What were you doing 10 years ago?

2 min readSep 19, 2023


I thought I’d reflect on what I was doing 10 years ago. Ten years ago I had just moved eastwards from Battersea to Limehouse with a couple of friends and had started working in local government, initially to support asylum seekers across the country and then to help Kent County Council develop & test innovation. I had joined local government in a context where it was starting to make ever deeper cuts as a result of the Government’s “small state — big society” theory that a mixture of reducing the size of the state and increasing social action would both create more opportunities for economic growth and empower people to improve their communities. That agenda would continue over the next decade with a greater emphasis on the small state.

Local government and civil society were also dipping their toes in social media. I was an early adopter and found a community of people who weren’t just social media pioneers but innovators in their own right and events like Social Innovation Camp, Tuttle or 2gether08. There was a playfulness & experimentation that we need even more now.

However, the important stuff doesn’t change as much as we think, maybe it just moves more from the edge to the centre. I ran an event 10 years ago called “Innovate to Save” to bring to life how people could innovate in Kent. I invited various people to come and present and set the scene with a presentation called Here Comes Everybody. I would change several of the slides to make it more 2023, but one that I would still conclude with is “to transform services, we need to transform ourselves first”.

What would I keep from that time?

  • The playfulness & experimentation of people navigating social media for the first time and testing out how it could be used for good and creating spaces & communities for people to take risks together
  • The resilience & militant optimism of people working in & with public services who despite chastised for being dispensable bureaucrats, put even more energy into creating new ways to support people to survive & thrive
  • The professional promiscuity of people collaborating across sectors, inventing new roles like social reporters, creating new types of organisation like social startups (like FutureGov, Think Public & Participle)

What were the trends where you worked 10 years ago?

What’s surprised you as to what’s changed and what’s stayed the same?

What would you learn from the 10 years ago you?




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