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Design leadership

Between 2019 and 2023 I was Head of Service Design in the Innovation Lab team at Barnardo's. I led a team of service designers and researchers, working closely with the senior leadership team and implementing a culture of co-production, co-design and evidence-based approaches across the wider organisation. I was responsible for the service design approach across the organisation within systems change, innovation and product development.

I had been a member of the Service Design team at Barnardo's over the previous 5 years so had the advantage of an intimate knowledge of the history of the work previously done, and the trajectory of the development of the team and the culture of the organisation.

The focus of the work was to help Barnardo's build modern services that truly meet the needs of children, young people and families.


The work our team was then engaged in varied from:

• Strategy for systems change work with local authority Strategic Partners, using participation, co-design and co-production methodologies with children, young people and service workers.

• Developing hybrid models of working for the organisation. As young people don't consider online and offline spaces as separate, we aim to meet the expectations of young people so that they can get the support they need, when they need it and on their terms. This also means working very closely with Children's Services staff to make sure the products we deliver work for them as well.


• Supporting Barnardo's to become a health and social care charity by working closely with the Health Team on a number of initiatives and leading design-thinking approaches, delivering new insights and focussing on areas where technology can enhance the delivery of the health work.


• Supporting grass-roots innovation and innovation practice across the organisation through the development of Innovation Communities, consisting of multi-disciplinary teams from across Barnardo's.

• 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.

• I managed relationships with many other teams across Barnardo's including Business Development, multiple local authorities from across the UK, design agencies such as Snook, TPX Impact, Mace & Menter, as well as relationships with other Third Sector organisations such as ParentZone and social impact funders such as Nominet.


Collaboratively the team developed highly-skilled and adaptive qualitative social research, data synthesis and the production of visually clear and engaging actionable outputs. We developed clear people-centred methodologies for research, co-design and co-production with children and young people. The team was adept 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 is still committed to systems change within children's social care, to be able to make the most impact and benefit for children and young people. There was also a strong commitment to hold the complexity within the sometimes extremely challenging subject-matter and work in the Third Sector.

Tasks included:

  • Guidance and leadership for a team of 9

  • Building and leading a highly inclusive multi-disciplinary team

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

  • Identifying opportunities and tie them to the wider strategic organisational strategy

  • Leading on implementing team principles and methodologies

  • Developing team strategy, capacity planning, team development, governance and cultural norms

  • Managing and mentoring of team members

  • Supporting professional development with the team

  • Supporting and advising the senior leadership team

  • Representing and ultimately responsible for the work, values and ethics of the Service Design and Research team

  • Delivering webinars and talks to external organisations on our user-centred approaches and techniques


  • A confident, flexible, highly functional team

  • Development of frameworks and strategies to support design thinking and measurement and evaluation

  • Development of documented processes to support effective project outcomes

  • 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

  • A successful transition from a full contractor to a permanent staff model during the Covid-19 Pandemic

Embedding systems change - Frame 6 - updated.jpg

A model I designed to articulate a strategic systems change proposal for Barnardo's.


A booklet and series of posters intended to communicate the 5 key principles we use to deliver service design at Barnardo's.


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


We're always looking to find ways to help Barnardo's be truly child-centred and make sure that we use language that they can understand.

For example, the word 'consent' is an adult concept and we've developed a number of ways to communicate what this means in a way that children and young people can clearly understand.

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