A core value underlying a supportive, democratic, collaborative environment is

positive communication.


We use creative-flow communication techniques to build a trusting place where ideas can be developed, connections made and creative thinking flourishes.

When mentors, parents and children are aware of interaction tools, it enables them to act compassionately and supportively, allowing a child’s mind to remain open, engaged and the neurons firing without fear. 

The Tools We Use

We draw on the following methods and tools (descriptions in the drop down): 

Suspend Judgment: Build don't criticise

Pointing out a flaws in an idea kills beginning ideas, that when pursued, might develop into winners.

Research has revealed that “whenever a person is corrected, contradicted, ignored, or discounted in any way, they ‘get even’ with the discounter”. The reason behind this was discovered through brain research on the amygdala, which is linked to survival and anxiety.

At Alithia Learning, we encourage suspending judgement, checking understanding and developing an idea. All the positive features of an idea are identified first and any weakness’ are converted from negative wording into forward-looking challenges – “we need to find a way to...” and are thought of as “areas for improving”. Surprisingly, things once thought impossible can evolve into something new and interesting.

“There is no such thing as a failed experiment, only ones with unexpected outcomes”. (SEI, Vincent Nolan).

Guarantee of Freedom

Risk taking is an important element of innovation but we need a guarantee of freedom from criticism to unlock them.

We need to maintain a willingness to express new ideas (or even to think of them). It starts from the brainstorming principle of the listeners “suspending judgement”. (SEI, Vincent Nolan)

Take responsibility for our role

We need to be responsible for the way in which we communicate, responsible for checking understanding of what others are saying (whilst moving away from assumptions) and responsible for being clearly understood. Rather than blaming the listener for not understanding us, or blaming the speaker for not being clear when we don’t understand, we take responsibility for our role in each conversation.

A small percentage of spoken communication is understood as the speaker intended it to be, which can be frustrating if the listener does not take the time to allow for clarification. We wish to teach key tools to listening to one another in an active way, differing to the common form of listening.. This applies to all ages, including adults listening to children and peers listening to one another. (SEI, Vincent Nolan)

Positive Conflict Resolution Tools

Learning that everyone has a different perspective and that there is a gap that between a persons INTENT and how it is RECEIVED, means that conflicts can be resolved without pointing blame or getting stuck in the role of the "victim" (when something was unintended or the other has made a mistake by lashing out). It also makes people aware of their intent and creates self-reflection of one's own words and behaviours. Problem-solving what to do next time, for both parties, creates emotional intelligence and emotional resilience.  

Firstly it is important to create a space in which people can share their interpretation of an event and how that felt for them, while others suspend judgement and hear the story of the speaker. Secondly, checking understanding ensures that person is heard. Thirdly, we hear the other's story (but that person must not respond or reflect on what has been said, they are sharing how things felt from their perspective). When both perspectives have been understood, we have looked at WHY each did as they did, we can empower children by asking them to problem-solve strategies for next time.

Self Reflection and Awareness

When we are operating in a space that uses tools for conflict resolution, idea development and general interactions, we become aware of our behaviours. We hear the effect we have on others. We problem-solve new approaches. We take responsibility for our part in interactions. This is all done in a supportive way, that does not shame or ridicule past actions, but empowers us to understand our intention, our feelings, our experiences and then build on that to create our own new approaches.

Assume Positive Intent

Create, Don't Argue

Mindsets (Growth vs Fixed)

Carol Dwerk discusses the importance of developing "Growth Mindsets" in children and how we unconsciously create a "Fixed Mindset" through our communication.

A “Fixed Mindset” assumes that our qualities are carved in stone, which creates a consuming goal to prove oneself over and over. Avoiding failure at all costs becomes a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled.

A “Growth Mindset,” on the other hand believes that basic qualities are things that can be cultivated through effort; this mindset thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. A Growth Mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval, creates a desire to put in effort when something appears difficult. And this is a life-long pattern that extends to all areas.

These mindsets are created through slight differences in wording, such as praising effort rather than ability: “That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this” verses “That’s a really good score. You must have worked really hard”.

Read more

The impact of these tools in a learning environment:

Example of one of these tools and how it works:

We use positive communication techniques to build a trusting place where each child is respected, heard and encouraged. 


A trusting learning environment is vital for the development of ideas, the forming and strengthening of connection, and for creative thinking to flourish.

