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Walk Tall – new book launched!

Walk Tall - Immediately interesting cover

Walk Tall – Immediately interesting cover












Walk Tall: Being a 21st Century Public Servant was launched in Birmingham on Friday. It’s a great creative step for me and our fourth Shared Press book. We’re really chuffed. Over the last 4 months I’ve been working with Fran Collingham and Lisa Hughes – on this fantastic commission for the Local Government Association, SOLACE – the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and the PPMA (the HR and OD people managers association for the public sector). We’ve also commissioned photography for the first time from Maurice Keogh, and worked again with designer Kate Ferrucci.

Download the ebook for free at the Local Government Association Website:

Our challenge was to write and facilitate compelling stories that illustrate the experience of being a 21st century public servant and that inspire people working in or with the public sector to develop the characteristics of this new breed. The stories are a positive reminder that, in the post-Brexit world, that the sector employs people who are already creating original solutions to complex issues. Their deeply held values, positivity, flexibility, progressive attitudes and fresh thinking jump off the page. The book illustrates why I’m proud of public service in the UK and why I continue to support and write about it.

Each chapter of the book focuses on one of the characteristics identified in the research on the 21st century public servant carried out by Birmingham University. Each story brings a characteristic to life, shining a light on what it means in practice, in real workplaces across the country. The contents are an intriguing mix of personal narratives, profiles, opinions and short fiction. We wanted to reflect the diversity of what is happening across the sector and invited as many storytellers as we could into print, encouraging people to write their own stories.

The book includes a reflective piece by Sue Hawkins, a psychologist in the Youth Offending team at Stockport Council, on fostering a shared humanity with the young people she works with; a gritty and immensely practical frontline view from Lindsay Saunders and Heather Brown, local government Key Workers based in a police station in Wigan, focusing on their relationship with their locality; and Ian Lloyd, Transformation Manager for the Isle of Wight Council, on how communicating change to citizens is central to his creative thinking in response to austerity. There is also a sideways take on pan-public sector leadership by Mark Rogers, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council. In times of upheaval it can be tempting to fall back on traditional, hero-style leadership, but these stories show how collaborative and distributed leadership can make a significant difference.

Although we know the book doesn’t scratch the surface in terms of the range and depth of the contributions public servants make, we are delighted that 65 people from 25 organisations have taken part including colleagues in local government, the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service, as well as – in today’s mixed economy of service provision – public servants working in voluntary and private sector providers. Serving communities and improving people’s lives is a driving force and clear motivator for all our contributors, and public service is at the heart of every story.

As the leader of the team that curated the book (and a former corporate director in local government), it’s been a creative and inspiring experience. In the same spirit, we hope that everyone who reads it will use the book creatively and – importantly – will pass it on to colleagues. We believe that by changing the story, you change the workforce, the organisation and the sector. This storybook is bold and the people in it are fantastic. They are the ones who will stitch the post-Brexit world together.

We asked all our contributors to take selfies of their shoes in keeping with the theme. There’s a fab guide dog in it too!

Back cover

Back cover

The most beautiful venue for a book launch!

Shared Press were delighted to launch “Making our Mark” at the Greenwich Book Festival on Friday 22nd May 2015.

Michon Stills








Amongst the many famous literary names at the Festival, an energetic and inspiring book of student stories, creative conversations and designs was published. It’s hard to imagine a more glamorous and appropriate venue from which to send the book off into the world. Like the students on their journeys, book is now on its way. We hope it will be widely read, enjoyed and continue to have a significant impact on the University who commissioned it.

One port of call for the book will be the British Library. Alongside the books of authors further along in their career, Making our Mark will be available at the British Library in perpetuity. A book is for life!

Thanks to everyone who celebrated the launch with us. It was a fantastic turnout. Thanks to all the contributors, to those who read their pieces and those we couldn’t fit in the programme, and to their supporters, friends and family who made it along. A special mention goes to Professor Judith Burnett, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Greenwich and to all the team that put such hard work into the festival.

To obtain a copy or find out more about the process of curating and publishing “Making our Mark”, contact:

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Dawn Judith MacksonMaciej - eyes shut on purpose

Making our mark – book launch!

The book will be launched on the 22nd May at the Greenwich Literary Festival

Stunning cover!
Book cover - image by Maciej Jedrzejewski

Book cover – image by Maciej Jedrzejewski













Here’s my blog about the project

How do you want to make your mark in the world of work? It’s the question at the heart of a new creative project I’ve been working on with the University of Greenwich, designed to explore student stories of work, their experiences and expectations. It’s a tricky question at any stage of your career – and I have to admit that when I started my working life I didn’t really have a clue – but the project has been a joy to work on. And I love the idea of making your mark as a theme because it’s so open, forward looking and can be answered in different ways. It invites speculation, gives space and opportunity to stretch your imagination, dream a bit.

The student experience is a serious issue for many universities and Greenwich were keen to hear how students felt. Rather than using traditional questionnaires, they commissioned us to facilitate the students to tell their own stories in different creative ways – either writing fiction or via creative conversations, or illustrating their ideas and talents through images or designs they’ve created. The book is beautiful, but also unlike any I’ve been involved in before.

We love facilitating people to write but this time we had to be innovative about the process and introduce new ways to tap into different types of creativity – particularly for those that are story-tellers not writers, for those who express themselves visually, and for those that think in 3d (and the one student who dreamed of a future in 5d!)  We found the most important thing was making a connection, individually and personally with the participants, understanding their thinking, preferences, talents and supporting them into a new place, the future they want.

