How do you navigate change?

3 min readMar 12


We support people through change all the time, starting from understanding what matters to helping people thrive & cope with change:

· Start with what matters to people in their everyday lives to develop outcomes for the place

· Use our understanding of people’s needs to align outcomes to your resources

· Move from building services to building movements

· Challenge ourselves and others to be brave & radical

· Empower staff to work with residents to solve problems together

We don’t just want to help people adapt to change but mobilise people around common causes to influence innovation — where we try and:

· Pioneer new ways of delivering outcomes that influence the wider agenda

· Challenge ourselves and others to put our communities first constantly

· Mobilise the skills & energies of our communities & institutions to work together to tackle challenges

· Work out in the open to develop creative ways to tackle the issues

· Partner with others to develop networks that shape the future of our places

In the year that I’ve been at Camden, I’ve tried to lead teams in ways which start with relationships and create spaces for others to support that change, as well as open up opportunities for others to get stuck in and bring their skills to the table. We recognise that to anticipate and influence radical change, we need to rethink what we do — what we know about the world, how we work or how we shape the place around us. Or, put it, how we can be more pirates. We also need to think about defining the boundaries of our work to understand what we’re best placed at doing and who else we should collaborate with.

We’ve joined with another service to join up our strategic support to the organisation. With a new Chief Executive and Leader, I see this as an opportunity to rethink and test how we can best drive change. The services have solid relationships in joint across all levels of the organisation and the borough. We’re like “corporate butterflies”, in a sense! This is what I’ve learned so far from when teams join together.

1. Start with your values and principles

Whenever there’s a change, people might feel uncertain or unclear about where the team is headed next. Even if you’re leading the change, you might be too. It’s always important to remember your values, what drives you to (re)energise people around a collective sense of purpose

2. Celebrate and reflect

Even when there’s a need to change, this doesn’t mean you need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. Give people an opportunity to celebrate how they’ve embodied those values, achieved, and, even better, what they’ve done that embodies those new principles. At the end of every “season”, we do a pecha kucha where all 50 people are represented through an image telling a story about them and their work. Give people an opportunity to reflect on what’s gone well, what could be stopped and what could be improved.

3. Test, empower and stretch

Change may feel abstract to people, and you’ve got a short window of opportunity to get people behind you, especially as they may have experienced change before that didn’t go well.

Start testing and learning to show visible signs of the change and to show you haven’t got a perfect solution, encourage people to be able to shape and test change too. As part of that, we’ll be creating new leadership roles, opening up projects for everyone to shape & test and developing a programme of testing & learning — ranging from empathy tours, coaching conversations, problem-solving clinics, cultural cafes, team diagnostics — taking place outside of our buildings so we can immerse ourselves in different environments, whether it’s a community centre like The Winch, home to the North Camden Zone or Local Globe, one of our council offices reinvented as a co-working space.

If we’re developing creative ways for other people — be it frontline staff, residents and partners to collaborate and innovate, to deliver more significant impact and to become stronger teams, why don’t we try it on…ourselves?!

How do you facilitate collaboration across teams? How do you support your team through change? How do you create opportunities for people to develop themselves?

What lessons did you learn? What did it feel like? What would you do differently?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese