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 reinventing the wheel

“If you wait around long enough, the old ideas come around again presented as new ones, largely because the current civil servants weren’t around when this was tried last time”, I remember my former Director of Public Health lamenting, “after a while you realise that everything goes in cycles”. I used to look at him […]

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 making sense of crisis

How do we make sense of how the crisis is changing the world as we are living through it? Lots of conversations are taking place around how we track, learn from and make sense of the crisis, our response to it, and how we build bridges to a post-pandemic future. Thinking through the measures that […]

On bearing witness to social change

It’s easy to look ahead – to the next task, meal, commute; the next week, month or year in our lives. Things to do, commitments to honour. Sometimes, perhaps, we think in a longer time-frame – our retirement options, perhaps, how we might afford to send our children to Uni or whether we’ll leave the […]

On new power

“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope, I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic, I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act, I want you to act as if you […]

On tipping points and paradigms

“Some people, some companies, some decision-makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. And I think many of you here today belong to that group of people”.⁠1  Greta Thunburg Such were the words spoken before the World Economic Forum in January by a […]

On innovation in health and social care (part 2)

If public services are going to meet the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous demands of the 21st Century they need to be redefined and redesigned with resilience at their heart.  Seeking change by only invoking the big levers of institutions – policy, economic, legal, and so forth – will only get us so far, opening […]

On innovation in health and social care (part 1)

Innovation and the public sector are often seen to be in opposition, yet the caricature of a creaking bureaucracy is largely false. In the face of increasing demand, rising citizen expectations, decreasing budgets and accelerating technological change, the public sector continues to innovate. New, improved or reconfigured policy, products, ways of working and processes are […]

On learning from social entrepreneurs

Does the skillset and mindset of the social entrepreneur apply to those trying to work entrepreneurially within the public sector? Can we, in other words, learn from social entrepreneurs who move fast and fix things? There are various conceptions of the entrepreneur, from the more traditional innovator emerging in the private sector, to those working […]

On the civil society strategy

The government’s civil society strategy, published recently, includes a focus on collaborative commissioning and a recognition that “the system actively, albeit accidentally restricts diversity of the market by putting in significant barriers that exclude smaller providers”. We recently explored how to bring the diversity of smaller providers and the wider social sector to the task […]

On best practice engagement and participation

I thought it might be of value to share the key points arising from a recent literature review into what makes effective citizen participation, engagement and co-production. In this short piece I summarise core principles behind good engagement; the barriers to and enablers of good participation; as well as factors that make a difference to […]