Design leadership at Barnardo's

Since November 2019 I have been leading the the Service Design Team at Barnardo's. I have overseen a transition from a contractor to a full permanent staffing model and as such have developed clear governance structures and a team culture that balances autonomy with support. I lead an extremely talented and committed team comprising of service/social designers, social researchers and user researchers.

I have been a member of the Service Design team at Barnardo's over the last 3 years so have an the advantage of having an intimate knowledge of the history of the work we've done, the trajectory of the development of the team and the culture of the organisation.


The work that we are currently engaged in varies from:

• Co-production with care experienced young people to develop insight around loneliness and social-isolation experience by young people leaving care.

• Co-design with children, young people and service workers to enhance engagement, redefine channels of communication and re-balancing power dynamics in the favour of children and young people. Development of the safe use of WhatsApp pilot in a children's service in Hampshire and Isle of Wight, alongside a digital welcome pack for children and young people joining Barnardo's Services.

• Redefining a child sexual abuse risk assessment framework model, using a key set of principles and definitions alongside a systems change strategy to engage all agencies to co-design a more child and family centred approach.

• Developing methodologies to support user-led research and design, focusing on meeting children and young people where they are and allowing them to collaborate with us as partners to create better outcomes together.

• Partnerships with business development inside Barnardo's, Local Authorities and also outside agencies, such as renowned service design agency Snook to develop digital design patterns for mental health.


The team is highly-skilled and adept at qualitative social research, data synthesis and the production of visually clear and engaging actionable outputs. We have developed clear people-centred methodologies for research, co-design and co-production with children and young people. We are as adapt at developing co-production initiatives with young people, as we are at leading and delivering engaging workshop facilitation to working groups across Barnardo's.

The team has recently combined forces with members of the Product and Services Team, to become the Innovation Lab at Barnardo's. Our remit is to deliver innovative and impactful services and products for children's services, focusing on social benefits for children and young people as well as service workers. We are committed to systems change within our sector and children's social care to be able to make the most impact and benefit for children and young people. We are also committed to holding the complexity within the sometimes extremely challenging subject-matter and work in this sector.

Tasks include:

  • Guidance and leadership for a team of 6.

  • Building and leading a multi-disciplinary team.

  • Provide direction and focus across the range of the team's projects.

  • Identify opportunities and tie them to the wider strategic organisational strategy.

  • Leading on implementing team principles and methodologies.

  • Development of team strategy, governance and cultural norms.

  • Management and mentoring of team members.

  • Mentoring junior members of the team.

  • Encouraging professional development with the team.

  • Supporting and advising the senior leadership team.

  • Being a representative to the work, values and ethic s of the Service Design Team outside of Barnardo's.


  • A successful transition from a full contractor to a permanent staff model.

  • A confident, flexible, highly functional team.

  • Relationship development with senior members of other teams within the organisation, facilitating smooth transitions and creating opportunities for the growth of the work.

  • Championing the authentic voice of children and young people within the upper management structures of Barnardo's.

  • Facilitating senior management to adopt more people-centred and evidence-based approaches to the services that they wish to develop.



Project dates:

Nov 2019 to Present


• Design leadership

• Service design

• Social design

• Research

• Facilitation

• Creative direction


We developed a series of 5 key principles by which we carry out service design at Barnardo's and from a blog post from our research lead Caitlin Connors, turned this into a booklet and a series of posters.


The aim of the 5 key principles of the service design team at Barnardo's is to define our principles and ethics as well as help others understand what we do and how we do it.


We developed a short video aimed at describing what we mean by consent to children and young people.

This is part of the digital welcome pack for children and young people when they join a Barnardo's service.


This was one of several team culture sessions that we held to allow every member of the team have a say in how we would like the team to evolve moving forward.