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Sparking real change

Insights from CPI's work across in Europe in 2023

In 2023, we worked on a range of projects to shift the status quo across Europe.

Dive into our report to explore the innovative projects and partnerships shaping a more inclusive and resilient future.

Read the report

We live in a world of complex systemic challenges.

Between 2024 and 2026, over 100 countries will hold elections. Within Europe, this includes the EU, national parliament, as well as presidential and regional elections. In 2024 alone, the 10th European elections will occur in the 27 EU Member States, with around 359 million EU citizens being called to polling stations. The elections taking place over the next three years are pivotal, potentially redefining public trust and effectiveness in governance.

Now more than ever, it’s vital that governments build trust and deliver for the people they serve. But they face significant challenges. 

Cost of living

Across Europe, the escalating cost of living risks plunging more people into poverty and increasing financial hardship for those already struggling. It’s the most pressing worry for 93% of Europeans. Aggravated by austerity measures, it has deepened and widened societal inequalities and intensified public discontent.

Advances in digital technologies

Recent advances in digital technologies, such as AI, hold tremendous potential to transform industries, boost worker productivity, and revolutionise public institutions. As governments, communities, and civil society seek to develop and implement technology-based solutions to public sector challenges, there is a risk that these solutions will widen existing inequalities if not designed and distributed equitably. 

Decision-making with citizens

Exploratory efforts in different forms of democracy and community engagement are critical in this context. They promote transparency and trust within public institutions. Engaging citizens directly in decision-making is vital for democratising governance and shaping public services that work for everyone.

However, there needs to be more expertise in applying participatory approaches, and many governments struggle to engage communities pushed to the margins in these processes. In addition, budget cuts, public sector staff burnout, and a worrying trend of professionals exiting public service roles jeopardise such efforts. 

It’s time to evolve from how things are done now to how they should be done tomorrow.

Public institutions must innovate to prevent further societal strain. But, their inability to create the conditions for people to innovate and dream often hampers those who try to work differently. 

These all contribute to a growing distrust in governments, which people view as less competent and ethical than businesses. This underscores the urgent need for effective leadership and profound organisational transformation to build trust and deliver impact for everyone.

We can't solve 21st-century challenges with 20th-century systems. We need to think differently.

Our mission

We’re shifting the status quo.

From grassroots community initiatives to global philanthropies, people are coming together to shape a new era where governments champion the value of human relationships, welcome a culture of learning, and feel empowered to tackle the complex challenges we face. 

We're here to support them in making this happen.

We are change agents working to unlock the potential of people and power.

We work in partnership with governments, philanthropy, civil society and communities to challenge the status quo, shift mindsets, and bridge the gap between people and those in power. 

By helping people develop the skills needed to do their work differently, they can build trust, better serve their communities, and tackle problems that matter.

Exploring and sharing new ideas

We push the boundaries of our current understanding, exploring topics critical to the future. We share what we’re learning and provide a platform for people to share their stories about how they’re spearheading change worldwide.

Capacity building and transformation

We offer training to help people think and work differently. We support them in transforming structures and cultures to put learning at the heart.

Building networks for change

We connect changemakers to accelerate collaboration and learning in response to complex challenges.

Delivering impact through innovation

We work with philanthropic organisations to address major societal challenges and innovate on how to fund and support public and social impact. Our global programmes lead to healthier systems and meaningful outcomes for communities worldwide.

Our work in 2023


public servants and changemakers across government and civil society supported


governments and organisations supported 


community members engaged

In 2023, we worked on various projects to shift the status quo. This includes rethinking urban transformation across Europe and Central Asia, training the next generation of climate leaders, helping partners design a different approach to regulation, and supporting local authorities in using learning to shape public services that better meet people’s needs.

Where we worked

Programme highlights

Inspiring tech innovation for social good

CPI partnered with on the Impact Challenge: Tech for Social Good, with the aim of building a more inclusive, sustainable and resilient Europe by developing technological innovations that benefit communities across the region. This initiative focussed on funding and empowering nonprofits, civic entities, academic institutions, and social enterprises to tackle economic inclusion, sustainability, and cyber security, providing them with the support needed to build scalable solutions with lasting impact.

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Reimagining Welsh health and social care

In partnership with CPI, Improvement Cymru launched a programme to reimagine health and social care in Wales. The work focussed on fostering people-led systems transformation and enhancing leadership across diverse sectors. We partnered with Q Lab Cymru to build capacity at all levels, from the community to senior and executive leadership.

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Using AI to advance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals

CPI partnered with on AI for the Global Goals a $25M open call for organizations using AI to accelerate progress on United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The program ran globally, searching for projects using AI to accelerate progress on one or more of the UN’s Global Goals, locally and globally. 

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Supporting survivors of modern slavery

The University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab initiated the "Pathways Through Liberation'' project to improve the UK's National Referral Mechanism (NRM) - a framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery and ensuring they receive appropriate support. We served as a learning partner, designing and facilitating workshops focused on making sense of research findings, and bringing survivors and practitioners together.

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Stories from our work

How Urva, Azerbaijan, is redefining itself through culinary innovation and community collaboration

In the heart of Azerbaijan, the municipality of Urva is reinventing itself as a culinary and tourist hub. Working with the local community, the municipal team is establishing a tourist information centre and developing a village brand to establish Urva as a culinary destination.

