Download our FREE Action Learning Toolkit to support change agents in your organization

Action Learning has underpinned the success of the Unlimited Value research project. The Arts Council England funding has enabled us to develop a toolkit which can help your organization embed and benefit from the principles of Action Learning.

You can download this toolkit here:  Action Learning Toolkit - Unlimited Value

This short and practical guide will be useful for participant, facilitators and line managers.  It includes information on:

  • The principles of Action Learning, its origins and uses.
  • A breakdown of ‘what happens’ in Action Learning Sets and how they work.
  • A guide to the closed and open questioning techniques that help participants provide one another with valuable peer support.
  • Guidance on supporting virtual and ‘in person’ Action Learning.
  • Recommendations for additional reading, and information sources.

‘Libraries are Heterotopias’ – multiplicitous places of potential

You might have recently watched Ciara Eastell’s emotive TedEx talk on the power of libraries to transform and empower lives.

In her talk, the former CEO of Libraries Unlimited reveals an important finding from the Unlimited Value research.  We argue that libraries are ‘heterotopias’ – places of potential where there is opportunity for transformation.  They are places characterised by multiple meanings, which cater to diverse stakeholders with even more diverse needs. As one frontline member of staff put it:  ‘A library is a place where people can come to be themselves’.  A library is a place of possibility, which ‘opens up’ rather than closes down identities and social categories.

Ciara shows, in her talk, that libraries play a vital role in our social fabric.  They support people at the heart of communities and in the margins, work to maximise potential at individual and regional levels, and bring together people who might not otherwise encounter one another.  Libraries are ‘both/and’ places – they cater to children and the elderly, they can be a quiet refuge and a host of loud ‘bounce and rhyme’ activities.

The challenge from a ‘social value’ perspective, is with the difficulty of arriving at a single purpose definition associated with heterotopic places.  Which can make it difficult to calculate and create a coherent narrative around, the difference a library makes to its service users and surrounding community.  But whilst the ‘what’ of social value might vary depending on a library’s location, service users, and so on, perhaps we might arrive more precisely at the ‘how’ – the tools that library services can harness to develop a better understanding of a library’s unique contribution.

You can read more about heterotopias, and about our approach to social value in our project report here:  Unlimited Value Report.

Download our report “Leading Practice in Unlimited Value Creation”

It’s here! We are pleased to announce that our final project report has been published, with a launch coinciding with World Book Day in March 2019.  You can download it here:  Unlimited Value Report

In the report, you’ll find details about the activities and data underpinning the research, our dissemination events and about our new 3-D model for building understanding on social value creation.

We’d like to thank Arts Council England for funding this important piece of work.  You can find more useful presentations and toolkits on helping your staff develop more understanding of social value creation here.



Power to Create – Collaborative routes to social value.

Who has the power to create?

What social and economic conditions are needed to enable people to think and act creatively?

And how can organizations encourage people to solve challenges in new, creative ways?


Tony Greenham’s presentation explored the possible conditions under which creativity to emerge.


These provocative questions reflect the challenges of inhabiting an economic context beset with uncertainty and ‘austerity’ – a context that demands creativity and innovation from organizations in all sectors, if they are to flourish. They are perhaps especially salient where organizations operate in multi-stakeholder contexts, where some voices are amplified and others risk marginalisation. How can we encourage an environment where everyone has the ‘power to create’ – at work, and beyond?  In this blog post, Value Unlimited lead researcher Dr Beverley Hawkins explains how Value Unlimited is contributing to these debates around ‘Power to Create’, a theme identified by one of the world’s oldest think tanks, the Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufactures.

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Data Discovery Day – Exeter Library



The Libraries Data Discovery Day took place on 17th March 2017 in the
Rougement Room, Exeter Library. It invited diverse participants—from
library staff and friends groups to local communities and academics—to get
together and discuss the ways in which data could better help us
understand and communicate the impact that libraries have on everyone’s
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Libraries Unlimited and University of Exeter secure £200,000 Arts Council England research grant

A two-year research project to understand the impact of libraries on local communities in Devon has been awarded a £200,000 grant from Arts Council England (ACE).

Libraries Unlimited and the University of Exeter Business School have teamed up to undertake research into the value of our libraries, and how they can best meet the needs of their users. Continue reading