In 2007 Emma Barrett Palmer was in the founding team at Social Innovation Lab Kent, a groundbreaking partnership between Engine Service Design and Kent County Council to "do policy differently".
SILK was the first Lab of its kind in UK government and is recognised globally for its unique Starting With People Methodology.
Emma led the programme at SILK from 2009 - 2016, taking a whole system approach to transformational change, facilitating productive collaborations between people with professional and lived experiences, in strategic, operational and community settings. The aim of SILK was to embed design thinking into Kent County Council through real life projects - an introductory report can be read here.
SILK Methodology and Method Deck
Dementia Checklist Prototype
Houses as Homes - improved accommodation to reduce levels of re-offending
The SILK approach
In every SILK project we aimed to push the boundaries of current practice, gathering real life experiences about "wicked issues" from citizens and front-line workers to inform decision-makers. We collaborated with disciplines not traditionally seen within a government setting - anthropologists and ethnographers, film-makers, artists and animators, community chefs and architects.
My particular commitment was ensuring that citizens were genuinely involved. People with lived experience were invited to participate in every aspect of project decision making as part of the extended SILK team - from reviewing existing practice, generating ideas, prototyping new concepts, refining blueprints and commissioning new service models.
The SILK approach was successfully implemented within strategic, service design and community settings, working horizontally across the traditional hierarchies and silos of government systems. This required versatility, adaptability, persistence and patience. At SILK, we were able to create a space where citizens could work alongside professionals in a genuinely collaborative way, as equals.
A full portfolio of our diverse programme at SILK can be found here.
R Shop Bulk Buy
A participatory film showing how a group of residents worked alongside SILK to set up a community shopping scheme, R Shop, in Parkwood, Maidstone