We Create a Trusting, Respectful Space

When mentors, parents and children are aware of interaction tools, it enables them to act compassionately and supportively, allowing a child’s mind to remain open, engaged and the neurons firing without fear. 

We use Positive Communication

We teach parents, mentors and children positive communication skills that differ from our everyday norm. 


A focus of the facilitator throughout the day is to facilitate positive interactions. These interpersonal communication skills create the unique culture of Alithia and are discussed in unofficial lessons, through role play and other activities. This ensures children are supportive on one another and the environment is safe and trusting, enabling all thoughts to be spoken and valued.

We Teach Communication Skills

Facilitators at Alithia Learning are encouraged to ask questions that open a discussion of possible answers and ways of thinking about things, with the facilitator open and learning. 


It is vital that these facilitators are aware of ways that our "everyday" form of communication (certain questions and responses) can cause anxiety within the body, or a negative reaction, which causes the body/brain to switch-off and detach. 

Facilitators Ask Open Questions

Synectics_Imagine That_Alithia Learning

The core of ALithia Learning

Collaborative innovation and communication techniques brought to us by the Synectics Education Initiative form the core of Alithia Learning.  

The unintentional ramifications of ways in which we ordinarily communicate were discovered by the Synectics team by filming meeting and analysing the play-back. They discovered the unintentional consequences of many behaviours and ways of communicating that had previously seemed acceptable (our “everyday norm”).

They developed a series of constructive behaviours to create an emotionally safe climate; a conversation of sharing ideas and replying to those is done in a way that keeps the individuals feeling open and motivated, rather than shut-down, controlled or talked- down to in anyway.

When all individuals are aware of these forms of communication and work together to utilise these, it creates harmony within a space, with less room for misunderstanding or disrespectful dialogue, and gives life-long skills that will benefit the individual in all walks of life.

These findings have been backed by various other studies and findings from scientific fields over time.

A free download is available of the book called: "Imagine That, Celebrating 50 years of Synectics".

"Everyday, everywhere, children lay their dreams at our feet and we must tread softly."

-  Sir Ken Robinson
Talula Hughes_square_web copy

Talula Hughes

Founder, Alithia Learning
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Vincent Nolan

Founder, Synectics Initiative

Our Inspiration

The Alithia Learning community has been inspired to open their minds to a new way of supporting positive childhood development by books edited by Vincent Nolan, chairman of the Synectics Education Initiative (SEI).

The Alithia journey began when Talula Huges worked for the Synectics Education Initiative, a UK charity founded by her grandfather, Vincent Nolan, which introduced innovative problem-solving tools and positive communication techniques into the education system. These tools, which were originally developed for use in the business world, create a unique, trusting environment where collaboration and creative thinking flourishes.

Talula was raised with this way of thinking and interacting, with her mother trained as a Synectics Communication Facilitator and holding a Masters in Creative Arts Therapy. It is often quoted that these techniques go beyond what we think of as communication and become a way of approaching life. These holistic, yet scientific, tools paired with teachings from an indigenous perspective by a close family friend, gave Talula a deeper understanding of connection, culture, purpose and learning from a young age.

Talula has spent many years following the latest research in brain development, learning and initiatives within the education system world-wide, and assessing which approaches work and why.

Talula witnessed an increase in youths at risk, children being diagnosed with autism, ADHD, behavioural / learning difficulties and children suffering from anxiety and depression.She noticed that in rural, disadvantaged areas, there is a high rate of children falling through the cracks, dropping out of school, and turning to substance abuse at ages as young as 12.  Talula also noticed a rise in home-education and after researching the many reasons behind this, began to see a need for a supportive space where families could connect and be supported, while also collaborating, accessing resources and attending therapeutic workshops. This was an opportunity to create a Learning Facility that focused firstly on creating a positive culture through the way we communicate and to showcase the effect that this has on children's ability to learn, innovate and develop into well-rounded, happy people.

The Learning Space: A Typical Day

We walk you through what's on offer in at the Alithia Learning Space. Get a feel for what the children will be experiencing. 


Our workshop mentors come from all walks of life. They use positive communication techniques to build a space of trust and walk beside children in a discovery-based learning approach.

Get Involved

You don't need to live on the Mid North Coast to get involved with and support Alithia Learning! We need letters of support, patrons, and shares too.