Oliver Standing

Director of Communications and External Affairs

  • Alumni
  • Health


I am frequently found wandering around the system tapping my compass. I'm Director of communications and external affairs for a national drug and alcohol charity which supports over 90,000 people per year. But I'm interested in almost everything, especially drug and alcohol policy and systems, public sector commissioning, strategic communications and advocacy, politics, history, systems thinking, books, gardening and lifelong learning.

Where are you focusing your energy right now?

  • Alliance building at the system level across organisational, sector and cultural boundaries
  • My own systemic understanding of the world I inhabit
  • Encouraging with positivity and kindness small steps in the right direction even if they seem quite modest
  • Relentless (hopefully) focus on the people we serve above all else, and the concept of service itself
  • Dealing strategically with overlapping organisational identities (provider/charity/agent of social justice/part of 'civil society')

What stood out from your Basecamp Health experience?

  • Inspiration from an amazing global cohort of leaders
  • The similarity of some of the challenges we were facing - systemic resonance across boundaries
  • Confidence to trust my instincts which were always in the direction of the system level. I lacked the vocabulary and toolkit of concepts to articulate what i wanted to do, and was sifted them by Basecamp

How has your approach to your work changed?

I work in a system which is shaped through heavy use of commissioning markets so intensely competitive as a result. This isn't all bad and I am a fan of some level of competition, however it has incentivised some negative behaviour. I am working across orgs (and drawing some confidence from the concept of 'system convening') to keep pushing the idea that there is a 'system goal' which transcends all organisational goals, and this system goal is all about the support we deliver to those who need our services.

What can people come to you to ask about?

  • Drug and alcohol treatment and recovery policy and systems
  • Communications and policy leadership
  • UK public sector commissioning
  • External affairs
  • Multiple disadvantage

What's your current inquiry question about?

  • How can providers in a competitive environment collaborate on digital support at scale?
  • How can large provider organisations adopt a stewardship role to nurture organic emergence of lived experience led recovery communities?

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