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Case Study: The Nelson Trust

The winner of the Professional of the Year category in the Nimble Awards 2022 was Steph Symonds, Internal Training and Development Worker at The Nelson Trust. Congratulations to Steph, and read on to find out why she was so deserving of this award…

The Nelson Trust

The Nelson Trust are well-known in the south-west for their work supporting those affected by addiction. They believe positive change is possible, and they provide support and hope as people move towards lifelong recovery.

The Nelson Trust’s organisational values are kindness, expertise, belief and determination, and these values shape all that they do, guiding their work with clients and also shaping the organisation’s relationship with their staff and volunteers.

The charity has a wide offering for those who come to The Nelson Trust for support, from therapeutic activities and education and training, to residential services for those with the highest levels of need. As well as residential and recovery services, they offer support countywide with Women’s Community Services across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Bristol and Wales. The Nelson Trust found that having Nimble meant that they could reach staff and volunteers across all of these areas.

In all that they do, they’re looking for the big picture. What has happened in someone’s life before they arrive with The Nelson Trust? Often, traumatic experiences have impacted on people throughout their life, and The Nelson Trust aim to understand and support the whole self while working with other networks to move towards meaningful, long-lasting recovery that transforms lives.

“Without the support of The Nelson Trust, I wouldn’t be here today”
Carol, former service user and Peer Support Volunteer

The Nelson Trust‘s vision is a world where both the causes and consequences of multiple disadvantage are understood, effectively tackled, and ultimately eliminated. To achieve their goals, The Nelson Trust encompasses a large team of over 250 staff and more than 100 volunteers, all spread geographically across Stroud, Gloucestershire and surrounding areas, and also in different types of settings, from drop-in hubs and community projects to residential centres. That’s a lot of people to keep in touch with!

Like many workplaces, before joining Nimble they were providing plenty of training – but it was all scheduled and recorded in different spreadsheets all over the place, so it didn’t feel joined-up. Time was being wasted chasing around trying to find out where people were in their training, precious time that could have been spent doing better things! As a charity, staff are highly engaged with delivering the mission, and any time taken out of the daily role to complete training needs to feel really valuable – both for the individual being trained, and with the end goal of supporting their service users.

Getting organised

Steph joined The Nelson Trust in summer 2021 as Internal Development and Training Worker. She had completed professional training in Learning and Development and she had a vision for how to take some of the hassle out of training and make it seamlessly integrated into daily life at the charity.

The Nelson Trust is a large and complex organisation, with staff and volunteers in different parts of Stroud, Gloucestershire and the surrounding region. Steph’s first goal was to bring together all the disparate pieces of information about training – a spreadsheet here, a calendar there – into one place, to see at a glance what was going on with everyone!

She found Nimble LMS to be the ideal solution. A learning management system (LMS) is a platform that allows you to enrol your learners into different courses and then see when they’ve been completed. It’s so easy to keep an eye on what’s happening with training, and you just have one place to look to see if everyone has completed a course.

Steph took this simple tool and made it work for her particular needs. The nature of the charity’s work means that there’s quite a high level of training needed because they are working with vulnerable adults. Some of this training is best delivered in face-to-face sessions, especially where conversations, skill-sharing, experiential learning, or peer support is a key part of the session. For these, Steph created ‘courses’ in Nimble that simply included a list of the key learning outcomes of that face-to-face session, and then could enrol her learners to show the date that they had completed it on. This means that there was one place she could scroll through and see the complete picture of all the training her learners were involved in – a big improvement!

Creating elearning courses 

Once the existing training was organised and under control, Steph was ready to expand the offer. Using Nimble Author, it’s super-simple to create bespoke elearning courses that cover the exact content you need.

Existing online training sessions were edited by Steph to make sure they were concise and covered the information her learners needed. It can be really off-putting to be faced with a lengthy course – so breaking it down into bite-size chunks is far easier for learners to digest!

New elearning courses are easy to create using the Nimble authoring tool. Like many organisations, the expertise and subject knowledge was already held within the teams; the main task was getting it documented within an elearning course which would then be ready for everyone to complete.

For The Nelson Trust, Steph could create bespoke courses, such as Maintaining Professional Boundaries, which cover essential information and are highly relevant to the learners. With sensitive content such as this, the elearning approach can actually be really useful – when you’re asking learners to do some quite intense self-reflection, perhaps ‘if someone asked to borrow some money, what would you do?’, it can be beneficial if they’re doing that between them and a screen where they can be very honest about their own attitudes before receiving the information within the training course.

By creating the elearning in-house, Steph could ensure that they covered the exact content her learners needed. We see time and again that learning is more likely to be successful when learners see it as highly relevant for them and their role, so including case studies and examples from the workplace can really help make the training impactful.

The series of standardised elearning courses meant that wherever people were in the organisation, they had accessed the exact same information, maintaining consistent expectations across the network.

Learners responded well to the elearning – by removing the need to schedule in travel to training sessions, it saved time. The Nimble elearning platform is mobile-friendly, so the courses can be completed on any device, which is really convenient for learners. It’s possible to allow people to keep their access to the course materials, so rather than attending one face-to-face session and never revisiting the content again, people can look back on the learning online whenever they want a reminder of the materials. This can be great for reflective practice, allowing staff to self-reflect, apply ideas in practice, and revisit the elearning to think about how they acted in a situation.

Now that learners have had some great experiences with the elearning courses, enjoying the quality courses which are quick to complete, there’s a real appetite building for more training. Luckily it’s so easy to schedule now they have Nimble!

Professional of the Year

This award was presented to the individual who has demonstrated outstanding elearning success over the last 12 months. The judges were really impressed by what Steph had achieved with The Nelson Trust, commenting:

“Inspired by the remit to help everyone in the organisation be ‘the best professional they can be’, Steph worked hard to deliver a set of sustainable courses that make an impact. She successfully implemented a methodical plan of both visiting all the key stakeholders and understanding their challenges. This has given Steph a clear picture of what people want from training resources, and she’s determined to build upon this knowledge and success.”

Steph has the skills and the motivation to get this project pulled together, and it’s really incredible the impact she made in her first year with The Nelson Trust.

Nimble was the tool she needed to make the changes she envisioned. Steph’s supportive Customer Success Manager, Laura, was there for her with plenty of tips and tricks to get started, and to suggest how to roll-out promotion of the new elearning courses to get everyone excited to give them a go.

It’s been a great year for Steph, but the real impact is beyond her office doors – the actual goal is to provide the best support possible to all clients. The Nelson Trust’s mission is to be a centre of excellence bringing belief, hope and long-term recovery to lives affected by addiction and multiple disadvantage. The integration of high-quality training into the charity helps it to achieve this mission.

Well done to Steph and everyone at The Nelson Trust for all the work to get this project running, and thanks for sharing your story with us.

To find out more about The Nelson Trust visit nelsontrust.com