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About SDI

SDI, established in 1982, is a niche consultancy with particular and deep expertise in learning and leadership development. Our mission is to make the world a better place. Firstly by assisting people to take back ownership for their own learning and secondly, by helping leaders create sustainable organisations as places of creativity, curiosity, courage and care, thereby delivering results for all their stakeholders.

Our Values

Our values are enshrined in the way we work with our clients and we operate within the following clear principles:

Transparency and openness - we develop relationships based on transparency in all we do, we do not shy away from tough messages and we proactively share our expertise to empower our clients

Professionalism and specialism - we continue to develop our deep expertise, we practice what we preach and we concentrate on what we do best

Cost-effectiveness and reliability - we aim to provide exceptional value for money with no hidden extras and we demonstrate our dedication to client service and value

Curiosity and keeping things real - we ask a lot of questions, listen to and probe the answers and assist people to take action in the real world

Pro-activity and flexibility - we anticipate client needs and we change plans to meet evolving demands and priorities.

Our Team

Our team consists of highly skilled experts in learning, facilitation, coaching and organisation development with a rich balance of organisational and academic experience. We are delighted that Dr. Ian Cunningham, past Chair of SDI, and currently Chair of Governors of the Self Managed Learning College, continues to support our work as our Honorary President. As the originator of the Self Managed Learning approach, he was critical to the establishment of SDI and continues as a valued mentor to the team.

Anne Gimson


Anne is the CEO of SDI. She specialises in partnering with organisations to design and implement leadership development programmes where learning is real, strategic, aligned and results in significant individual and collective action. She is also a dedicated executive coach to leaders and teams, creating psychologically safe spaces where thinking and behaviour can be holistically explored, challenged and changed. 

In addition, Anne is a director, past chair and trustee of the UK registered charity, Centre for Self Managed Learning and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts & Manufacture (RSA).  She has been a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Innovation in Education at Sussex University and a non-executive Director of the Stackpole Centre (as part of the registered Charity ‘Ability’).

Anne holds an MSc in Managing Change and is a published author/editor of book and numerous peer-reviewed articles.  As a thought leader, she is the Editor-in-Chief of a peer-reviewed international journal called ‘Development & Learning in Organizations’, and regularly speaks on the latest trends in leadership development.

Before her 25+ years in consultancy, her career spanned general management, HR and L&D roles in small, medium, and blue-chip organisations, both in the UK and Europe.

Ben Bennett 


Ben has been actively involved with Self Managed Learning for more than 30 years and has published articles and co-authored four books in Self Managed Learning, coaching and work-based learning.  He has spent the greater part of his career as a researcher, consultant and practitioner in the fields of individual and organisational learning.  His academic work included time as a senior lecturer in individual and organisational development at the University of Westminster. 

Graham Dawes

BA, PG Dip, PhD

Graham has been involved with the design and implementation of Self Managed Learning programmes for the last 30 years, including qualification programmes up to Masters level and in-house organisational programmes. 

His doctorate explored applications of a pattern approach to management development and he later developed models that have been applied within the context of 'modelling' or the transfer of abilities. His research activity over the years has included managerial excellence, the effects of organisation culture on implementing changes and managerial learning in organisations. Within his management and leadership development activity in general, coaching has been an especial focus including co-authorship of a pack on developing coaching capability (published by CIPD, UK and Amacon, USA). He has also co-edited two books on Self Managed Learning. 

He is the author and contributor to a number of additional books on learning and has been a member of the Board of Governors of Self Managed Learning College in Sussex, UK since it was formed in 2000. 

Ian Cunningham


Ian is the former chair and a founding director of SDI. He is the originator of the Self Manged Learning approach, developing the theory and establishing its name in the late 1970s.  Ian left the Board of the company in 2021 to devote more time to the Self Managed Learning College based in Sussex, UK. He founded the College in 2000 and serves as its Chair of Governors.  SML College is currently the key project of the UK registered charity, Centre for Self Managed Learning Limited, bringing the SML experience to young people aged 9 to 16. Previously, as Chair of SDI, Ian worked as a consultant to organizations around the world for over 40 years. He held visiting professorships at universities in Hungary, India, the UK and the USA . He was the Chief Executive of Roffey Park Management Institute from 1987 to 1993.  He has published 8 books and over 100 articles and papers on education, organisational change, learning, strategic management, leadership and management development, self-management and cross-cultural management.

Liz Barlow 


Liz is COO with SDI and works with organisations and individuals at all levels. She assists with organisation-wide and personal change and has extensive public and private sector experience at a senior level. She has a practical knowledge of HR, leadership, change and operational management, business excellence, culture change, team working and management development.

Liz has held senior roles in both line and HR management and has successfully led large teams through extensive periods of change. She is a skilled facilitator with extensive experience as a Self Managed Learning group adviser.

She is also a Trustee and Director of the charity Centre for Self Managed Learning.

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