Year note, 2020

    This year has not been like any other. It will always be synonymous with the words ‘coronavirus’ and ‘covid-19’ and, since March, the pandemic has affected everyone’s lives, and work.

    But, we’ve seen a lot of positive change in 2020 too.

    A sketch from Ben of a Zoom call
    A sketch from Ben of a Zoom call

    Public Digital’s mission is to help global institutions that matter to thrive in the internet era. This year we’ve continued to do that. We’ve helped more people and we’ve grown as a team and network to support good work on a larger scale.

    Those of us who travelled to the office regularly adapted quickly to working from home. Much of our client work was already remote but we began to work with teams in 10 countries we hadn’t worked in before.

    We joined the kyu Collective. We welcomed 9 new people to our core team, as well as 10 new people to our network. We moved into a new office, and we launched a new website.


    Rooted in our belief that decision-makers should fund teams, not projects, we also articulated our theory of change:

    Digital. Teams. Work.


    This year, the pandemic highlighted the need for greater government digital transformation. In a record period of time, governments had to provide civil servants with the digital tools to work from home. At the same time, they had to transform or create new public services accessible online, at a higher pace.

    We witnessed amazing initiatives around the globe to tackle the impact of the pandemic. We saw countries leveraging technology to launch emergency social safety nets. We saw government teams sharing code to accelerate the development of covid-19-related services. And we wanted to be a part of this.

    In April, we launched a series of virtual convenings, in partnership with David Eaves from the Harvard Kennedy School. They were open to all government digital teams willing to share or learn about efficient digital responses to the crisis. The series led to Public Digital co-hosting the third annual Digital Services Convening with Harvard where we welcomed representatives from more than 40 governments.

    Public Digital and Harvard Kennedy School logos
    Our partnership with Harvard Kennedy School

    There are many examples of businesses and services that have redesigned so they can thrive despite the pandemic. We’ve helped some of them including covid-19 response teams to develop new websites, like in California. The Californian team managed to do this in just 4 days, while maintaining high-quality standards. These are summarised in the Crisis Standard.


    In September, Public Digital joined the kyu Collective. It’s an honor to be part of this community of great companies. Partnering with kyu gives the opportunity to make new connections, in more places. We were also proud to welcome the brilliant and inspiring kyu’s CEO of EMEA, Farah Ramzan Golant, to our Board.

    kyu collective
    Other members of the kyu Collective.

    Alongside Farah, we welcomed 9 new members in our team this year: Angie, Anna, Amy, Chris, Claire, Clément, Dan, Indira and Valerie. Most were all onboarded remotely. We managed to meet most people physically in the brief period of time between the UK’s first and second lockdowns. It’s been harder to meet Clément who is based in Rwanda, and Dan who is over in Buenos Aires – we can’t wait to welcome them to London in 2021.

    Dan Abadie
    Dan in Peru with Marushka Chocobar, the Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister of Peru and Yolanda Martinez from IDB Chile.

    We also welcomed 10 new members in our network including:

    • Astrid van der Flier, design strategist

    • Frances Berriman, digital services designer

    • Hind Al-Hindawi, delivery specialist

    • Mark Lerner, software engineer and digital transformation strategist

    • Umesh Pandya, design specialist

    • Claire Freund, UX researcher

    We now work with 43 talented experts across 7 countries and 5 continents as well as the core team of 18.

    And because our office was becoming too small for our fast-growing team, we moved into a new building, in Farringdon.

    We also published the 10 positions which best reflect who we are as an organisation. These positions drive our work, and help us navigate who we partner with and who we work with.


    We’re a global business and this year, we’ve worked with 15+ countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Ghana, Jamaica, Madagascar, Peru, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Korea, Trinidad and Tobago, USA, Vietnam and Wales.

    Before the world locked down, we visited British Columbia, Brussels, Cambridge (Massachusetts), Kingston, Lima, Melbourne, New York, Nova Scotia, Paris, Sacramento, San Francisco, Sarajevo, and Tokyo.

    vent on digital transformation in Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Stacey speaking at an event on digital transformation in Bosnia and Herzegovina organised by the British Embassy and the United Nations Development Programme.

    Although it’s been frustrating not to be able to travel to meet everyone in person we’ve built good working relationships working remotely.

    Our mission is to work with institutions who matter: nothing has mattered more this year than healthcare and education. We started to work with new people through our work with NHS Providers. Over the next 3 years, we’ll be holding digital development sessions for more than 100 NHS England Trust boards. Building digital organisations, creating great teams and enabling transformation are vital issues for every board.

    Education is another essential sector we’ve worked in this year, including the global non-profit research partnership Edtech Hub. The Hub’s mission is to help teachers and policymakers make good use of technology in education. This has become even more important during the pandemic. We were proud to support the Edtech Hub in the development of a new digital platform, as part of their covid-19 response strategy.

    We’ve also supported private sector businesses. We’ve worked with Sage to empower multidisciplinary teams to form a new, data-led strategy, the Design Museum to advise on technology solutions, and we carried out a tech review for the English Cricket Board.

    Reflecting on a year like no other

    It’s difficult to do justice to the enormity of 2020 in a blog post – this year will continue to have an impact on governments, businesses and organisations for a long time. Crises are tests of institutional resilience. They spark institutional reform. Covid-19 has accelerated trends that were already unstoppable and – because of that – our expertise have never been more vital.

    We’re proud that during such a difficult year our business has grown by 50%, our processes have proved resilient, our tech has been seamless, and our culture remained strong as everyone worked harder than ever.

    A huge thank you to everyone we've worked with and collaborated with this year. Thanks all our all our clients, partners and friends across the world.

    We’re taking some well deserved time out from Friday 18 December but will be back on Monday 4 January 2021. See you then.

    Previously: Year note, 2019 and Year note, 2018.

    Written by

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