New job!

I’m joining IF.

Earlier this year I left GDS to try out a bunch of different things. In the last month, my jobs at IF have touched on transparent organisation design, R&D for consumer advocacy groups, describing governance models for automated decision making, plus writing talks for new people. Later today I’ll be standing out in the cold with a prototype to learn about things I can’t see. Different things = ✓

As I’ve said before, the team’s great. I’ve already been snapped typing with my headphones on in the middle of a corridor (I think about four colleagues at GDS took that picture at different points) which is a very good sign.

I’m properly excited.



Clever people, stacked

I spent a bit of the day watching for the oral evidence on the Digital Economy Bill. Exciting, right?

These things are (can be?) interesting. A completely alien format to most people, these committees are how law gets unpacked in the UK. And mostly they look like this…


…a bit like a court case.

I was mostly tuning in to watch Sarah from IF, but I dipped in and out of a few sessions, including one featuring Jeni Tennison from the ODI and my old boss Mike Bracken.

All of them made me feel differently stupid. There’s a lucidity to a clarity to their arguments that makes me think ‘Oh, man, that’s obvious. Why didn’t I see that?’

I forget, when I watch, that the things they tell the MPs on the panel are the results of chats and work and arguments and a bunch of reading. That there’s rigour in this stuff. That each of them are the eloquent endpoints of a stack of reckons.

(Then, after Sarah’s session, a little snippet of audio picked up by the mic…)


(If I’ really thought about it, I’d have nabbed a screenshot, but…) I’ve just finished a quick session of No Man’s Sky, a game I’ve been playing a few hours a week since release. This last session involved finding a broken ship and repairing it, a knotty exercise in resource management and pointing a gun at stuff.

I had a pretty chill time, and by the end I’d sort of achieved something and sort of hadn’t. But the feeling I’m left with is not quite like being satisfied and not quite like being bored.

Using other feelings to try and triangulate the sensation doesn’t really get me anywhere. Like, it’s not ambivalence. It’s not irritation. It’s not delight. I don’t feel like I won or lost anything, and I haven’t come away with any residual sense of novelty or wonder.

At the same time, it is a little bit like feeling all of those things.

I don’t think I have a word for the feeling I’ve got, and that’s remarkable because it doesn’t happen very often. It’s happened a few times playing this game though, which makes me wonder if it’s something people who play things like Sunless Sea or Eve get used to. Those hours where the goal or mission gets suspended for a while, and you just exist somewhere that isn’t a place.




*flat. So, Ann went freelance last month too. For the last week we’ve been working side by side. New routines, a bit of adjustment, a list of things around the flat that need buying/changing to make life easier on us. It’s been pretty good!

Small Observation

I knew ahead of Ann joining me in the flat that I’d need to get better at a few routines, and restarting The Bureau of Small Observation seemed a good way of doing that. I also like writing in a different style to my freelance work.

Woods Bagot

I’ve started a longer-form bit of work for architecture firm Woods Bagot. Again, I’m basing the copywriting fairly directly off of a transcription. I found at the NHS that was an awesome way of delivering voice, tone and ideas back to a client, while still giving myself room for the restructuring, moving of thoughts and rewriting needed to make complex ideas much much simpler.

I’ve found something interesting with this one. Because it’s a much longer body of work than I usually do, I’ve been able to see patterns in thinking and content emerge from it much more clearly than is often the case. It’s an absolute gift for drafting.


Their new site is live! Lovely to be at their shindig the other week. I’ve also been helping them with blogging and pitch decks.


What else

Stayed at a barn on a nature reserve and watched an owl hunting, that was pretty cool. Painted some ghostly things. I’ll be spending a chunk of the next month going in and out of London helping look after some family, which means good train time/thinking time.


I’ll be writing about how the last month has been work-wise in a couple of days. This isn’t that. This is me writing overexcitedly “I got engaged! Holy shit! Ann and I are getting married! WTF!!!” but with a tiny bit more detail.


I’d been thinking about doing this for a while. Ann’s the best person I’ve ever met, she feels pretty similarly about me, and we’ve talked about “getting the government involved” a few times over the last year. In fact, she basically proposed during David and Becky’s wedding, but insisted something more romantic happen just for us at some point down the line. This was to be my responsibility.

The trigger, the ‘OMG I’m gonna propose soon ARRRGGG’ moment came watching her do the BAFTA game awards livestream. Something about seeing her look fabulous and professional and smart and totally owning her screentime just sort of clicked.


If you look closely, Ann’s wearing a necklace by Meshu I’d gotten her a couple of Christmases ago. Meshu’s ace, and personal, and… does rings.

So I popped our trips into the service and saw that basically our trips around the world make this lovely loop with a kinda/sorta diamond around the Nordic countries.


The where/when aspect sort of depending on delivery time. I imagined I either had to have the ring and blurt it out, or make it a bit more of ‘a thing’. It wound up being a bit of both, which is how I now understand these things go.

I remember it in adrenaline-tinged fragments. We were on a boat in the Skagerrak, somewhere between Oslo and Copenhagen (“‘Somewhere between Oslo and Copenhagen’ would be your dating profile” – Ann). It was after midnight. We were astoundingly drunk. Neither of us believed it was quite happening. Ann told me to ask again in the morning (and said ‘yes’, but I remember the other bit more vividly). Sunrise rolls around a few hours later, so I have another go. Engaged!

I feel like I should have some sort of conclusion, but there isn’t one yet. I’m just super-excited, and it’s not often I take time to type about things like this. It feels good.


Shortly after I resigned from, Russell asked if I wanted to help out at GDS for a few weeks. 198 weeks later, it’s time to move on.

Next month I’ll be leaving GDS to do freelance writing and strategy development. Exciting!

Since 2012 I’ve been part of a team that set new cultural habits and behaviours across government and around the world. I helped define how GDS talked about work and strategy. And it’s been great, I love that work. But to get better at it I need exposure to more cultures, more ways of working, more projects, more people… more of everything. So that’s what I’m going to do.

I’m not too fussed about whether it’s for big companies, new companies, public sector or private sector… just interesting projects for interesting clients. I have a few clients lined up over the next couple of months, but if you’re interested in working with me (or just having a coffee) drop me a line:

Meanwhile, colleagues, thank you. It has been a proper privilege to work with good people doing good things. I’ll miss you. Best of luck!

matt at GDS

2015: Birdwatching, Walking, Love, Home

As with last year, a hard one to write about. I don’t think Ann or I expected our relationship to be such a central part of the year, but it was, for reasons both deeply sad and completely fabulous. The result is we’ve travelled loads, started projects, been to a thousand weddings and made a home together. On balance, for me, it’s been amazing.

The year included A barrow by a beaconStudy Group, Hipsterhammer, The Bureau of Small Observation, and a plenty of work at GDS. It’s been busy, but I’d like to have done at least one meatier thing. I start 2016 knowing I need to pull focus onto my work a bit more… I’m good with that.

I sort of came into myself over the last twelve months, and I’m more comfortable in my own skin. As a result the photos that best sum 2015 up are ones other people took of me… but that’s not what this post is for.

(Previously: 2014, 2013)

01 Richmond02 Bewl03 Winchester04 Whitstable05 Malmo06 Copenhagen07 Brixton08 Amsterdam09 South Downs10 Hyde Park11 Hyde Park12 Eastleigh13 Mersea Island14 Mersea Island15 Golden Lane16 GDS17 Rome18 Stockwell19 Tokyo20 Naoshima21 Naoshima22 Kyoto23 Kyoto24 Kew