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'Somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love': Reflecting on Fundamentally Different

Chris Catterall, CEO, Capacity

‘Somewhere to live, something to do, someone to love’. That quote from Kant’s Rules for Happiness resurfaced throughout last week’s Fundamentally Different event at Blackburne House . As Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s chief executive, Paul Kissack’s quote and insight are built on a deep understanding of social issues.  His reflections, shared with an audience of 40 leaders, thinkers and doers working in public services, health and third sector, were a compelling narrative for change. 

Paul Kissack, CEO, Jospeh Rowntree Foundation

It’s difficult to capture the intellectual energy and eloquence of Paul’s speech in a blog, but here are some of the key takeaways.

  • The scale of poverty in the UK is getting worse. There has been little or no progress in 20 years and people’s hardship and desperation is driving pressure on public services and diverting money away from it. 
  • There isn’t a single route to social change.  But genuine prevention work is where ideas and innovation need to happen to make the biggest impact. 

Change and reform is happening, and there are reasons to be hopeful:

  • Resources are scarce. We need an abundance mindset -  assets, ideas and wealth. They exist, but often in the wrong places. We can channel these to create new opportunities.  
  • There is a deeper, richer accumulation of knowledge. We know much more about what works than we used to.   
  • The direction of travel is for greater devolution. New deals and powers will accelerate with a new government and innovation flourishes in devolved areas.  
  • Central government is limited in leading what public service innovation is. We can shape it!  There’s a difference between innovation (what if) and replication (what works) – there’s a space for both. 
  • Mission driven government is on its way. A new government will focus on the basics of hope – not extraordinary or world beating. 

L-R, Chris Catterall, Katherine Fairclough, Jenny Turnross, Paul Kissack.

After his speech, I hosted a panel session with Paul, Katherine Fairclough (chief executive, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority), Jenny Turnross (director, Children and Young People’s Services, Liverpool City Council). 

Some of my highlights from the panel conversation:  

  • The need for us to do both big picture and the here and now at the same time. 
  • Katherine encouraged us to build on the CA’s ability to convene and bring partners and strands of work together. We’ve got a compelling story to tell and wealth of intelligence and data to tell it – let’s tell it and support the CA to get the right powers devolved and the best deals for the region.
  • But we need action today. Jenny recognised it’s hard to step out of the day-to-day but challenged the room to start today, even if it is small actions based on honest conversations with partners and from listening to what communities need It will give us immediate results and momentum. 
  • Paul reminded us at the heart of both the big picture and the here and now is relational approaches – it’s becoming more mainstream. And part of that approach is prioritising resilience over efficiency. People aren’t a bundle of needs waiting to be fixed.
  • But let’s not default to public services being the solution. There’s a growing recognition that real, long-term solutions lie deep within communities. We need to create the space for change with people at a local, grassroots level. Brilliant public services can never be entirely top down. This, along with welfare reform and inclusive economic growth, will give us the fundamentals. 
  • Katherine saw an opportunity for real change in how we deliver public services. By identifying the areas where we can make the biggest impact – doing more of what works and loosening the constraints.  There are great pilot projects already happening, like Cradle to Career. We have to move away from single agency solutions. They aren’t as effective as collective, partnership working. There’s real energy and the region is ready for change. 


‘My dream is for every child in Liverpool to be economically supported, in employment, education or training’. That was Jenny Turnross’s vivid call to action as she introduced the workshops. Children in care deserve better.  How can we use the energy and ideas in the room to make a difference for 1000 care leavers aged 18 – 25?   

Paul Boyce from Coral Reef reminded us that Liverpool was the first city to introduce child welfare. His work with the city council had explored how our children and young people are becoming looked after and why. 

Breaking out into four groups, Jenny set the room a challenge.  How can we use the expertise and resources in the room to collectively shake the system and better meet the needs and complex challenges that care leavers face. 

The insights and actions from the workshop sessions are being developed into a plan focussed around these key themes: 

  • Resource and resource flow 
  • Mental models 
  • Relationships, connections and power dynamics  
  • Policies and practices 
Final thoughts 

Striking a balance between the inspirational and practical is never easy. But that’s exactly what happened at Fundamentally Different last week.  It’s a rare moment when so many leaders and doers from Liverpool City Region and Cheshire are in the same room actively tuned into tackling the same problem. This time it was care leavers. But there’s an appetite for more – to unlock new ways of working in public services, when doing what we’ve always done just won’t cut it. 

The potential for transformative change in LCR is real. Fundamentally Different is emerging as a platform for collaboration and a catalyst to bring together the region’s leaders, thinkers and doers.  

Three things resonated as I walked back to the office after the event. 

  1. We can do things better than the factory setting. The Office of Public Service Innovation (OPSI) gives the region the opportunity to reinvent its public services from the bottom up. 
  2. Public services of the future won’t succeed using ways of working from the past.  To echo Paul Kissack ‘long-term solutions lie deep within our communities. We need to create the space for change with people at a local, grassroots level’. 
  3. There’s a growing community in the region that recognise the rewards for innovation and collaboration in transforming our public services are worth fighting for.

Plans are already underway for our next Fundamentally Different event later this year. And there’s a series of Fundamentally Different podcasts that’ll be available over the next few weeks. Please check out our socials to stay up to date.  

If you want to find out more about Fundamentally Different or Capacity’s work, please get in touch with Emma Lord 


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