Building a movement for better: It’s time to make post-Covid dreams a reality


Starting work in the aftershocks of a major world event is both the hardest and the most necessary work of all if you are driven by a desire to create and deliver better ways of living.

We set up our business when the true impact of the financial crisis was just starting to be understood, and austerity measures taking grip. We set up as strategic advisors to the public sector at a time when it became clear that public sector money was drying up and delivering good outcomes would require creativity and collaboration.

Now, with the lessons of a decade under our belts, we are gearing up to respond to the challenges of the Covid era. Where familiar elements like squeezed budgets and strain on local government leaders combine with a radically new world ravaged by a pandemic that has exposed both deep inequalities and inadequacies in the public response.

There is positive learning in this landscape, too. Covid has shown that things can change very quickly and that we can establish patterns of preferred behaviour and living very quickly. It’s shown how local knowledge and understanding is much better placed to support communities – both in times of crisis and in planning to come out of crisis. It’s shown the holes in government’s understanding of how many people live and what they need. And it’s shone an uncomfortable spotlight on the hubris of thinking you can solve everything from the centre.

It’s shown that growth is essential but not sufficient and that unless you’re tackling structural inequalities, the money you’re investing in new roundabouts and estate regeneration won’t naturally lead to better economic outcomes.

We called our organisation Inner Circle because consultants are too often seen as distant and detached. We work shoulder to shoulder with our partners and see every new partnership as part of a bigger drive to re-imagine the public sector. Now, we are proudly building a movement of like-minded civic and community leaders from boroughs and districts across the UK – and beyond – to design and deliver better cities, towns and places.

If you want to be the best, you have to work with the best, and so we are delighted to welcome the best chief executive in the country to help lead this new phase of our growth. Chris Naylor, Municipal Journal’s Chief Executive of the Year, joins us from the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, where his team racked up awards for housing, economic regeneration, service transformation as well as the Investors in People New Gold Standard accolade.

Together, our watchwords are invention, creativity and determination. Supporting civil society leaders; raising up the voices of the vulnerable and minoritised; co-designing systems focused on a fulfilled life rather than a crisis response; rebuilding trust and love between public servants and the public they serve – this is the purposeful work to which we give our full focus.

Our previous work has included developing world-leading science research districts, restructuring a local authority’s land holding to deliver regeneration and creating an independent living housing programme across an entire county. We know how to accelerate the delivery of new homes, stimulate growth and employment opportunities, plan and deliver transformative green strategies and imaginative local investment. Designing and delivering sustainable revenue for social investment is a key part of our work because the money that went during austerity is not coming back any time soon.

Data insight and behavioural insight will be an increasingly important part of our work: the more we understand the root causes of the problems for which we are designing solutions, the more our solutions can turn into preventative initiatives to support people to flourish and connect them fully to the area, services, projects and facilities – and people like them – in the space they call home.

We are really good at making dreams a reality. In a world of think tanks and policy makers and economists, we want to be the team that can translate political ambition into practical programmes for positive change.

Jamie Ounan

Jamie Ounan

Chris Twigg