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Hilary Cottam

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Name  Hilary Cottam

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Hilary Cottam is an innovator and social entrepreneur.


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Cottam’s recent work has focused on reform of the welfare state. In 2007, Cottam, along with Charles Leadbeater and IDEO CEO Colin Burns, founded the U.K. social enterprise Participle which used a design approach to solving the world’s problems. She authored Beveridge 4.0 and Relational Welfare, two documents that call for public services that grow people’s capabilities and human connections. Beveridge 4.0 demonstrates the need to update the vision of Sir William Beveridge, whose reports influenced the design of Britain’s 20th century welfare state.

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Cottam has designed and led large scale systemic innovation projects in areas such as: prison reform; services for older people; reducing unemployment; managing and preventing chronic disease, and supporting families with multiple needs to design new ways of working with local government services.

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In the 1990s, Cottam worked with UNICEF and the World Bank. As an urban poverty specialist at the World Bank, she worked in Southern Africa to develop a radical participatory approach to assessing and reducing urban poverty.

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Returning to the UK in 1998, Cottam set up two award-winning social enterprises: School Works Ltd (now the British Council for School Environments) which was ranked within Britain’s top 100 creative companies and the Do Tank Ltd.

Hilary Cottam Participle

Cottam replaced Moira Fraser-Steele as the Design Council’s Director of Education in spring 2001. Under her direction, the focus expanded beyond education and into broader social issues like transportation and healthcare. Her team handled a number of initiatives including the Red Unit and The Road Ahead, a study that was completed for the Commission of Integrated Transport that made the case for design in the transportation sector. In February 2003, the Design Council worked with the Department for Education and Skills on a furniture project for schools. They developed a combined table and chair that gave students and teachers more flexibility in a learning environment.

Hilary Cottam Hilary Cottam on how design can fix social services Design Indaba

She has been an advisor to governments in Latin America, Africa and in the UK. and has sat on the advisory board of not for profit organisations and a FTSE 100 company. She is a regular commentator on social issues.


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Dr. Cottam was educated at Oxford University (Modern History B.A Hons), Sussex University (M.Phil with Distinction in International Studies) and holds a Doctorate from the Open University in social sciences.


In 2005, Cottam was named UK Designer of the Year with her blueprints that combine elements of architecture and policy for schools, health services, and prisons. In 2007 the World Economic Forum named Cottam as a Young Global Leader in recognition of her work on social change.

Her work has been featured in numerous design books (most recently Hello World) and in exhibitions in the UK Design Council, the Smithsonian, and most recently as one of 8 designers feature in the 100 year celebrations of the Museum of Applied Arts, Vienna (MAK).


Hillary lives with her husband Nigel and daughter Mabel in Peckham, London.


Hilary Cottam Wikipedia

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