Dr Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno
Senior Lecturer in Leadership Studies
+44 (0) 1392 722588
Streatham Court, University of Exeter, Rennes Drive, Exeter, EX4 4PU, UK
Dr. Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno (PhD, MA, MSc, BA) is a world-leading social scientist in social identity research. Her work using the social identity approach has challenged and expanded the fields of creativity and mindfulness, and research on both areas has been published in 4* and 3* journals. She led systemic change in the Kenyan Prison Services (4* impact case study) using research on social identity and mindfulness. She developed innovative and unique leadership development tools and processes which are embedded in her teaching and impact work. She developed as well as accredited leadership programmes. She engages with practitioners offering them a new way of looking at themselves and opening their eyes to new ways of leading. For the last 5 years, she has investigated what factors predict resilience and two key factors are related to mindfulness and social identity.
Since 2007 Dr. Adarves-Yorno has been exploring what areas resonate not only with her intellect but with her whole self. She is particularly interested in the contradictions between our inner and outer lives, some of which are reflected in her work on paradoxes of authentic leaders. She is passionate about change agency and how we can all make a difference utilising mindfulness and social identity processes. Proof of that can be seen in her impact work where inmates become mindful leaders who are transforming themselves, people around them and their institution (see details).
As a practitioner, Dr. Adarves-Yorno worked for five years as an organisational psychologist (CEO advisor and HR manager) for an engineering company in Spain. She has particular expertise in areas such as leadership, organisational commitment, communication, performance and employee wellbeing.
- PhD on Social Identity and Creativity (Exeter University)
- MSc in Psychological Research Methods, (Exeter University)
- MA in Social Psychology (University Autonoma, Madrid)
- Diploma on Community Interventions (Universidad Autonoma, Madrid)
- BSc (5 years) in Psychology (University Autonoma, Madrid)
My latest research programme lies In the intersection of psychology, neuroscience and leadership. I explore the antecedents and moderators of resilience capacity, mindset and skills. Based on a decade of training experience and 5 years of research on this area, I aim to develop a a robust yet adaptable training which will be underpinned by rigorous research and identity informed practices.
In my last research programme I investigated “Mindfulness within and beyond the individual”. Among other things I broadly looked at (1) What is the impact of mindfulness for individuals, specifically in helping deal with and lead change? (2) How can mindfulness benefit individuals, institutions and communities? And (3) How can others and our shared identity help us become more mindful? Combining mindfulness and social identity some of the questions that I have been looking at are: Can identification with a mindful identity can help us become more mindful? And what are the combined benefits of social identity and mindfulness on psychological outcomes such as mental wellbeing and resilience. This research was conducted in different settings including Kenyan prisons.
Dr. Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno started conducting research in 1996. She worked and collaborated in a wide range of topics (including ‘perverse norms‘, discrimination, affirmative action, social influence, framing, leadership and health related behaviour) with a number of researchers from Europe and Australia.
In 2002 she started her work on social identity which lead to the development of a new approach to creativity together with Prof. Alex Haslam and Prof. Tom Postmes. This work has been in a range of high impact papers. A review of this body of work can be seen in our Personality and Social Psychology Review paper and engaging articles for all audiences can be found in Scientific American Mind.
In 2011 she started working on authentic leadership and change agency. This was a very insightful period of her career and a few qualitative studies were conducted. All those insights have informed her work in all areas although no empirical papers have been formally written yet. Her findings made her realise how essential is to work with social identities when leading change and how social identities can present an unspoken paradox within the authentic leadership realm. Studying change agents she also discover how essential is mindfulness for individuals who are leading change. This reinforced her interest in and commitment with Mindfulness both as a researcher and as a traine
- 2018 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Cultivation Award: Mindful Leaders disseminating teachings and impact
- 2018 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Rapid response: supporting change in the Kenyan Prison Services and Beyond
- 2017 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Knowledge Exchange Fellowship: Expansion, Evaluation and Consolidation of the Inner Rehabilitation Programme in Kenyan Prisons
- 2016 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Economic Development and Welfare Scheme: Inner Rehabilitation Programme for Kenyan Prisons
- 2015 ESRC Impact Acceleration Award
Cultivation Award: Authentic Leadership and Change Agency Training in the Kenyan Prison Services.
