UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose


Hilary Cottam

Hilary Cottam OBE is a social entrepreneur and Honorary Professor at the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP).

Hilary Cottam
Hilary's career started with an international focus: she worked in Northern Ethiopia, with Care International in Latin America and as an urban poverty specialist at the World Bank, based in Washington D.C., working in Southern Africa.

Today Hilary is focussed on reforming the British welfare state. Her work starts where the great 20th century welfare designer Sir William Beveridge left off. Hilary challenges us to stop trying to reform out of date institutions and instead look at how modern solutions might start with people and communities, fostering their capabilities. Innovative, practical work includes: a prison re-design; services for older people; new thinking on modern work; a family led programme where those with multiple needs design their own way forward.

The new services and enterprises created by Hilary with communities across Britain have had an impact on the lives of many thousands. Ultimately it’s all about relationships: Hilary’s work shows how we need to turn an industrial, transactional mind set on its head and build our connections with one another into every aspect of social change.

Hilary was educated at Oxford, Sussex and the Open Universities. She was awarded her PhD in 1999.

In 2005 Hilary was voted UK Designer of the Year for her groundbreaking work and in 2007 the World Economic Forum nominated Hilary as a Young Global Leader. Her work has been widely featured from Rolling Stone to Fast Company and in the UK national and international press.

Hilary’s TED talk can be found here. Her book Radical Help: How We Can Remake the Relationships Between Us & Revolutionise the Welfare State was published by LittleBrown in June 2018.

In 2019 Hilary was honoured with an OBE for services to the Welfare State.