Emma Barrett Palmer

Emma brings passion, integrity, vision and creativity to the table, exploring and enhancing the possibilities of whole systems innovation. She is a skilled and creative facilitator, researcher, educator and leader. Her unique experiences in inclusive and participatory community building enable people to live and work better together. 

After ten years in the Founding Team then Lead at Social Innovation Lab Kent - a first in UK government - her experiences in the Calais ‘jungle’ compelled a professional change. In 2016 she founded humanitarian enterprise humanKINDER with a mission to amplify silenced voices for systems change. Emma now lives in Chamonix-Mont-Blanc in France where she is currently writing a manuscript about the journey with her family in The Welcome Tent “a 16,000 mile journey from Calais to Greece cooking recipes of HOPE in an ex-army catering tent repurposed for peace”.

Call to Action “Five Countries in Five Months, 8 actions for 2018”, Emma Barrett Palmer. Photo with Felix volunteering at  Paris Refugee Ground Support , December 2017.

Call to Action “Five Countries in Five Months, 8 actions for 2018”, Emma Barrett Palmer. Photo with Felix volunteering at Paris Refugee Ground Support, December 2017.

Can we find universal ways to communicate across the borders and boundaries that have been pre-defined for us? Can we disrupt the current outdated and exploiting systems designed to enhance the lives of just a few? Can we better use the resources and knowledge we already have to protect our future?

I will always seek to collaborate with people who have made a conscious choice to ‘live well’, who seek freedom. I want to learn from others’ experiences, while bringing my own personal and professional insight to the table. I have learned that silence is as important as noise and how to step back and listen.

If we can connect the dots between one cause and the next, breaking down these walls will give us a chance to co-create a better - humanKINDER - future. 
— Emma Barrett Palmer, June 2018

Recent Highlights

  • Key Note Speaker: ‘Decolonising Design: working towards a humanKINDER future’, European Academy of Design, April 2019

  • Evaluation Team with Dawit Wolde Aregai: Dutch Design Week, 2018

  • Judging Panel: ‘Designing Futures, Social Labs in Europe’, Hans Sauer Award, Munich, Germany, March 2018

  • Co-Founder: The Welcome Tent, July 2017 -

  • Founder: humanKINDER Ltd, 2016 -

  • Consultant: ‘Reframing Migration, from borders to horizons’, Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services, Scotland, Jan - June 2017

  • Co-Founder: The Dementia Diaries and Learning Resource NHS award-winning book and global learning resource, 2013 -

  • Expert Advisory Board: BorgerDesign Aarhus strategic innovation and public sector design agency, Denmark, 2016 - 2017

  • Core Team Member: Global Health Aging 'changing the public discourse on aging and health issues around the world', California, US, 2016 -

  • Expert Advisory Board: Leapfrog AHCR funded research programme 'Transforming public sector consultation by design’, UK, 2015 - 2018

  • Fellow: Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce


  • Key Note Speaker

  • Social Innovation Leadership, Labs and Programming

  • Inclusive and Creative Consultancy

  • humanKINDER Design for Impact

Experience, impact and recognition

  • Cutting-edge understanding and methodology

The Welcome Tent - an ex-army catering tent from 1956 - is an experimental roaming "lab" space, a methodology which enables people to participate in a way that is relevant in the moment: inclusive, accessible, multi-sensory, universal.

A collaboration with IRISS in Scotland in 2017, to better understand the landscape for Scottish social workers in 'Reframing Migration'. 'Reframing Migration' was borne out of a meeting between Ezio Manzini and Emma in 2015 resulting in a collaboration in 2016 between Social Innovation Lab Kent, University of the Arts London and global DESIS network - Design for Social Innovation and Sustainability Network. 

Direction, design, research and facilitation for Northern Ireland Civil Service Dementia Lab in 2015, held in supported accommodation in Belfast to ensure highest representation and participation from people living with dementia. Described as a "seminal experience" by Malcolm Beattie, Head of Innovation Branch. 

Founding team and 6 years leadership at Social Innovation Lab Kent, described as "highlight of a global movement. In the County of Kent, the Social Innovation Lab Kent is reshaping social services through creative working methods, ethnographic research, service design and empowerment of citizens to take part in service delivery" in Bason, Christian. Leading Public Sector Innovation. Bristol, UK: Policy Press, (2010). Invited to contribute to the UK Parliamentary Commission on Design in 2012. 

  • Innovative and creative learning resources for a global audience

Co-creator of The Dementia Diaries and Learning Resource, a partnership between SILK and Matthew Snyman which won an NHS England Excellence in Participation People's Awards (2014), and have been described as "not just Diaries, they are a real beacon of hope for the future", Angela Rippon OBE, Alzheimer's Society Ambassador). Read more in the Journal of Dementia Care

Co-creator of the SILK Method Deck, an "awesome deck of methods" drawing tools from design, social science, business and community development and now used by service innovation and design leaders around the world. 

  • Public policy and practice

Direction, design, research and facilitation of SILK Dementia Social Innovation Programme from which every recommendation has been adopted, adapted and scaled.

Winning team of MRS Award for Public Policy/Social Research for 'Just Coping - a new perspective on families at risk' in 2010, with ESRO; 'R Shop Bulk Buy' was validated as national best practice by the Centre for Excellence in Outcomes for Children and Young People's Services in 2010 and shared as best practice by Sir Edward Davey MP at a collective purchasing roundtable.










  • Continuous Professional Development: Working with trafficked children, University of Bedfordshire, 2016; Introduction to international learning, British Council 2014; UK Dementia Congress, 2014

  • MSc Applied Social and Community Research, University of Brighton (2011)

  • Diploma in Management, Chartered Management Institute (2008)

  • Foundation Studies in Youth Work, Informal Education and Community Learning [NVQ Level 3], YMCA George Williams College, London (2005)

  • LLB Europe (Law with French), Nottingham Trent University and ERASMUS placement at University of Montpellier (2003)

  • European Convention on Human Rights, Summer School, Strasbourg (2000)

Launch event in Nottingham UK of our 16,000 mile journey around Europe with The Welcome Tent, August 2017. Photo courtesy of Duncan Brown Photography.

Launch event in Nottingham UK of our 16,000 mile journey around Europe with The Welcome Tent, August 2017. Photo courtesy of Duncan Brown Photography.