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SDF Awards 2023 ‘Initiative of the Year’ – and the Winners are…

The SDF ‘Initiative of the Year’ Award Winner 2023

Each year, the Staff Development Forum aims to recognise and celebrate outstanding staff development individuals and/or teams.

SDF are particularly delighted that, this year, we have two Awards to announce in recognition of our Festival of Learning and Development 2023 overarching theme: ‘Innovating, nourishing and storytelling: The evolving L&D professional’ 

After careful deliberation, we are proud to announce the Winners of our ‘Initiative of the Year Award’ 2023 are: 


University of Leeds – Digital Literacy – Learning to log on

Harriet Boatwright, John Dodds and Dawn Abel

Context: A digital literacy initiative created by three individuals from different services and directorates with one clear goal; to ensure that every member of our staff community had access to a university email address to ensure they received university updates, could check their online pay slips, access free Wi-Fi on campus via eduroam, have access to information on staff benefits, well-being resources and online learning resources.

“This is without doubt a simple but very effective initiative that sought to address a specific problem that University of Leeds identified. Whilst it is not possible to know if this issue is a sector-wide one, it is likely that it is a common problem, and lessons can therefore be learnt more widely. 

Equity and inclusion is key to getting staff buy-in at all levels of an organisation and addressing issues associated with staff on the lower grades is as important as addressing issues for staff on top grades. 

The programme appears to be mindful of the needs of the staff it is serving and the fact that the project has received an internal award speaks volumes for the perceived importance of the project locally. Delivering digital literacy will not only benefit University of Leeds it will also deliver benefits to the local community as its staff utilise their newly learned skill outside of work as well as inside.”


The University of Sheffield – Sheffield Leader: Management Fundamentals – An aspiring and early management development programme

Naomi McNulty, Emma Jepson, Beth Rodgers, Emma Murdoch, Chloe Davey, Ian Cadwallader and Kennis Cho

Context: A self-nominated, 10-module development programme, which takes place over 6 months. Two intakes of the programme are delivered each year, with 100 participants enrolled on each intake, split up into 4 cohorts. The programme includes a mix of in person and virtual modules, delivered over full or half days, and is supported by a community of practice and additional resources. The key aim for the programme is to enable individuals to develop the foundational knowledge, practical skills and behaviours to perform and succeed in their current or future leadership role. 

“Management/Leadership training appears to be widely acknowledged as a requirement in many organisations, with a variety of solutions being developed. The cost outlay for this initiative was/is minimal and benefits can be significant if the training is successful.

The evidence presented suggests that the programme is successful, certainly as far as attendees are concerned and it would be interesting to see what proportion of those attending the courses progress to pick up leadership roles in the future.

As this is a self-nominating programme, I would be interested to hear what EDI activities have been undertaken to encourage a diverse range of applicants. I would also be interested to know if those joining the Leadership and Management Community remain and contribute to that group going forward.”


University of Birmingham – Managing People Toolkit

Vincent Cornelius, Kate Crane, Paul Compton, Jo Higton, Vincent O’Grady, Laura Harding, James Cull, Stuart Harvey & team, Kerry Spooner & team, Philippa Hawkins & team, Monique Myers & team, Rebecca Lewis and Hilary Brown

Context: An online hub for all people who manage the work of others at the University in any context. It lays out the standards expected when managing people and provides learning materials in support. Built in collaboration with staff across the institution, the content relates to the University of Birmingham Strategic Framework 2030

“The project is well-intentioned and aims to address a perceived short-coming in leadership across the organisation in line with its Strategic Framework 2030. The consultation appeared to include a wide range of staff groups and buy-in seems to be very positive, perhaps more than originally anticipated. The project is innovative in its use of Sharepoint and its roll-out with the resources being developed being geared to fit with the organisation’s aims. 

This approach speaks to contemporary demands for learning outside of a classroom, when it is needed. The collaborative elements seemed to have made a difference in the uptake and embedding of the learning, enabling local teams to use it in a variety of ways. The principles were robust, and taking things like occupational standards and generic content and making it specific to their needs is noteworthy.”

Congratulations to all who were nominated and to our 2023 winners! 

Full details of all nominations received were originally circulated on 28th September 2023 and you can find all the information here.