New year, new focus - kicking off our 2024

Headshot of Hilary Stephenson

Managing Director

2 minute read

This week the team gathered at the lovely De Vere Cranage Estate for our annual kick-off, where we enjoyed valuable face-to-face time, and a mini-unconference. Here's what we got up to, and a bit about our plans for the new year.

We always try to get the whole team together once a quarter, recognising that we've adopted a good hybrid working model, while not forgetting the value of being together. We start that annually with a team away-day kick-off conference.

This has been an interesting challenge this year, as "together" means including some of our overseas friends from Sweden, Colombia and India. The theme for this year's kick-off was “Listening and Making Connections", so it was fortuitous that the event involved a drive by Jodrell Bank. That Lovell scope has featured a few times this week, as our guests were gifted this to hang on their office walls.

So, why this particular focus? Well, we have more than doubled as a team in the last two years, and we have established a number of employee resource groups this year, where experiences and voices can be shared and heard. We also have several of our team helping customers tackle long-running service design, research and data visualisation challenges, working in embedded teams that can feel removed from the wider Nexer.

Inspired by our recent attendance of both #UKEduCamp and #UKGovCamp, we included our own mini unconference. Our Team Talks encouraged listening, sharing our work, appreciating differing perspectives and making new connections, with a view on how collaboration and inclusion could be improved at Nexer. It was therefore very team-led, and delivered some of the following highlights for me:

  • All teams describing their ideal client and project, for example this from our research team, followed by our service design team future-casting to a YouTube interview in 2028, where they talk about their work to connect communities and reduce health inequalities through focusing on transport

The Research team's ideal client, project and outcome outline

  • Seeing the work that has gone into meaningful design systems for our clients over the last twelve months, to help visualise health research, from oncology biomarkers to gut health and population studies
  • Loving how our content design team is having a real impact on public services, doing the hard work to make things look simple 
  • Witnessing how all the technology group framed their talks through sustainability and accessibility, from dev to QA to service desk and optimisation
  • Crowdsourcing contacts and organisations we'd like to research because we respect their work and want to help - if you're in any of them and you hear from us, please take that as genuine intent to support you ;-)
  • Ending the unconference with an amazing talk from Amy Thornley on the Post Office Horizon failings. A true horror story for our time and industry, which feels very close to our world. I was touched by the requests from our visiting colleagues on where they could watch Mr. Bates vs the Post Office on catch-up as they were heading to the train station
  • Marveling at the sheer creativity that went into the #EnforcedFun (ironic term) part of the evening, where our low-fi quiz included a cheese or service station?" round, multiple poems about aubergines and the rapid design of a new sport
Amy stands delivering a presentation to the team. Onscreen is a title slide: The Post Office Horizon Scandal: Service failure

I'm not sure what value others get from reading how organisations like Nexer assemble and re-imagine themselves but sharing our work was a key conclusion from the two days. Be more vocal and visible. So we plan to work in the open a little more. To share content that will help others forge their own paths to inclusion, environmental impact, social innovation and the risks and perils of emerging tech, understand the European Accessibility Act in tangible ways. Just like we are. In terms of takeaways we can build on from here:

  • We seem very aligned on where we want to do our work and how we want to do it (sectors, process, methods, impact)
  • We all seem to be pushing for blurring of organisation chart lines and removing barriers to collaboration, without breaking a sense of specialism and respecting important small group, pastoral stuff
  • We need space for R&D, marketing, process and service development work - this will come from sharing our work so people can clearly see it's delivering an impact (virtuous circle)
  • Employee resource groups need more direction and meaningful problems to work with. Small wins are good
  • We need to be more aligned on AI and make sense of it for us, at both a tactical and strategic level. This has to be through the lens of ethics and inclusion and some of our team are already doing great work on exploring partnerships, positions and policy
  • We could share our work a lot more, and in new, creative ways, both internally and externally #podcats
  • We get stressed and there are tensions - we need to understand the causes and each other better and use the support groups and training to improve things. It takes honesty and expert support
  • We can crowdsource a list of target orgs across our chosen sectors in 17 minutes
  • We can write poems about vegetables at even short notice
  • One day, this will all have an impact on our brand recognition...
A sign reading Nexter Digital