On balancing acts

We all know the public sector faces unprecedented pressures. Rising demand and expectations are compounded by Covid19 backlogs and falling budgets. These are the immediate and pressing concerns that public sector leaders face. It is easy in such times to enter survival mode, tending to the urgent presenting issues. However ,this comes at the expense […]

On music as a barometer of social change

The baseline thunders through your body, primeval, uplifting, manifestations of Gaia’s energy of life. You’re dancing around a fire to the rhythm of the pounding drums. The sparks fly upwards into the sky and you’re lost in the meditation of the moment. Ten thousand years later and you’re in a dark club in the early […]

On Stephen Lawrence Day

I was invited to take part in a discussion on the legacy of Stephen Lawrence alongside amazing panellists – Meera Spillett, Chris Murray, Rosemary Campbell-Stephens and Keith Jarrett. It was, for me, a stretch of my own comfort. I was used to sharing my experiences and thoughts in deeply personal and private situations. This was […]

On levelling up (part 3)

Life’s lottery deems it that none of us have any say over the families and communities into which we are born. Some of us are luckier than others, given the wide inequalities in social and economic outcomes that manifest across the estates, schools, businesses, clubs and high streets that together form the different places we […]

On the need for mainstream investment in our communities

Supporting our communities: time to move from false-competition to needs-based investment The winners of the new Community Renewal Fund, the precursor to the post-Brexit Shared Prosperity Fund, were recently announced. What does this tell us about the Government’s approach to investing in our communities and the desire for ‘levelling up’ across the UK, and what […]

On convening across systems

One of the stranger performance measures that local government used to have to report to Whitehall in the early 2000s was on rough sleeping. Periodically officers would be required to undertake a survey, literally walking or driving around and counting the numbers of people they found. To what end were we collecting and reporting this […]

On crises and change (a guide to the terrain)

In early 2021 I worked with a team at the RSA to listen to community stories of the impact of Covid-19. Our aim was to tease out some learning about the preparedness of people, communities, institutions and our wider systems to absorb the shocks precipitated by the global pandemic. Our thesis was not an original […]

On transitions and loss (part 2)

Transitional periods are a mix of both letting go of the old and experimenting with the new. Relationships, habits, patterns, behaviours, identities, ideas… It is not simply the case that a transition is a clean switch between two known states, the before and the after. Usually the after can’t be known. It arrives after a […]

On transitions and loss (part I)

Covid-19 is precipitating change the likes of which we haven’t seen for generations and the extent to which we can only currently guess. Out of necessity, and against the odds, we have seen communities, the wider public sector and civil society step up and work together to respond to local needs, largely in the absence […]

On the tube

It’s so long since I last took the tube. The Thursday before I started working from home in response to Covid-19, so my last tube ride would have been March 12th. Exactly a year ago. I’m realising it’s possible to have a degree of nostalgia even for things that previously felt like a necessary evil. I […]

On fault-lines and foundations

In the first lockdown the RSA coined the phrase ‘building bridges to the future’ to describe how learning, adaptation and innovation during the crisis might shape and prefigure a better future. Over the last ten months we have tested these ideas with a wide range of partners turning categories and propositions into concrete examples and […]

On public services taking the long view

Slowly rising to obscure my view of Europe’s largest urban wetlands, the two blocks of flats opposite me have taken on an increasingly finished aspect recently. Balconies affixed, the cranes have been dismantled and, I assume, the tasks switch focus to the inside and the exterior landscaping. They are not in isolation. Multiple blocks of […]