Hilary Cottam is a designer and social entrepreneur. Since the late 1990s, she has worked in Latin America, Southern Africa and Europe, leading multidisciplinary teams using design to improve public services and effect social change.

For the past ten years she has been running Participle, a social enterprise focused on redesigning the British welfare state. Projects include a new prison design which aims to reduce re-offending, Circle, a community-based service for older people designed to reduce pressure on local health and social care services and Backr, an alternative job seeking model focused on networking, building relationships and improving people’s skills and confidence through workshops and mentoring sessions.

Before running Participle, Cottam was director of the Design Council’s experimental RED team and set up School Works, a pioneering project to improve the design of UK schools through collaborations between designers, psychologists and educational experts working with pupils, teachers and staff. Cottam was named UK Designer of the Year in 2005 for her involvement in School Works’ collaboration with Kingsdale School in London, which was redesigned by architects De Rijke Marsh Morgan. She is now writing a book for Virago/Little Brown on the future of the welfare state.