2018 Thought Leadership series – Alistair Child

On Tuesday 26 June 2018 Alistair Child, a social intrapreneur and Director of the Auckland Co-design Lab (the lab) delivered a number of sessions sharing his experience in the use of co-design as an approach to collaboration and good policy design. His presentations and links to additional material are below.

Presentation – Co-design: unlocking the potential to think about, develop and implement good policy that's accessible to the people closest to the issues (session for policy practitioners) (see below)


One of the four directions for reform detailed in the Service Priority Review centres on building a public sector focused on community needs. This requires a stronger focus on issues that matter to the community and smarter service design that incorporates ideas and perspectives from outside and recognizes the needs of different regions. 

Co-design and similar approaches are often seen as a path towards citizen participation, fresh insight and novel ideas and solutions. The Auckland Co-design Lab was set up to explore the value of co-design approaches to complex social issues, foster collaboration and grow co-design capability. 

The lab is a unique collaboration between eight central government agencies and Auckland Council. The Lab has over three years’ experience leading and developing cross agency co-design projects. Focus areas include skills and employment, housing, early years and growing co-design capability and the conditions for transformational change in the public sector. The Lab’s relationship with The Southern Initiative (a place based team) has created rich learning about the importance of creating a platform between two essential elements of transformation – innovation and implementation. 

This session will share key learning and insights from the Co-design Lab and what this can offer policy development and implementation.

Presentation – Social Policy Roundtable - Developing strengths based responses to complex social issues - Reflections from South Auckland (see below)


The complexity of many public policy issues is demanding new thinking and approaches from public services. Increasingly there is a need to respond both at system level and a human scale to prototype and test responses that can deliver transformational change. 

The Auckland Co-design Lab (the Lab) and Southern Initiative (TSI)  are  New Zealand public service innovation teams working across central and local government and alongside communities as an innovation partner. 

Based in South Auckland they have over three years’ experience leading and developing innovation practice in response to early years, skills and employment, economic development and housing challenges. Working with communities experiencing social and economic disadvantage we are developing strengths based approaches to grow resilient and thriving communities with a focus on transformational change and shared prosperity.

An essential feature of this approach has been better understanding and building on the existing strengths and entrepreneurialism of South Auckland’s large Māori and Pacific communities.

Facilitated by Stuart Clarke, Director Social Housing Policy, Department of Communities, this session shared key learnings and created space for a wider discussion about how we are responding to complex social issues and the role of public services. 

Presentation – Evidence-based practice and practice-based evidence: blending existing knowledge with emergent insights and learning (short workshop for senior executives) (see below)


Design-led approaches offer the opportunity to better understand the experiences and needs of the people closest the issues. They also invite people to create and prototype novel ideas and solutions. The Co-design Lab has over three years’ experience leading and developing projects across a range of issues. This has created rich insight into the value of emergent learning and practice based evidence generated by prototyping and testing. 

To create compelling arguments for change that engage sponsors and decision makers, the importance of blending evidence based practice, ‘thick data’ (qualitative), with emergent practice based learning has been a key learning. This interactive session explored theory and practice and provided an opportunity to share and discuss how we use different sources of evidence to create a case for transformational change.  

Related reading

To assist you continue the conversations back in your workplaces please find some links to useful websites and further reading referred to during the course of the session.

Page last updated 28 November 2018