The end of a decade…

2019 reflections

I took a full two week break over the Christmas period this year, I didn’t look at a single email, and didn’t even open Slack – instead I let my brain go where it wanted to go, forgot what time it was and recovered from an exceptionally busy end to the year. I’ve returned to work relaxed and more focussed having used the time to reflect on the year (and decade) that just happened…


Personally, 2019 was about transition

This was our first year since we joined The Panoply and over the last decade my journey has been taking Manifesto from an investment of a few hundred pounds to the company it is today. I’ve grown and nurtured it, it’s part of me and so moving it into a larger organisation is a big change. Operating in a new framework where you have to find your place, make commitments to more than just yourself and your team, build new relationships, maintain existing ones and still keep the wheels turning is tough. At the same time some of the huge responsibility I’ve felt historically is shared and there are new people to make exciting plans with to and get the support of.

There were big changes in the Manifesto team during 2019; my original co-founders left the business and there were other changes in the leadership team too. This was both sad and needed, unsettling and exciting, distracting and opportunity making. At times I didn’t have too much time to reflect personally but the main opportunity this created was a nudge to think about what we need to be for the future and using the change to move towards being this.

While these changes were in progress, in March I returned to SXSW where Rob Belgrave and I hosted an event for BIMA and The Department of International trade as well as taking in the latest thinking in innovation and technology. The biggest change for me this year amongst the AI, the AR, the cryptocurrency and the cannabusiness was the growing climate emergency message – this has gone on to be an important part of both Manifesto and my year – as I’ve started to think and understand more about the impact of the digital industry on the planet. This is already shaping our work looking to the future.

Every year in June we host a full production quiz which pits charities against each other to win a cash prize. Hosting this event is always a personal highlight for me (and this year I got to wear a space suit). The team did an amazing job recreating a plethora of space themed things from an AR Adi (from our UX team) to recreating Alien with a sock and some jam.

In September I became a Dad which turned the end of the year upside down in all kinds of ways. My daughter arrived 7 weeks early while I was on holiday and I experienced the amazingness of the NHS – spending several weeks with my daughter in a special care baby unit. We found out that she has Down Syndrome in that first week, so there’s a lot to learn and support her with over the coming months and years. She’s doing amazingly well and already brimming with personality. It’s a cliche, but spending time with and seeing a new life in the world gives you a new perspective on what’s really important.

When I got back to the office I spent more time supporting new business – in what turned into a busy and successful end to the year and after having spent time working at a group level on everything from meeting companies that might join the group, to events, it’s been great to reconnect with the Manifesto team and get excited about working with a range of new clients.


For Manifesto, it was about the future

Building our platform for the future is a transition in itself, Manifesto is a living organisation and change was felt across the business to help us remain relevant to our clients and our ambitions.

This created the opportunity for many people across the team to take on new roles and over the course of the year we brought together the experience team from our previous creative and strategy teams.

We launched lots of amazing work, including a new website to help empower The Royal British Legion to create compelling digital experiences. We delivered a rebuild of the kew.org website on the Drupal 8 platform. Whilst working with other exceptional organisations like The Royal College of Anesthetists, The Salvation Army and The University of Dundee.

One of the themes of this work is how we’ve moved past just designing and building products over the last couple of years and do more and more work that helps internal teams up skill or helps organisations shape their future using digital tools and processes.


Growth of The Panoply

The start of the year saw Deeson become a part of The Panoply, and we welcomed their team into Manifesto in Shoreditch. Followed quickly by Greenshoot Labs, a conversational AI consultancy. FutureGov joined the group in June which has supported the group’s position as a public sector transformation force to be reckoned with.



In May Manifesto opened our Bristol office, launching our .Net practice from there at the same time. There’s a real buzz in Bristol around tech and innovation and some amazingly talented people that we’ve welcomed to the team. 


Driving change in the charity sector

We organised 22 events where we shared knowledge, experience and skills with the not for profit sector in 2019 including working on the Exchange track at Disruption Summit Europe hosting a panel with leaders from the sector. We hosted a series of breakfast events at The Gherkin and invited clients and industry experts to share lightning talks about topics ranging from designing 21st century organisations, to how storytelling can rebuild trust in the charity sector. Diabetes UK took home our Big Charity Pub Quiz trophy and the £1000 charity donation in June. All whilst continuing to introduce Agile to over 100 people in our evening and client workshops.

We collaborated with two other agencies on The Future Charity Report, a research lead whitepaper based on extensive surveys of charity employees, in-depth interviews and discussions with charity leaders, and aimed to pinpoint the source of the fears hindering the charity sector and suggests practical approaches to overcome them. We also identified six major enablers of change with suggestions on how to begin putting them in place.


Diversity Champions

In recent months Manifesto has proudly become an active member of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme, and group wide all hiring managers are having unconscious bias training to help us be an exemplar for diversity in our teams.

We want Manifesto to be a genuinely inclusive place to work and have adopted the following statement to describe this – ‘However you identify and wherever you’re from, you can belong here’.


Mental Health awareness

Internally we had regular events to encourage a more open dialogue around mental health, training of mental health first aiders, and activities such as lunchtime yoga to look after both the physical and mental wellbeing of our team. Burn out in agency life is common so it’s great that having this conversation is normal and that we have so many members of the Manifesto team committed to supporting both mental health and well being.


Enjoying the ride

In 2019 we also welcomed a lot of great new talent to the Manifesto team, enabling us to further support our clients. And there was of course, fun to be had along the way! We became regulars at the Sounds Familiar Music quiz, walking away with the trophy for a second time, and coming fierce runners up on a number of occasions. We enjoyed a day trip to the seaside at Reculver Beach where we helped remove 31.7kg of litter. And we ended the year with our ‘I Ain’t Buyin’ It’ environmental Christmas campaign, and a 60’s Beatles inspired Secret-Cinema-esk Christmas party!


As we look to 2020

We’re planning for 2020 to be a year of growth at Manifesto. Our digital marketing team had some huge successes last year and so we expect it to continue to grow. Our technology team has been adding some new capabilities to the team such as eCommerce.

Lou Lai joins as Transformation Director at the start of February and from there will grow our change team which will support not for profit organisations going through change and transformation projects.

Zoe Bierman has joined our Bristol team as Experience Director bringing a wealth of user centred design experience as we continue to build our team in the South West.

Together we’ll be collaborating across The Panoply to address the organisational, product and service and technology challenges facing the not for profit and broader public sector organisations. 

We believe at the start of the new decade a new type of consultancy is needed to take on these challenges – and we’re designing ourselves to be that. There’s a huge opportunity to support the not for profit sector to find new ways to deliver using 21st century approaches, new ways to raise income and find supporters and ultimately deliver greater impact for the benefit of the planet and all of society.


That should keep us busy!

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