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Crafting stories of survival and support

Stories help us understand ourselves, others, and the wider systems in which we operate. Through storytelling, individuals have the opportunity to build empathy, connections, and relationships that have the potential to drive meaningful system-wide change. 

Following our work with the University of Nottingham’s Rights Lab to reimagine support systems for modern slavery survivors, we wanted to learn more about what safe and healthy support looks like.

Explore more

Empowering tomorrow's climate leaders

In October 2023, over 100 young innovators from 63 countries gathered in Rome for Youth4Climate: Sparking Solutions to engage in dialogues on climate justice and the role of young leaders in climate action. This was the culmination of the Youth4Climate Challenge, a global initiative co-led by UNDP and the Government of Italy that supports youth-led climate solutions. 

Find out more

Reimagining local democracy

How might we imagine a more participatory democracy that leads to action to make imagined futures a reality? 

This past year, we hosted a group of democratic innovation practitioners, researchers, urban planners, journalists, social entrepreneurs, and policy experts from Abuja to Belfast to collectively reimagine local democracy. 

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Our partners

In 2023, we’re proud to have worked with partners from across government, philanthropy, and civil society.   

  • Active Partnerships 

  • Bloomberg Philanthropies

  • Centre for Ageing Better

  • Crescendo

  • Cumbria Northumberland Tyne and Wear Mental Health Trust


  • Greater Manchester Combined Authority

  • Healthcare Improvement Scotland

  • Improvement Cymru

  • Inverclyde Council

  • Iriss

  • Itla Foundation

  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • Lancashire County Council

  • Lankelly Chase

  • NHS Leadership Academy

  • North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board

  • Thurrock Council

  • University of Nottingham Rights Lab

  • United Nations Development Programme

What we’re learning

This past year, our team reflected on the role of learning, adaptation, and relationship-building across our portfolio of work. Four key themes emerged.

The value of learning and disruption

There are varying attitudes towards learning and disruption, highlighting the importance of framing the value of learning independently from individuals’ perceptions of disruption.

In practice, this means embracing a cyclical learning model where governments and practitioners continuously integrate insights from their experiences into subsequent phases, fostering an iterative approach to learning.

While doing this, there is an acknowledgement that embedding this new learning into ways of working can disrupt business as usual. The disruption of ‘business as usual’ can sometimes be uncomfortable and uncertain, which is an essential learning. 

Change happens through conversations

Meeting individuals, organisations, and governments where they are is critical. Facilitating effective change requires curiosity and a commitment to building relationships through intentional conversations with people.

The catalyst for change lies in meaningful discussions that bridge perspectives and create curiosity and understanding. This requires understanding the diversity of perspectives and entry points of our partners and recognising that organisational change remains stagnant without dialogue.

The power of relationships

Central to the change process is the role of trusted relationships, which are the foundation for building understanding and influencing perspectives over time. Building trust, rapport, and understanding between people is critical in creating sustainable and long-term change.

Our work this year demonstrates the transformative potential of cultivating authentic connections, where sustained engagement yields tangible shifts in attitudes and practices. Through long-term relationships and cultivating trust, meaningful change takes root, transcending the confines of programme timelines to create lasting impact.

Creating new practice can take time

Creating new practices is a process that demands both time and patience. The journey towards new ways of working means navigating unfamiliar territories and confronting entrenched institutional norms and cultures.

The transformative impact of these endeavours unfolds gradually, often extending beyond short-term programme delivery timelines. Instead, sustainable change takes root through cultivating enduring relationships built on trust and mutual respect.

What does the future hold?

As we think about what we’ve learned in the context of our critical challenges for 2023, we have also started to reflect on how we might embed this learning into our work going forward. 

  • Integrating learning and disruption

    Balancing the value of learning with the discomfort and uncertainty that disruption brings, especially when developing new practices amidst existing institutional norms.

  • Having effective conversations for change

    Encouraging meaningful dialogue and curiosity-driven conversations to bridge diverse perspectives, particularly in environments where there may be resistance to change or a lack of openness to new ideas.

  • Building sustainable relationships

    Nurturing authentic connections and trust over time, especially when faced with the pressures of short-term programme timelines and the need for immediate results amid complex systemic challenges.

  • Navigating time and patience in practice creation

    Managing expectations around the time and patience required to establish new ways of working, particularly in environments where confronting entrenched institutional norms and cultures is necessary.

  • Addressing global governance challenges

    Responding to the complexities of global governance, including critical election years that may redefine public trust and effectiveness, while navigating issues such as the equitable distribution of AI benefits, rising costs of living aggravated by austerity measures, and the resulting public discontent.

  • Democratising decision-making and citizen engagement

    Overcoming innovation and imagination deficits means involving citizens in government. This is crucial for developing effective, sustainable solutions that address real community needs and genuinely harness the public's collective wisdom. 

  • Urgent need for organisational transformation

    Addressing the growing distrust in government by nurturing effective leadership and profound organisational transformation, recognising the need to evolve from outdated systems to meet the demands of 21st-century challenges.

Our team 

We’re an experienced international team of innovators, researchers, and dreamers.

We bring expertise in public sector innovation, design, facilitation, strategic foresight and community organising.  

We’re united by a shared optimism that things can be different and that by supporting the world’s changemakers, we can tackle the problems that really matter. 

Meet the team

Let's work together

Are you ready to spark real change with us? Then, get in touch and let’s talk about how we can work together.