So, the stories and conversations are rich, engaging and honest in a way that no case study could ever be. And the story structure adds meaning and clarifies where the real rub is terms of getting started in a career. Aspiration and anxiety jump off the pages in equal measures. The stories are as much about making a mark in terms of being a valued person and supporting the greater good, as they are about becoming world renowned.

The students themselves confound any stereotypes that are in the mainstream. Most of them are juggling work in non-graduate jobs, hard-working and focused (which sort of reflects the self-selecting nature of the project) and there are contributions from maths, computing, English, graphics, 3d design, animation, business information systems.  The University are delighted and have gained some useful insights into how they can enhance their support for students in their work journey.

Let me know if you are interested in coming and I’m keen to hear how you’ll make your mark? I’ve made some definite marks in recent years – writing a thriller and curating a book of fiction, and as a result of this project, also some tentative marks in charcoal and paint. I’ve been inspired by the students and it’s made me think about what I want to do for the next ten years, a compelling question isn’t it.

New flash fiction story – post election Britain?

Post War Britain

Courage has her doubts. Her office is a trench shored up by battered filing cabinets and grey temporary wall dividers. They’re always on the move, dented by political attacks from all sides. Public outcry has left her ears ringing. Years wading through clawing mud have slowed her down. She’s worried her balance isn’t what it was and is sick of the meetings they spend covering their backs when they have a real fight on their hands.

The new team try to get their heads around the challenge of rebuilding public services. They help her rally. Flexibility is full of ideas. Let’s turn that on its head, he says. Scrutiny has a powerful torch that sheds light in the darkest places. Empathy identifies with the struggle the staff continue to make – they are good people, skilled people. Humility reminds them of the times they’ve gone over the top. We honour those who’ve fallen by carrying on, he says.

That’s right, but Courage needs to clear her head. She decides to visit her old mentor, Judgement. Informally they still call him Nolan, the father of the old guard, the Principles that went before her. Some say he’s lost it, but she sees his quiet reserve. He’s always been there for her.

“We learned a lot during the wars,” he starts, then stops, shaking his head. “Don’t roll your eyes so obviously, young lady.”

“Sorry,” she says, sheepish. “There’s never enough time these days.”

“We were always in the wars.” He has a rueful smile.

“The wars taught us new skills. We learned resilience, bravery, we built new institutions. We thought big and focused on the long term. We adapted to harsh realities and defended each other. We…” he holds out a wrinkly hand to her, “we, public servants, are the heart of this nation.”

She thanks him for giving them good genes. The Principles: Honesty, Openness, Objectivity, Integrity, Selflessness, Accountability and Leadership.

Careful not to speed on the way back to the office, Courage is optimistic, her convictions in order. We’re doing this for them, because we are them and they are us. Because we’re stronger together.

“Right,” she says. “Let’s crack on.”



It’s all in the timing? I originally wrote this flash fiction story last year for the Change the Ending collection but in the end, I went with the Editors vote not to include it. It turned out to be a good (lucky) decision – particularly when I think about the coming election and the current slew of difficult stories in the press about local government and public services.

Elections are a good time to remember what’s special and unique about being a public servant, because it can often seem like open season – a time when talk gets tougher (if that’s possible?!) and local government gets another kicking. I hope the story resonates and that it feels relevant now. I wanted to convey the confidence I have that there are good people in public service, who absolutely know what they are doing and will continue to make things better in a hostile environment.

In other areas of my life, my timing is a bit questionable. I was absolutely terrible as a stand-up comedian, tripped over the mike and totally died on stage at the Leicester Square theatre. I don’t intend to repeat that particular learning experience – ever. In fact I only admit to it now it’s well and truly processed (buried.) Err… not sure I’m fooling anyone am I? I’ll stick with the writing.

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Invitation to creativity workshop – University of Greenwich Students

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For Love Or Money
Experiences and expectations of the world of work

Invitation from Professor Judith Burnett to all students to a Creativity Workshop. An opportunity for students to share their experiences and have their ideas and stories published in a book.

Wednesday 18th February 1-3pm
Venue: Greenwich University
Stephen Lawrence Building – Room: 105
Refreshments will be available

What it’s about?
As part of our programme to support students, the University wants to hear about student’s experiences of work – what it means to students, what work they’ve done, their dilemmas and their dreams.

We’re doing this differently, as a creative project. We want students to share and write micro-stories (flash fiction of 350 words) about their world of work. We’ll support students to do it and we’ll publish a quality collection of student’s stories in a beautiful book. It doesn’t matter if students haven’t done any creative writing before or if they think they’re not creative, we can prove everyone is!

Due to the success and positive feedback from students following the first Creativity Workshop, we have decided to run another Creativity Workshop to allow more students to be involved with this wonderful project.

It’s a resource for the University to help us plan and support students in the future, and a show case for their creativity. Participating students will also receive a copy of the book of their own.

What Students will gain from participating?
¬- Participation is entirely free; it is an opportunity to have their work published in a book, students will be part of a collaborative creative writing project, which will also look great on their CVs.
– An opportunity to develop and improve on their creative thinking and writing skills; that can be adapted to a range of practical challenges, problems and also help develop their transferrable skills.
– An opportunity for students to have their writing published – support to write to a publishable standard (and evidence that they can)!
– A chance to influence what the University does in the future; to support students in their careers.

What will it be like?
– Workshops that are very practical, with lots of short exercises designed to stimulate student’s creative prowess and we promise no embarrassing moments.
– There will be input from a facilitator but no lecturers. It doesn’t matter if students haven’t done any creative writing before or if students think you’re not creative, we can prove everyone is.

To confirm; your interest in the project and attendance to the workshop or any further inquiries, please email Abas Abow on: or call 02083318548. Alternatively you can email Sheila Corrigan on: or call Sheila on 02083318889