About

cottamdavosHilary’s work is about systemic social change. She combines new thinking with radical, concrete practice.  

She started working in Northern Ethiopia in the late 1980s, embedded within the areas held by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front, supporting the work of famine relief.  She later worked in the Dominican Republic on a range of community projects, returning to the country  to live for extended periods in the barrio of La Ciénaga as part of her doctoral research.  In the mid 1990s Hilary worked for the World Bank, based in Washington D.C. but travelling widely with responsibility for urban poverty in Southern Africa.

Returning to the UK in 1998 Hilary started the social enterprise School Works Ltd to transform approaches to school design, integrating new thinking on learning with the design of infrastructure in a  low cost approach.  She started the Do Tank Ltd to extend the work into prisons developing a new, affordable prison design which would accommodate a regime proven to reduce re-offending.  As a Director of the Design Council she created the pioneering RED Unit which developed design led approaches to public service reform.  In 2006 she started Participle a ten year project to develop new models of welfare.

Hilary’s work combines new thinking with the development of working methods that enable deep participation.  Influences include the methods of Rapid Rural Appraisal, her studies in anthropology, feminism and psychoanalysis and her collaboration with designers.  Hilary was named UK Designer of the Year in 2005 for her pioneering approach to social design and in the same year was recognised by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader for her work in the field of social change.

Hilary has just completed her first book Radical Help which will be published by Virago/LittleBrown in 2018 and she is setting up a new studio at Peckham Levels to develop the next phase of her practice. Her mini bio is available to download here.