- 2007 ESRC Seminar Series
Balancing the Tensions: Using Organisational Theory to Inform Business Practice
- 2005 ESRC
Post-doctoral Fellowship: New Approach to Creativity and Innovation in Organisations
Key publications | Publications by category | Publications by year
Publications by category
Publications by year
Awards and Honours
2019 AMBA awards shortlisted for an impact award
2018 Times Higher Education Award shortlisted for the best research in Humanities and Social Sciences
2009 Rising Star Award winner Exeter University
Reviewing responsibilities and contribution to the academic community
2020 Associate Editor for the Social and Personality Journal within Frontiers in Psychology.
I have been a reviewer for the following journals: Journal of Applied Social Psychology, International Journal of Psychology, Management Learning, Human Relations, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, British Journal of Social Psychology, International Journal of Psychology, European Journal of Social Psychology, Academy of Management, Culture & Organization Journal.
I have been part of the reviewing and decission panel for several ESRC panel IAA grants.
External Examiner Positions
2021 I was in the accreditation panel of the MSc on Psychology for Leadership, Plymouth Marjon University. As part of the programme approval and accreditation, I evaluated the rationale and market research, internal and external regulations and strategies, admissions procedures, Curriculum, Teaching, learning and Assessment, Research, Scholarly and Professional Activity, Resources and Delivery, and Good Practices.
2015 Re-accreditation of MSc on Holistic Science for Plymouth University and Schumacher College. I reviewed the modules, ILOs and assessment methods, etc.
PhD external examiner
2007 Sharyn Herzig "the role of middle managers in organizational change". University of Queensland
2009 Cláudia Moreira Martins "Transformational leadership and gender in military organizations". Complutense University of Madrid
2020 Marta Puebla Guedea "The impact of mindfulness on psychological and biological variables". University of Zaragoza
External doctoral examining nationally and internationally
2007 Sharyn Herzig “the role of middle managers in organizational change”. University of Queensland
2009 Cláudia Moreira Martins “Transformational leadership and gender in military organizations”. Complutense University of Madrid
2020 Marta Puebla Guedea "The impact of mindfulness on psychological and biological variables". University of Zaragoza
Invited lectures & workshops
2014 Invited speaker to commemorate the International Women’s Day in the series of talks from inspirational women leaders who have ‘been there, done that’.
2015 Invited to give a TEDx talk https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6EPUQDoRaE
News and international Media.
- 2017 Kenya Television News, https://youtu.be/rkPvGZGS_94
- 2017 Radio national New Zealand https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/nights/20170803
- 2017 BBC Health radio interview
- 2018 BBC World News crossing divides https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbpZp8sg8dc
- 2018 BBC crossing divides written article
- 2019 BBC documentary Life Clinic “is it possible to lose your freedom but remain free?” https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07y8zw5
- 2019 El Pais (National Spanish Newspaper)
- 2018 Intrepid explorer: https://www.mixcloud.com/Intrepidexplorers/using-mindfulness-in-kenyan-prisons/
- 2018 Present moment mindfulness practice and science, episode 115
Other Consultancy (i.e. income generating work that is not research)
2016-2019 As part of their Leadership Commonwealth Fellowship, I gave Authentic leadership training to senior managers from the Kenyan and Ugandan prison services
2014-2018 I worked closely with Justice Defenders in Africa (previously called African Prisons Project) who are training people to become lawyers and paralegals to support justice in Kenya and Uganda. My role was to support the management of the organisation as well as to empower and train (on Mindfulness and resilience) their law students.
In 2014 I worked with the Environment Agency on a project on sustainability change agents and created a report on leading change: Sustainability within the Environment Agency Devon and Cornwall: Insights from a Case Study.
2013 I worked with with WWF, GrenBEE, Action for Sustainability consultancy, Coca Cola, Enviroment agency, Eden Project and the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (Mark Drewell) on a project "Working and leading together towards sustainable Futures"
2006-2008 I worked in the CELEX corporate consortium on High-Performance Leadership. Some of the companies who were part of this programme were Reuters, Royal Mail, Tetrapack, Royal Airforce, BAE systems and the BBC.
