What are the principles that you’ve learnt where you work?

4 min readDec 3, 2023

In a previous post, I shared my journey over the past 10 years, both at work and in my spare time. I thought I’d reflect on the values & principles I’ve learnt from each organisation.

What I learnt from Demos’s values & principles:

What I learnt from the Young Foundation’s values & principles:

  • Move from policies created in “ivory towers” (including in think tanks!) to social innovations that can shift behaviours in policy and society, which I then applied through Transformed by You & Cooperative by Design
  • Move from linear processes of policy making to iterative journeys where ideas can be tested and incubated, which I then applied through SILK, Transformed by You & Cooperative by Design
  • Move from thinking of designing services to building social infrastructure, like Open University, Oyster Card or Impact Hubs

What I learnt there was:

How can you get people excited behind campaigns by getting them to learn new skills in helping make the campaigns?

How can you show how the change in policy the campaigns are calling for will change people’s lives?

How can you build on the momentum developed during a campaign to create a movement behind the change?

I’d created the space for new leaders to come along with their ideas and ways of organising and stepped back. I’d also become more involved with European Alternatives which we were turning into a network of campaigns & creatives creating together to imagine, enact & demand change.

Through European Alternatives, I worked with others to bring together people from different fields — creatives, campaigners & entrepreneurs to imagine, enact & demand new ways of living and practising everyday democracy.

What we had initially run as festivals, we turned into a network, which we invested time & money in, that we then grew into a cooperative and then a fully fledged organisation.

We grew & incubated the values of informal relationships between a small set of people into a network which people could take and grow in their cities.

We invented various ways to help people imagine, enact & demand different futures. From designing scenarios of the future to urban games across borders, to campaigning for a basic income, via travelling caravans across Europe to uncover, connect & share stories of unseen communities.

Innovation Team

In one of my first jobs in local government I learnt how to apply principles to rethink how strategy is developed & delivered through designing with communities of residents & practitioners.

We spent as much time developing the resources for people to experiment as we did experimenting ourselves. Be it through stories of change to show what everyday innovation looks like, method decks to help people experiment here and now and communities of practice to experiment together in safe spaces.

How can you help people innovate & experiment through creating easy ways to get them excited, use practical methods to test out in their work and get together with others to experiment & learn?

Transformed by You

Through Transformed by You, I created spaces & situations where policy makers, frontline staff, entrepreneurs and residents could mobilise them around common causes. I moved it from starting out as a hack day which fired people’s energies & ideas up into a more sustainable process, which focuses more on building communities around prototypes, as much in terms of people growing the ideas as people using them.

We started with commissioners, researchers working with particular cohorts, then handing over to local entrepreneurs backed by support from “experts” with funding, support and networks. I then embedded the principles & process into into the strategic commissioning framework we were developing.

What I learnt there was

How can you learn from festivals in how to fire people up in coming together to create something they can show & perform together in a day?

How can you connect people from different fields to turn ideas into experiments that are creative, evidence based & practical?

How can you develop processes that can both stimulate people to be entrepreneurial and embed into mainstream ways of working?

Cooperative Council

I took the learning from my previous experiences helping prototype & incubate innovations to help build the infrastructure to build for scale. This included developing a portfolio of experiments, like the Young Lambeth Cooperative, Lambeth Living Living Well Collaborative and Open Works and look at how to turn them into collaborative infrastructure that could help support innovation across the borough.

How much are innovations dependent on the energy, values & commitment of people designing them?

How much could they scale beyond the environment, communities and culture they had grown in?

How much can they shift the mainstream models of commissioning, delivery & investment?


At Ealing, I became head of strategy & performance where I was responsible for as many functions as people.

  • Sensing latest opportunities building on people making places where the user journey was a new journey interfacing with non-services and not just meeting need but building resilience
  • Systems change moving from snake & ladders to an onion analogy, where processes are less dominated by professionals a more a mix with communities, hybrid of services & culture, social investment for population & physical change

To what extent will change influenced by people who already have strong social networks rather than those who don’t?

To what extent will change be split into service integration versus community entrepreneurship rather than the two working together?

To what extent will the level of investment bias the type of change that is tested & scaled?




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