Catastrophe & Systemic Change: The Book

Available for Pre-Order

Available for pre-order from major booksellers. Or directly from my publisher, the London Publishing Partnership. They will donate £1-50 to the Grenfell Foundation for every pre-orders. RRP £18.99


After more than a year of writing, my book ‘Catastrophe and Systemic Change’ is available for pre-order.

The Grenfell Tower tragedy was the worst residential fire in London since World War II. It killed seventy-two people in the richest borough of one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Like other catastrophic events before it and since, it has the power to bring about lasting change. But will it? The historical evidence is weighed against ‘lessons being learned’ in a meaningful or enduring way.

In an attempt to understand why, despite enormous efforts, we persistently fail to learn from catastrophic events, this book uses the details of the Grenfell fire as a case study to consider two questions.

• Why don’t we learn?
• What would it take to enable real systemic change?

The book explores the myths, the key challenges and the conditions that inhibit learning, and it identifies opportunities to positively disrupt the status quo. It offers an accessible model for systemic change, not as a definitive solution but rather as a framework to evoke reflection, enquiry and proper debate. Catastrophe and Systemic Change is a must-read book for a wide range of readers including those interested in change management, leadership, policy-making, law, housing, construction and public safety.


Her Honour Frances Kirkham CBE, coroner in the Lakanal House inquests

“Learning from catastrophic events to drive necessary change should happen in every area where public safety is a fundamental requirement – as, for example, in the provision of housing. It is scandalous that there is widespread and fundamental failure to apply any lessons learned. Read this book to understand the interplay between those at the top and those at the bottom of the power ladder, and understand how we all can, and should, influence decision and policy makers to facilitate and achieve the changes which are so needed.” Her Honour Frances Kirkham CBE (coroner in the Lakanal House inquests)

Vicky Pryce, former Joint Head of the Government Economic Service

“After every tragedy and subsequent investigation, we are told systemic change is needed and lessons will be learned. Gill Kernick’s new book grapples with the barriers that, with equal predictability, seem to stop that happening – really important questions four years after Grenfell, and as we continue to battle with the pandemic.” Jill Rutter (Senior Research Fellow, UK in a Changing Europe)ndorsements

Vicky Pryce, former Joint Head of the Government Economic Service

“Reading this powerful story of the Grenfell Tower fire and the testimonies to the still ongoing public inquiry, it becomes difficult to avoid the conclusion that the disaster was mostly the result of a multitude of market and regulatory failures. Gill Kernick shows that lessons had not been – and are still not being – learned. Ignoring ‘low-probability, highconsequence risk’ to cut costs comes at a heavy human and economic price, as we are also discovering with the Covid pandemic. A very sobering verdict.” Vicky Pryce, former Joint Head of the Government Economic Service

Dame Kate Barker, Trustee Chair, USS

“This powerful book lays out starkly the many failings that led to the huge tragedy of Grenfell. In the immediate aftermath, Grenfell was expected to prompt significant change. Yet four years later even the cladding issue is not resolved. Kernick describes why effective learning and systemic change do not happen – even in the face of events that make us weep with fury. I will respond to the book’s ask to take small steps toward change by challenging organisations to practise two things: error wisdom and chronic unease.” Dame Kate Barker, Trustee Chair, USS


Gill Kernick is an internationally experienced strategic consultant specializing in safety, culture and leadership. She lived on the twentyfirst floor of Grenfell Tower from 2011 to 2014.

Contact Gill for speaking engagements or if you’d like to commission an article.