My impact case study "Transforming the Kenyan Prison services with the Mindful Leaders programme" was underpinned by my research on social identity and Mindfulness. And it constituted a systematic change affecting individuals, groups, prisons and even the community outside jails. It was rated as 4* by the REF panel and in 2018 the research underpinning this programme was shortlisted for THE awards. In 2019 the project was also shortlisted for AMBA awards.
I trained almost 1000 mindful leaders at all the levels of the Kenyan Prison services from the Director of Rehabilitation, senior managers from headquarters, prison governors, welfare officers, guards and prisoners. Many of these leaders then trained others to become mindful leaders too. Thus my impact multiplied and all levels of the Kenyan Prison Service became part of the programme which they referred to as "mindfulness revolution". In a BBC news video, welfare officer states that "Adarves-Yorno's Mindfulness Programme has impacted deeply into all of those who took part in it… the Programme has spread far within prisons and beyond". To ensure the long-term sustainability of this project is ensured, I worked with Nafisika Trust, a Kenyan charity working in prisons, who have now embedded it as part of their programmes. Furthermore, Open Minds charity, are taking over running the second phase of the Programme. Open Minds Director, declares that "2100 people have directly benefited from the programme and the indirect reach in the families and communities is much larger and continues to grow".
Core to the success of the Programme is the research finding that for change to happen, new norms need to be established. This requires a social identity shift that will allow for novel and creative thinking. In some settings, mindfulness training will only lead to long term transformation if it is tied with a strong sense of common identity. Thus, inmates from Naivasha prison, who were part of the Programme, exchanged their prisoner identity for one of a "Mindful Leader". Though still incarcerated in a maximum-security prison, prisoners claim to be "internally free" and have a purpose as it can be seen in the BBC documentary. The training provides them with the tools to build a cohesive and harmonious community within Naivasha prison.
Impact on the Prisoners:
An independent evaluation report of the Programme evidenced benefits at the individual level (e.g., inmates reduced drug use, reflect before acting, have become more resilient, and mentor and support others). At the intragroup level there was less conflict and more encouragement and collaboration among inmates. Prisoners in Naivasha (largest maximum security prison) adjusted and developed their own mindfulness materials, including translating key teaching resources from English into Kiswahili and finding ways to reach those who are not literate. A further ESRC-IAA evaluation report conducted in Naivasha 2017, showed 84% of participants declared that were better able to manage their emotions; 84% of participants reported a reduced number of aggressive incidents with others; and 85% of participants had reduced the amount of drugs they were consuming compared with before their participation in the Programme. "90% of participants "can forgive themselves more" and 91% of participants "forgive others more". In addition, 86% of participants reported that the programme has also improved the relationship between participants and the Prison Officers and 64% of participants have improved communication with families. Since the Programme in Navaisha started in 2015, there have been no suicide attempts.
Naivasha Officer in Charge says: "The impact that Mindful leadership is having in Naivasha is a force to be reckoned with. Most prisoners are now directing their energies towards positive activities like educational activities, and they have positive attitude(s) towards rehabilitation programmes within the prison." For example, a BBC video article covering the Programme, featured Alex Dimba, serving a life sentence, who now leads mindfulness sessions for other inmates, has shown such a change that prison authorities believe he may qualify for parole soon. Not only has he become the Chairman of the Mindful Leader Programme, he has completed his Bachelor of Law from the University of Law in London through the African Prison Project.
Impacts on the Prisons
The Mindful Leaders Programme has directly benefited the prison governance and staff by significantly reducing the incidences of violence and drug use. Prison staff attribute this change directly to Adarves-Yorno's Programme. As a result of the Programme, prison governors report that the prisons have become more settled institutions, "inmates have developed self-awareness, hence self-acceptance". "There have been less violent incidents which has made work easier for prison officers…those in the programme have reduced their consumption of drugs abuse and trafficking." In addition, a BBC World Service article reports the relationships between inmates and guards have improved drastically, with "fewer riots and attempted escapes". At the institutional level, new initiatives are being developed and working groups within the prison have been established. Project Co-ordinator at Kitengala Prison testifies to the beginnings of working to zero recidivism "since we started the mindfulness Programme, no prisoner released within the last three years has ever come back to prison." Furthermore, knowing the transformational impact of the programme, the Director of Rehabilitation across Kenya would like the programme to reach "our 100 prisons, where we currently have more than 55,000 prisoners".
