Sharing experiences, forging stronger links and building trusting relationships that lead to more collaborative action


The York MCN is a network that exists for anyone in York who is interested in radically improving things for people who experience multiple difficulties at the same time, and for whom the system’s collective response is currently insufficient.

It is an unbounded group with a fluid membership of people from all parts of the system. We come together regularly, and there are different sub-groups taking action in different ways. Together we are exploring how to create the conditions for a healthy system in York. We know this includes challenging assumptions and grappling with power dynamics. 

There is other interconnected work in York as well – a participatory grants fund (Deciding Together), a network of lived experience leaders, the Systems Changers programme and a children and young people’s inquiry.

The York MCN Enabling Team helps to weave some of this work together. 

We hope you enjoy exploring it here.



Media Grid

Keeping the lights on and re-imagining the future at the same time…  

Kelly Cunningham 

Through York MCN we are continually working with people to think about the challenge of the now and the future we want to see, and it throws up lots of questions.

So, imagine you’re a busy operations manager working in the voluntary sector.

You may find yourself asking questions such as “Could this be easier? Who is this rule serving? Is this process creating barriers we just don’t need?”

You don’t have the immediate answers so you shift blame to your finance team who appear inflexible, your HR lead who starts every sentence with ‘can we just consider the risk to…’, or your rigid commissioning manager who’s driven by key performance indicator submissions. 

So, what next? 

You try to tweak things. You edit a process and re-train your team but still wonder why you need approval from your board of trustees for ‘that thing over there’. 

You still feel like ‘this thing over here’ is culturally embedded and when you ask that simple question ‘Why?’ you hear something along the lines of: ‘Well, that’s just how we have always done it’.

Throw the frantic juggle of budget efficiencies into the mix, daily operational headaches and the mountain of emails from staff seeking approval and it begs the question – does this busy operations manager have the time to actually think of alternatives? 

How do we carve out time, space, freedom and permission to dream big? And what does this require of an operations manager in terms of skills and mindset? Does stepping out of our comfort zone mean we lose control?

There is no blueprint or toolkit for this. But, on a positive note we are seeing greater resourcing for this work/breathing space. 

Maybe it’s a call for bravery and a need for more disruption. Maybe it’s a call to stop fixating on fixing and to spend longer on the ‘why’ rather than jumping straight to the ‘how’. 

We like to think about this in terms of the three horizons model (Bill Sharpe)

^ The three Horizons over time

 Horizon 1 – the dominant system. It represents ‘business as usual’. ([Focus = the “what”?]

Horizon 2 – At some point the innovations become more effective than the original system – this is a point of disruption. [Focus = the “how”?]

Horizon 3 – It is the long term successor to business as usual – the radical innovation that introduces a completely new way of doing things. [Focus = the “why”?]

Through the York MCN network we have and shall continue exploring where the energy is and what governance structures we can collectively put in place to help build a scaffold rather than a cage for that busy operations manager to perhaps re-imagine a better way.



Check out some of the events coming up as part of our York week.

All place series