Fire Starter Festival: stoking the small fires of change

“We cannot wait for great visions from great people, for they are in short supply. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness. ”  Charles Handy 

Recent research and reports (21st Century Public Servant, and Rethinking Pubic Services) indicate a paradigm shift in public service: one characterised by services co-designed with citizens and with a far greater emphasis on experimentation, improvisation, cross boundary collaborations, and where public service workers “engage with citizens in a way that expresses their shared humanity and pooled expertise” (Needham & Mangan, 2014).


Does this resonate with you and your experience of public service? Whilst there may be consensus on a more human service, the transition can be fraught and small fires of change can be extinguished before they have the chance to burn brightly. However, we also know that there are lots of small fires that are having a positive impact on public service: fires worth spreading.

The Fire Starter Festival provides an opportunity to explore this shift in paradigm. It is unique in that it is being co-produced by services themselves, illuminating the ways in which we are already changing: the small fires that have been kindled; the learning about how these are impacting on professional identity; as well as considering the bonfires of practices and procedures that no longer serve us well. The aim is to inquire into what is happening, as it happens, with openness and curiosity, and a willingness to use the learning to shape the future of public service.

The festival launches on the 23rd January with an exploration of what is emerging for the 21st Century Public Servant and public services – a more human service?  There will be an opportunity to hear about the underpinning research from the authors  of the report and from many services who will be sharing the creative, disruptive and innovative ways in which they are transforming themselves.


Who better to help us launch a Fire Starter Festival, than the Chief Officer for the Fire and Rescue Service, Alasdair Hay, who will be sharing how the service responds to the diverse needs of communities, from engaging with street gangs to homework clubs.

There are still opportunities to contribute and be part of this self-organising fire starting  movement.

Contact Karen Lawson or Kirsty Merriman for information. Or check out our Fire Starter Festival page.


Needham & Mangan. 2014. The 21st Century Public Servant.


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