In my last article, I asked what you’ve found that helps real change “stick” when transforming traditional education into positive education. 

And, boy, did you answer! 

The conversation started on LinkedIn but continued at the inaugural World Positive Education Accelerator (WPEA). WPEA brought together people from more than 30 countries around the world. Participants gathered to learn and create with a common vision for learning systems that catalyze academic achievement, character strengths and well-being simultaneously.

It seemed inevitable innovative ideas would emerge given the wisdom of the nearly 900 participants in the conversation. And they did!

What will define WPEA as either simply a creative endeavor or a tool for transformation is the degree to which the envisioned innovations get sustained traction, locally and at scale, and begin to truly create change.  That’s why I wanted to share what you taught us about what it takes to make it stick.

Thought leaders shared their wisdom and insights. Taken together, they offer some very useful guidance for the emerging efforts from the WPEA.

So, what makes it stick?

From what you shared, it seems to be three critical pillars: context, culture and time.

“In our experience, the key to making it stick is to place context centre [sic] stage…This means asking schools what they want and need, noticing and building upon all the practices they already have in place that enable and promote wellbeing, and building upon those…” – Lucy Hone, via LinkedIn

Context:  There was as strong sense that change isn’t turnkey but rather must be designed (co-designed, per Leanna Day) with context in mind. Specifically, context as comprised of three components:

  • Affective—How do people feel?
  • Practical—What needs to be done?
  • Aspirational—What they would really like to accomplish?

Andy Caulkins reminds us the essential nature of matching an effort to the values, challenges and priorities of those engaged in the change process.

Joe Moorman advocates connecting change to strengths of character to create a personal and emotional connection to the change taking place.

Meanwhile, Denise Quinlan encourages us to connect to the current system’s existing goals and philosophy.

Kelly Obarski spoke of an aspiration for the next generation who will learn and grow within our changing. Peters Davies asks us to “inspire the who” of change, as much as the “what.”

“Strengths-based approaches that allow individuals to more deeply understand their own unique combinations of strengths and see the strengths of their peers can provide a transformative (and even emotional) experience that can shift perspectives and sustain change over time.” –Joe Moorman, via LinkedIn

Culture: You also shared clear ideas about sustained practices to build a culture of change. Specifically, five key aspects were mentioned.

  • Building new mental models
  • Learning to apply those models to practice
  • Evaluating various attempts toward change
  • Anchoring successful efforts in existing structure
  • Communicating progress and celebrating success

Thinking about “inside-out versus outside-in,” as Andy Calkins suggests, can help develop new ways of thinking that change will likely require.  Jill Abbott believes that there must be space to learn, collaborate and practice and that this must happen in a “free to fail” environment.  

Echoing a penalty-free environment, Erin Bledsoe encouraged the adoption of evaluation without “gotcha” elements people often think of when they hear “accountability.”

David Moore asserted that frank discussions about progress coupled with lots of support and encouragement are key to sustaining the movement toward change.

Lucy Hone wisely encourages us to notice and build upon structure and practices already in place to make change stick. Debbie Curl-Nagy expressed a sentiment, shared by several others, that clear, consistent communication about the efforts underway is essential.

“ …Engaged leadership that demonstrates their support through consistent communication; removal of barriers; and celebration of success and learning will lead to a culture that encourages and sustains positive change.” –Debbie Curl-Nagy, via LinkedIn

Time: There was very clear consensus that real change requires continued attention, patience, and time. This can’t be said enough. Change takes time—a lot of it! Be patient. Stick it out, so to speak.

“There is no one size fits all and it is critical for school communities to understand that whole system change takes time.” – Lucy Hone, via LinkedIn

“Finally, be patient! Real change takes time and continued attention.” –Debbie Curl-Nagy, via LinkedIn

Remember, the popularity of WPEA ought to make it abundantly clear: you aren’t alone.

“Community…a community of positive transformers who are willing to be there with a phone call, kind word, or a smile of support when the challenges come.”

–Kelly Obarski , via LinkedIn


Thank you for sharing your tips, tricks, and insights. You taught us a lot about making change stick. Not the least of which is that what we know will also change and evolve overtime. So, let’s keep the conversation going!

Continue to share your thoughts below or reach out to us at Mayerson Academy by calling 513.475.4101 or emailing