Be the change you want to see: microactions for reform

James Reeve and Kit Collingwood-Richardson

Michael Jackson doesn’t normally come up in conversations about public service reform. But in One Team Government we think we can learn a thing or two from him. In his song ‘Man in the Mirror’, Michael says

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make a change”.

We agree. The only way that you and I can start to make public service and public services (and therefore the world) a better place is to be the change we want to see.

When we try to picture a reformed public sector, it can often seem huge, daunting, far in the future and abstract from our day jobs. In One Team Government we think differently; we think reform will happen not by mandate, or via a programme, or by hiring expensive consultants to write futuristic visions, but through the quiet but fierce determination of reformist public servants who work every day to make people’s lives better and improve our ways of working.

In other words, we’ll achieve change through the aggregation of thousands of small things that anyone can do every day.

But public servants and our allies are busier than ever, so we want to boil reform down to tiny, practical actions and make them accessible for everyone.We call these things ‘microactions’ and here’s our first stab at a list for you to have a go at.

Please do some, share them in your department and outside, calling on others to do similar things. Then tell us what you’ve been up to at or One Team Gov on Twitter.

If you have….

2 minutes

5 minutes

  • Read this blogpost (if you’ve come this far you’ve done it. Well done.)
  • Invite someone from a different profession or department to your next team meeting
  • Tell someone in your team about something you’ve read that’s inspired you
  • Sign up to Leisa Reichelt’s reading list on design and research
  • Reflect on a recent failure and tell people what you learned from it

10 minutes

30 minutes

  • Have a coffee with someone from a different part of your department, another department, or another sector, and learn about their work
  • Encourage a team that is working well across policy, digital and operations, or more widely, to talk about their work
  • Talk in your team about how you can inject more experimentation into your ways of working
  • Read about what Policy Lab is up to

1 hour

  • Write a blogpost or some weeknotes about your job, and publish them
  • Come to our weekly breakfast or lunch (
  • Share a case study of work you’ve done that’s joined up different professions
  • Attend an Institute for Government event

1 day

All these tiny actions mean that public sector reform probably won’t always be a Thriller. But it puts reform in everyone’s hands; each time you do one, we get a little bit better at what we do and government gets just a little bit more #OneTeamGov.

(…..and yes, we find it strangely pleasing that ‘Michael Jackson’ rhymes with ‘microaction’.)