly learning and developing and we all share this amazing drive to make sure everything we do is really solidly supported – to make sure it’s researched and tested and grounded in science, as well as being helpful in a practical way.

So what has Positive got lined up for the next twelve months?

W: We’ve got a number of exciting projects that we’ll be sharing this year, the biggest being PositiveNow. This is a brand new online platform that will revolutionise our ability to curate content and share knowledge and tools with users. We’ve had huge success with our programmes and one of the major challenges has always been how to scale it – how can we enable more people to benefit? With PositiveNow, for the first time, a large proportion of our programme will be available online in an accessible, interactive format. There’ll be new content too – new modules and courses we’ve never offered before – and we’ll be adding more regularly. It’s been an enormous project and there’s still work to be done, but it’s such an exciting development for us and one that should allow us to positively impact on many, many more lives.


‘[PositiveNow] is a brand new online platform that will revolutionise our ability to curate content and share knowledge and tools with users… for the first time, a large proportion of our programme will be available online in an accessible, interactive format.’


Does this mean you’ll be moving away from live, face-to-face programmes?

W: We won’t be moving away completely – there’s so much value in face-to-face sessions and they’re a big part of what we do – but there will be a shift towards more blended learning, so live sessions combined with ongoing online learning. It’s a question of scalability. We want to help as many people and organisations as possible. We also have to acknowledge that different people have different needs. Not all organisations have the capacity to run a big live programme even if they want to. We’ve spent a lot of time over the last few months overhauling our product range so that we now have a fantastic set of options to suit all sorts of different requirements.

Can you give us any more details about the new range?

W: We’ll be sharing more details soon, but one really exciting thing we’ve got coming is a new talk series. We get so many requests for talks and they can be incredibly powerful, especially when delivered as part of a bigger initiative. This new series will cover all sorts of topics, from broad subjects like resilience and focus to more specific things like optimism, perfectionism and sleep.

We’ve also been developing our insights offering. This is a unique option for organisations who are really committed to prioritising psychological health. Our experts use statistical methods to derive insights around psychological health and wellbeing from a range of data. We can show you how psychologically healthy your people are, and how you’re performing on factors that affect psychological health and wellbeing in the workplace. Most importantly, we also identify the relative importance of each factor. So whether it’s staff-manager relationships or psychological safety, you can target your efforts and investment on the areas that will have greatest impact.

What about podcasts? Do you have any plans to build on PIE/The Resilient Road?

W: Absolutely. We’re already working with Radio Wolfgang on series two of The Resilient Road and we’ve got some great names coming forward for that. We’re also in the early stages of planning a podcast around girls’ education, and we’re looking to develop a series that explores psychological health and how it links to creativity and innovation.

Finally, are there any new partnerships or client projects coming in 2020?

W: We can’t say too much, but we’ve got some really exciting projects with organisations who are embracing ambitious, whole-system approaches to psychological health. On the corporate side we’re doing a significant amount of work around cultural and behavioural change, and on the education side, we’re entering a brand new phase of our partnership with the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST). We’ve been working with the GDST for a few years already, but this is a new three-year agreement that will see us working with all 25 schools, the leadership, all of the heads… As a project, this is particularly exciting because adolescence is such an important time for psychological health – so many problems stem from the teenage years. Prevention is better than cure, so it’s fantastic to be able to do more at this early stage.


It certainly sounds like it’s going to be a busy year! Will, Brian, thanks for your time.

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