Impacts on the wider community
Reported benefits of the Programme ripple beyond the prison, benefiting prisoners' families and their home villages as mindful leaders took their teachings home with them and shared with their families and community. One example of this is The Mindfulness Programme is now being delivered by a former Mindful Leader inmate in collaboration with a community Based organisation in Nairobi/Kisimu is working in schools, youth groups, women's groups, and teachers and engaging children with Mindfulness through storytelling. Another remarkable example is A Welfare Officer who, has founded a charity Ladhayamtaa to reintegrate inmates back into the community after they have left prison and whose work has been commended by regional authorities is working alongside Open Minds a non- profit located in the USA. They "have been bringing the work of Dr Adarves-Yorno into all teachings online and in person during the last year. Even with the challenges of COVID, Mindfulness is one of the most needed practices during these unprecedented times".
- Mindful leaders in Kenya website: https://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/mindfulleaderskenya/
- Inner rehabilitation blog: https://blogs.exeter.ac.uk/innerrehabilitation/
Teaching philosophy and practice
I use research and innovative practices I developed (e.g., Mindfulness Plus techniques) to lead students into deep learning, personal transformation, and resilience. I facilitate conversations and sharing using participatory leadership techniques, ensuring high engagement and committed participation. I use embodied learning principles so that theoretical knowledge is put into practice and reflected upon, thus creating embodied knowledge. And by using social identity strategies, I create a common identity so that we grow as a community of change agents where we belong. Finally, I combine all that with my experience as a practitioner and change agent, making the content 100% engaging and relevant.
I have received eight nominations and awards for the innovation of my modules.
I developed, led, and entirely taught four new UG modules that were initially part of the new BA management with Leadership: Leadership and Teams (UG1), Leadership in Action (UG2), Leadership and Decisions (UG 2 & 3 with Officers Training Corps) and Leading change in Practice (UG3). Details of their innovative practice can be found on the CV as requested. At the PGT level, I have taught Authentic Leadership (MBA), Personal transformations (MBA), and self-leadership for resilience (MBA). I have also been involved in teaching professionals by delivering CPD courses and contributing to the DA Programmes. More teaching information in my CV.
In 2022 my module "Leading change in practice" was one of the three selected (across all schools) to showcase extraordinary teaching to the Vice Chancellor and the governing body of the University the Council. In addition, in 2022, the University started participating in the IISMA scheme run by the Indonesian Government, sponsoring UG students to study for one term at Exeter. The majority of these high achiever exchange students chose my module (from all disciplines across the University), and their representative declared, "this is the best module I have taken in my four years at University". This echoed the hundreds of testimonials year after year where students declare "I have learnt more in this module than in any other module in my degree before", "this module has changed my life", and "This module had prepared me to be a future change leader". All their comments are accompanied with very high MACE scores (ranging from 4.9 to 4.3 across 10 years). The external impact of the module is evident with their change projects. There have been more than 100 projects concerned with many topics ranging from improving mental well-being, loneliness, developing sustainability practices, preventing spiking, changing ways to report sexual abuse, raising awareness and preventing suicide, tackling homelessness, changing eating habits and many more. Furthermore, the psychological impact of their personal work in the module goes beyond expectations "this module has been more beneficial than three years in psychotherapy". Triangulating the data, testimonials from my students' housemates and parents have told me how my students transformed during the module. Finally, my teaching is far-reaching and has been described by students as truly transformational, benefiting not only them but also the people around them, including their families and communities they belong to.
In terms of pedagogical impact, in 2009 two of my modules, "Leadership and Teams" and "Leadership in Action" were among the small number of modules selected by the University to be part of the HEFCE/JISC project providing Open Educational Resources (Open Exeter). This project aimed to give worldwide access to high-quality and research-informed learning and teaching resources. The objectives of the OER were: raising our profile to prospective, particularly international students in both the quality of the learning at Exeter and the stature of our staff; alignment with top-10 UK research-intensive universities etc.