About Us

Applied Inspiration is a dynamic firm focused on connecting people and ideas through innovation and engagement to help our clients build the best of all possible worlds in accessing successful, lifelong learning journeys. We focus on the education sector, along upstream and downstream supply chain – from access to further and higher education to graduate outcomes.

We work with education providers, government agencies, communities and corporations to review, design and deliver programmes which are empowering, innovative, engaging, experiential and client-focused. Our work spans three key areas, which integrate to provide holistic solutions.

We operate across United Kingdom and Australia, enabling us to share best-practice across the two regions. In our operational locations, we are closely linked into local education providers and into business, and the entrepreneur and innovation scenes.

Advisory - Enabling Environments

At Applied Inspiration we believe that the secret to success in the development and delivery of programmes is ensuring that there is alignment between what we can do to support a learner make their decisions and succeed and the structures, systems and programmes that enable learning and development and aspiration to occur. What we refer to as preparing an “Enabling Environment”.

Our aspiration is that our clients want to reach into the future and grab those ideas and practices which will provide the learner the best advantage they can. This is innovation.

Developing and implementing these programems takes skills and capabilities that may need to be developed or acquired, or just enabled from within your people. This is transformation - the “doing it” piece.

We work with clients to create these enabling environments, empowered with innovation and implanted to transform the old to the new. To create success for all.

In this suite of solutions our advisory team focuses on the structures, systems and processes from institutional governance to programme delivery. We seek alignment and coherence in the pursuit of effective programmes, efficient use of resources and equitable delivery and outcomes: This is value creation.

Recruitment, Widening Participation and Learner Journeys

The other half of our practice focuses on supporting the development of positive educational pathways through to post-secondary education, by imagining, facilitating and supporting learners through the delivery of programmes to develop learner capability and progression. What we refer to as supporting “Learner Journeys”.

We are currently working with over 50 secondary schools in the UK as part of a national widening participation campaign in higher education. We partner with universities and colleges to facilitate pathways and positive engagement with education along the pipeline, and provide access opportunities to schools and pupils, including visits, academic input, financial support and scholarships, mentorship and advice.

Our range of secondary-school oriented programmes include HE Pathway Aspiration and Achievement programs (year 7 to 12), residential camps, social innovation challenge programems, and mentor programmes. Our institutional work includes best-practice careers service development, Learner Aspiration profiling, capacity reviews and transformational work at the leadership level.

The Core Team

Led by two outstanding executives in co-founders Sean Johnson and Emma Thomas, the Applied Inspiration team includes visionaries and internationally recognised thought leaders in student success, engagement, employability, change management and transformation, educational institution innovation and social entrepreneurship.

Sean and Emma first teamed up together in 2012 whilst leading and transforming a student services portfolio which included the widening participation team, careers services, counselling and disability services, and the equity office. The review and restructure that was implemented created a multi-disciplinary operating model for student support which has stood the test of many organisational reviews and still marks best practice.

  • Sean Johnson

    Sean Johnson

    Executive Director

    Sean Johnson

    Executive Director, LLB, MBA, GCertEd


    Sean Johnson is a founding partner of Applied Inspiration. He has portfolio responsibility for the Advisory Services. He has led the review and transformation projects with a number of universities based on a unique methodology drawing on his expertise in complex problem solving. Sean is an experienced professional with an extensive career in the higher education sector having held both academic and professional leadership positions. Sean is a very dynamic leader and strategist.

  • Emma Thomas

    Emma Thomas

    Executive Director

    Emma Thomas

    Executive Director, LLB, M.Ed (Hons)


    Emma Thomas is a founding partner of Applied Inspiration and has leadership responsibility for the Learner Journey portfolio. Emma is an internationally recognised expert in student services program development and delivery focusing on education and community engagement. Emma has worked in the higher education sector in both the United Kingdom and Australia. Emma has significant expertise and a proven track record in the field of program strategy, development and execution. She has a significant record of advocacy for improved practice in the field of widening participation, and is experienced in leading and managing careers and employability portfolios, and developing student experience and success agendas across the student journey (recruitment, success and progression).

  • Prof. Chris Gaskell

    Prof. Chris Gaskell CBE


    Prof. Chris Gaskell CBE

    Advisor, BVSc, PhD


    Emeritus Professor Gaskell was formerly the Vice Chancellor of the Royal Agricultural University where he led the transformation of the institution from a College to University status. He has overseen the repositioning of the University into a leading innovative institution for agricultural education, including a bold strategy to develop a number of campus based innovation facilities focusing on agritech.

  • Nancy Johnson

    Nancy Johnson

    Administration Manager

    Nancy Johnson

    Administration Manager, BEd (Hons), BEcon


    Bio coming soon.

  • Sally Greenwood

    Sally Greenwood

    Engagement Manager

    Sally Greenwood

    Engagement Manager, BAGeo (First)


    Sally has six years’ experience managing projects from within the higher education and voluntary sectors. Sally has championed and led educational programs to inspire young people with the employee-volunteering charity York Cares, the University of York and UWE Bristol. These have included student-led initiatives, on-campus and residential activities and mentoring projects. Sally has excellent experience working with university widening participation departments to deliver activities for disadvantaged communities, applying a deep understanding of policy and good practice.

  • Zachary Fook

    Zachary Fook

    Innovation Manager

    Zachary Fook

    Innovation Manager, BBusMan


    Zac provides project management and outcome-centric delivery across advisory and learner journey services, in particular projects relating to innovation and change. Drawing from his experiences in social innovation, entrepreneurship, marketing and NGO development, Zac leverages his technical and people skills to ensure Applied Inspiration over delivers for clients every time.

  • Kate Penney

    Kate Penney

    Academic Developer

    Kate Penney

    Academic Developer, BA, MA


    Kate is an experienced project manager and educator. She has extensive experience and interest in the relationship between education, training, and career progression and its direct link to the economy and society (and vice versa). She has experience as a Widening Participation Projects Manager, Senior Lecturer and Project Coordinator in the education sector, with a focus on aspiration, enterprise and entrepreneurship, employability and accessing of opportunity. Kate is a strong and passionate advocate for fair access and success in education, flowing through to positive career outcomes.

  • Mikaela Dockrill

    Mikaela Dockrill

    Outreach Advisor

    Mikaela Dockrill

    Outreach Advisor, BCA, MSW


    Over the past 10 years, Mikaela has worked with schools, colleges and the community in Australia to support the education and aspirations of young people from diverse backgrounds. Mikaela finds it an extremely rewarding experience to work with young people and adults from all backgrounds, supporting them to realise their capacity to achieve, grow and keep learning!

  • Eleanor Gordon-Martin

    Eleanor Gordon-Martin

    Engagement Co-ordinator

    Eleanor Gordon-Martin

    Engagement Co-ordinator, BSc


    Ellie is experienced in working with young people in the tutoring area, and particularly delivering achievement raising in Maths and English. She is also an experienced in sales and promotion, and particularly engaging directly with parents. Ellie is also experienced in targeting and working with a range of community providers to deliver educational presentation and sessions.

  • Kara Minto-Simpson

    Kara Minto-Simpson

    Engagement Officer

    Kara Minto-Simpson

    Engagement Officer, BSc, MSc


    Kara proactively engages in the formation and maintenance of partnerships between local and national schools and HE providers with a particular interest and focus on career pathways within the agricultural sector. Kara develops and delivers workshops and educational sessions that inspire future generation to pursue life long learner journeys.