Ngā mihi o te tau hou, happy new year!

I can’t compete with Margaret and David’s review of 2020, or The Guardian readers who summed it up in one word (shit), but I have a few reflections to offer on what I noticed in looking back on the past 12 months.

A swirly timeline entitled A Chronology of 2020 by Liz and Mollie

For me, 2020 was particularly unique as it was the first year running my own business. This post is therefore something of a first annual report to stakeholders. Not something a freelancer needs to do — but my commitment to transparency and reflective practice spurs me to share these…


An ominous orange haze was clouding out the sun when I woke on the first of January in the South Island of New Zealand. Returning to Melbourne a few days later, my partner and I picked up face masks to protect ourselves from the toxic smoke invading the city, as bushfires raged in every state of Australia. The fires had barely subsided when the face masks were back out, offering flimsy protection from the panic and disease spreading around the world. Since then, unemployment levels have skyrocketed and we wait with dread to see the full economic fallout of the…


Ripples: poem by Lina Patel (2020)

One of the things I really loved about the Innovating Systems Thinking event held in Melbourne this month was how it shone light on the humans at the centre of this work. Following a welcome to Wurundjeri Country from Uncle Colin Hunter, Dana Shen opened Day 1 by sharing principles of self-determination and co-design with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

As well as the thoughtful design and codes of care underpinning the event, we were explicitly encouraged to think about ‘self’ in systems — including our emotions and our roles — and to share with and learn from each…


It’s pretty uncool to be interested in government, right? It’s easy to hate a lot of political leaders right now. Even talking about politics on social media is something I’ve been told to avoid. Not because it will get me into trouble. But because — according to my younger, cooler sister — it’s just boring.

So it’s probably no surprise that, despite voting being compulsory in Australia, this country just experienced its lowest voting turnout in almost a century. My sister, who lives here but can’t vote (like me), does not know who the Prime Minister is. …


There’s lots of interest in co-design at the moment, coming from all sorts of different places. Since joining Paper Giant a few months ago, I’ve had the privilege of facilitating introductory workshops on co-design to service designers in Melbourne, policy workers in Auckland, public servants in Canberra, and most recently to health informaticians in Sydney.

Workshop participants at SDNow 2018

This has given me the chance to reflect on and iterate how I convey my enthusiasm (sometimes with a dose of healthy skepticism) and some practical tips on the transformative potential of co-design to professionals from a diverse range of backgrounds. …


There has never been a better time, full of opportunity for social innovation work, as right now in New Zealand.

When leading social innovators from Aotearoa New Zealand (Gael Surgenor) and Australia (Ingrid Burkett) say this, it’s hard not to feel excited. When you get to spend two days with public sector leaders who are asking tough questions and playfully exploring new approaches, you see that there is real potential here for more people-centred policy practice.

I was lucky to take part in the Policy by Design Symposium last week, where I shared practice principles on co-design and recent…


There has been a plethora of claims in recent years about what co-design can do and why we should be using it, especially in the public sector.

Co-design, we are told, can help us to generate more innovative ideas, ensure policies and services match the needs of citizens, achieve economic efficiencies by improving responsiveness, foster cooperation and trust between different groups, meaningfully engage the ‘hard to reach’, and achieve support for change.

There is a risk that we are treating co-design as a “magic concept”[i] or a “policy unicorn”[ii], a mythical thing of beauty that has never been seen in…


A research note from The Policy Lab.

Public policymaking is often described as a structured and logical cycle of problem solving led by government. But in the real world of policymaking, does a “policy cycle” exist? Is it feasible to talk about a sequential and rational process of policymaking?

Using policy examples from Indonesia, our 2017 study challenges the notion of a “policy cycle”, giving a more nuanced picture of how policymaking works in practice. This research was led by The Policy Lab at The University of Melbourne, in collaboration with the Indonesian Centre for Law and Policy Studies (PSHK)…


How can we tell if we’re making a difference? The thorny questions around understanding and communicating impact, results or outcomes (whatever you want to call the positive change from what you’re doing) plague most individuals and organisations working in the public purpose sector. Who doesn’t want to tell a good impact story? Yet so many of us struggle to find the time and space to clearly articulate the change we want to see, let alone work out how we might determine if that change is occurring, and whether we can take any credit for it. All too often, we grasp…


I changed careers late last year. I left the social innovation agency where we were working with communities around New Zealand to improve social connections, physical health and mental wellbeing. Through that work, I had experienced the magic of ‘design thinking’ in bringing together diverse groups of people to collaboratively and creatively address some really tough social issues.

Community ‘insight gatherers’ on the Mangere Young Driver Project (photo © innovate change)

But, coming from an academic background, I kept wondering: what were the theories and methodologies underpinning our practice? How could we be confident we were doing more good than harm when working with vulnerable groups? What had others tried and tested that…

Emma Blomkamp

Pragmatic idealist, working to co-create compassionate systems. emmablomkamp.com

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store