About us

The overlap between poverty, educational achievement, crime, mental health, prison and homelessness is so obvious as to be un-ignorable. Tackling it demands more and better people going into public service, each of them fired up to make genuine progress and deliver real, lasting change. That in turn requires that students at schools, colleges and universities have a better understanding of what public service is, what it can do and the kinds of careers that are available within public service. In short it requires a comprehensive shift in the way public service is perceived. And that’s what Transform Society is all about. Helping schools, colleges and universities – and individual students – to see the transformational potential of public service and to connect them with opportunities to explore it and launch brilliant careers delivering social change.

Transform Society exists to increase the number and diversity of students entering front-line public-service roles; to demystify the pathways to impactful public service roles; and, to amplify their ability to impact the individuals and communities they serve. Our aim is that these experienced professionals will go on to become leaders in public service, delivering systemic change and realising our ultimate goal of a fairer society.

It’s a good question: what do we mean by public service? First, it’s not the same as public sector, although there is a lot of overlap since many public service organisations are funded through public (central and local government) money.

But public service is, in essence, about designing and delivering services that provide the framework for communities to operate and for individuals and families, particularly vulnerable ones, to survive, grow and, hopefully, flourish. It’s also about filling some of the gaps in government-delivered services and taking a lead in areas where governments, regardless of politics, are unable or unwilling to go. The public service landscape is complex, with a mix of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors delivering a huge range of vital but sometimes inadequately coordinated services.

Public service spans a huge range of activities and services that help people to address and overcome structural disadvantage – economic, social and educational – and provide them with the tools and opportunities to live their lives in comfort and dignity and with the chance to improve their quality of life.

Collectively, public services touch on almost every aspect of life in UK society, delivering advice, guidance and critical care and support to citizens at every stage of life – and especially at times of vulnerability or crisis. Public services operate at the national, regional and community level with individuals and families often accessing multiple linked services simultaneously:

  • Education and Skills
  • Employment
  • Policing and Emergency Services
  • Justice and Legal, Prisons and Probation
  • Healthcare and Mental Health
  • Adult Social Care and Children’s Services
  • Housing and Temporary Accommodation
  • Emergency services – fire, ambulance and coastguard
  • Armed forces

Many of the greatest challenges the UK faces are, at heart, problems of social inequality and our collective failure to address its causes and impact. Transform Society wants to change that.

We firmly believe that the UK will be a fairer and better place if the next generation of leaders includes people who have frontline experience of tackling the problems of inequity faced by dislocated and disadvantaged people.

We also believe that education, social care, mental health, policing, the prison service and a host of other fields, are not isolated but connected disciplines where professionals have, for generations, been encountering and seeking to help the same people. We believe that professionals within these fields – professionals who face so many of the same challenges – should be linked both professionally and socially. As their careers progress, our network will become a valuable resource in delivering multi-agency solutions and moving from incremental change to systemic transformation.

Transform Society works with schools, colleges and universities to inform and inspire their students towards public service and to introduce them to the opportunities and benefits to be gained from working strategically to address common priorities.

Working in partnership with our schools, colleges and universities, we deliver resources, activities and experiences that explain the incredible diversity of opportunities in public service, explore the skills that students need to be successful and enable them to engage with some of society’s most complex social issues.

One way of delivering this is by introducing students to the real-life voices and experiences of people on the frontline of public service delivery, enabling them to tell their own inspirational stories of impact and change.

Our flagship programme, the Transform Society Challenge, allows schools, colleges and universities to create bespoke ‘community problem-solving’ events, offering vital practical insight and experiential learning for students.

We also provide students with opportunities to gain valuable practical insights into working in public service and their own personal fit through our innovative Virtual Experience programme.

Through these activities, we aim to ensure that everyone thinks about public service as a possible career pathway and understands how it can contribute to addressing some of society’s most difficult challenges.

Key people

James Darley, Founder and CEO

James is the driving force behind Transform Society. With more than 25 years’ experience in graduate recruitment he is widely recognised as one of the leading figures in the sector. He has served as a Trustee for Frontline, Police Now, Think Ahead and Unlocked and was, for 15 years part of the original senior leadership team at Teach First which, under his aegis, reached #2 in the Times Top 100 of graduate employers and became the largest single recruiter of graduates in the UK. James is a Trustee of Now Teach, Romodels and also sits on the advisory board of the Royal National Children’s Springboard Foundation, a charity giving life-transforming education opportunities to disadvantaged and vulnerable children. Finally he is part of the Government’s National Leadership Programme for the top-100 public sector leaders.

Dame Julia Cleverdon DCVO CBE, Chair

Dame Julia is one of the UK’s leading voices in campaigns for social justice and the promotion of opportunities for disadvantaged in our communities. She is Vice President of Business in the Community, a former Special Adviser to The Prince’s Charities, and Vice Patron of Teach First, which she also chaired from 2006 – 2014. She was appointed to chair the National Literacy Trust in 2013. Following her 2012 government review on increasing young people’s engagement in social action Julia co-founded the #iwill Campaign, also known as Step Up To Serve, which was convened by the Prince of Wales and launched with the support of three party leaders in November 2013. She is now a trustee of Step Up To Serve, which by 2020 aims to get 60 percent of young people involved in practical action in the service of others. She is a board member of NCS, The Careers and Enterprise Company , an honorary professor on Place Based Change for Cass Business School and chairs the HR committee of NCVO.

Martin Birchall, MD High Fliers Research

Martin Birchall is the founder and Managing Director of High Fliers Research, the independent market research company that researches the graduate employment market. He is also editor of The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers and has appeared regularly on BBC One’s Breakfast and Today on Radio 4 to discuss graduate employment.

Greg Hobbs, Deputy Director, Head of Fast Stream and Early Talent, Civil Service HR

Greg is a career Civil Servant. Over 15 years, and across three central government departments (Ministry of Defence, HM Revenue & Customs and, more latterly, Cabinet Office) Greg has built a career in change leadership.

As Head of the Fast Stream (graduates) and Fast Track (apprentices), Greg leads the team responsible for attracting, identifying and developing the future leadership of the Civil Service. Fast Stream is the Civil Service’ flagship talent management program. Alongside these, Greg leads 3 Internships totalling 750 people focussed on improving the socioeconomic, Ethnic Minority, disability and neurological diversity of the Civil Service.

Greg is a father (of three children), husband, a school governor and charity trustee.  His hobbies include scuba diving and playing American Football, though he tends not to combine the two.

Russell Hobby, CEO Teach First & Chair of Transform Society Advisory Board

Russell joined Teach First as CEO in September 2017 building on more than 15 years developing and promoting leadership in schools. Prior to joining Teach First, Russell was General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and before that worked as a management consultant, founding Hay Group’s education practice.