John Atkinson

John Atkinson is a designer, architect and catalyst for whole system change. He has instigated and led projects around the world in corporate and public settings that helped people design approaches that created fundamental change in their work and lives. He has been at the forefront of developing understanding of working with organisations as living systems for over 25 years.

He has recently played a key role in UN efforts on climate change (design and delivery of the nature-based solutions workstream at the Climate Action Summit), Covid-19 (Advisor to the WHO Special Envoy) and the Food Systems Summit (design and delivery of the global engagement process).

John is one of the leading practitioners in public service leadership development in the United Kingdom. He has designed and led a wide range of interventions at national and local level including ‘Total Place’ and the ‘Leeds Castle’ Programme. He led the ͚Systems leadership/Local Vision͛ programme that addressed deep social issues in over 60 places. This included support to Integrated Health and Social Care Pioneers, Vanguards and STPs. He is an advisor to the NHS Scotland Chief Executive Group and has worked with A&E Systems and the Leeds City Partnership Executive Group and is Programme Director for the NHS 2025 system leadership programme. John supported members of the David Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet in 2010 in developing their approach to localism prior to the UK General Election.

His publications include ‘The Art of Change Making’, set reading for university leadership programmes and available in online interactive form.  He curates ‘’ described as ‘the best online resource for systems change’.

Recent commercial clients include Alibaba, the Chinese online marketplace, Sanofi-Pasteur, the world’s leading vaccine manufacturer and Zurich Insurance. This multi-national element provides new and unique insight into how large human systems work. His extensive experience in the private sector has also included leading work with Walmart-Asda, IBM, British Gas, nPower, Cummins Engine, RBS, HBOS and Johnson & Johnson Medical.

John’s appointments have included Special adviser to 4SD, Managing Director of the Leadership Centre for Local Government, Director at KPMG, Principal at The Phillips Kay Partnership Ltd and Officer Commanding the Royal Artillery Leadership Wing. He was a commissioner on the Warwick Commission on elected mayors, has spoken on systems leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and is a regular contributor on the topic in the sector press and on national platforms.



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