In 2013-14 I worked with FutureGov in Shift Surrey, an innovation hub in Surrey County Council. I ran the open events programme as a way to instigate cultural change; the programme was designed to inspire creativity in council practice and bring staff together across departments.

My official title was ‘Community Organiser’ – I learnt what that meant on the job! It involves connecting and activating people through shared motivations. It requires you to be a ‘people person’ – as I learnt more about community organising, I learnt that I naturally have what it takes to be a good community organiser. Yet I am also a designer.

I used my design skills in creating the service around how to support change from officers: we envisioned a way of inspiring people, equipping them with skills, and gathering networks, through events, online communications, and informal drop-ins, where I was personally available to help people through their challenges. I also updated the innovation lab space, and print and digital graphics communications.

I found designing the programme for cultural change to be the most intellectually stimulating and radical design work that I have done so far.


Day-to-day, I loved being creative support for council officers – I felt like I helped a few people flourish and gain motivation to make the changes they wanted to see in their departments.

I found that iteratively designing the programme of events and workshops, combined with the constant design research and networking, to be a successful way of creating and implementing cultural change in the council, and I am proud of the results that we achieved in just six months.

Lunchtime Sessions were inspirational lightening talks and informal discussions on a variety of topics. The typical format was one internal speaker and one external speaker, so that people could contrast and compare viewpoints in the discussion. Here are two examples of Lunchtime Sessions: Tech for Independence and Tech for Families. After the talks, I always gathered feedback to ensure that the talks would continually improve based on what people wanted; the feedback room allowed people the space to informally network after the talk, which doesn’t happen very much across council departments under usual circumstances. It’s a small thing which made a huge difference.

Lucie Glenday formerly of GDS, Surrey County Council Chief Executive David McNulty, and external speakers Cloche, all spoke at one event about open data and using digital technology in councils, which was attended by 40+ council staff. I was the driving force behind talks such as these happening, which upped communication between staff, and linked them to external ideas, bursting the traditional council bubble.shift_guide_frontpage-e1396538007803.jpgI pulled the Shift Guide together with the team. It details the Shift design thinking process.

I enjoyed making posters for all the events and live streaming them too, including this big one on Social Capital.

thinking hats
We ran workshops including one for the Public Service Launchpad scholars. This was a ‘Thinking Hats’ tool for generating ideas.


One response to “Shift

  1. Pingback: A Framework for Creating Thriving New Communities: Social Life | Lior Smith

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