For the best part of 13 years, I have focused my energy on 'for purpose' work - from sustainable development to food systems, youth wellbeing to environmental conservation. I'm privileged to have worked with some excellent people, projects and initiatives which have shaped my understanding of how change happens, and the work needed to bring it about.
You can also find me on Linkedin here.SAY HELLO ON LINKEDIN
My work has some common threads:
- Wayfaring - working with people to explore paths into and through challenges, to find good solutions, given the wider context.
- Complexity Practice - working with people to understand the landscape they operate in, and how to adapt and move towards preferable futures.
What does that mean exactly?
Well I get involved in a range of initiatives, carrying out everything from collaborating to craft movement-building strategies to writing run sheets for fellowship programs, and identifying leverage points for systems change initiatives through to designing and building software.
At the most basic, I like to ask questions, and help people use those questions to do more of what's working, less of what's not, or invent a new reality, if that's what the world needs.
About My Work
My practice has been shaped by working in the complexity of challenges which are inherently dynamic and interconnected, where the idea of root causes means little, but change is constant.
Drawing together my work in the likes of social labs, social entrpereneurship, systemic design and network weaving, in 2018 I completed my Masters of Design which focused on how to improve the impact of environmental conservation projects. You can read that work, which is built as a website to dip in and out of, here.
What Others Are Saying
I'm deeply thankful for colleagues and clients such as these, who have reflected on working together.
Sam is a wonderfully humble, smart and collaborative colleague to partner with. I bought him on board at Monash to run an ongoing series of systems workshops with the design department. He was consultative and generative in his approach leading up to the workshops and then organized, responsive, and open-minded in his role of facilitating the sessions. He deftly personalised the experiences for the different teams, respectful of their different motivations and challenges. Most of all I deeply appreciated how transdisciplinary Sam's thinking is — you can't pin down his expertise — and this allows for a wide-ranging, creative yet critical approach to designing responsive systems, continuous improvement strategies and social lab cultures.
- Lisa Grocott, Design Professor at Monash University, Australia
It's hard to know where to begin in describes Sam's role in Lifehack - put simply Lifehack in its current form would not have happened without his energy, enthusiasm and passion.
I saw his strengths blossom at Lifehack - communications, team development, strategy, finding sense in chaos, research and development, youth support, event/programme development and delivery. Lifehack in its early days needed Sam to be all of the above - and he rocked it.
He does has a special skill and focus on communicating the unknown in a form that makes sense. He is brilliant at thinking about the user - whether that is who is going to read the report he is writing, the tweet he is tweeting, the lecture he is about to give, or the programme he is developing.
Additionally Sam brings design and creativity into everything he does - he is one of the most holistic thinkers I know.
- Silvia Zuur, Director at PWC New Zealand, Aotearoa NZ
Sam is a mature and sophisticated thinker. He has a great ability to unpack and make sense of difficult challenges. He thrives in complexity and has a natural systems thinking ability. I believe he brings a 21st century edge to his thinking that any organisation will benefit from.
- Onur Eckinci, Co-Founder at Peer Academy, Australia
I worked with Sam when he was co-lead for Lifehack and I was on the Governance team. Sam and his colleagues were given a unique challenge - to develop new approaches to youth wellbeing - there was no clear path and an entirely different and experimental approach was needed. As co-lead Sam was able to build a strong team, lead bold experiments bringing together his knowledge and skills in co-design, social enterprise and wellbeing. As a result Sam and the team engaged 1000’s of people and many organisations around Aotearoa in new ways of working and thinking about youth wellbeing. Sam was central in leading NZ’s first youth wellbeing Social Lab, as well as developing subsequent Fellowship programmes and partnerships. Lifehack’s programmes seek to exemplify a commitment to co-design, community engagement, innovation and reflective practice and Sam was instrumental in building, enabling and promoting this approach. I appreciated Sam’s leadership, commitment and courage to try new things, ability to pivot when change was needed and humbly and effectively share the learnings from each experiment. I look forward to collaborating with Sam further in the future.
- Penny Hagen, Director at Auckland Co-Design Lab, Aotearoa NZ
My ideas of wayfaring draw on practice from the likes of Strategic Design, Experimentation Culture and Emergent Strategy, as well as literal Wayfaring practices (people moving through landscapes).
"Strategic design attempts to draw a wider net around an area of activity or a problem, encompassing the questions and the solutions and all points in between; design involves moving freely within this space, testing its boundaries in order to deliver definition of, and insight into, the question as much as the solution, the context as much as the artefact, service or product. Call the context “the meta” and call the artefact “the matter”. Strategic design work swings from the meta to the matter and back again, oscillating between these two states in order to recalibrate each in response to the other."
Dan Hill - Dark Matter and Trojan Horses: A Strategic Design Vocabulary.
Read more about Strategic Design here.
"Experimental approaches accelerate learning by systematically testing assumptions and identifying knowledge gaps. What is there to be known about the problem and the function, fit and probability of a suggested solution? Experimentation helps fill these gaps without allocating too much time or resource, and helps governments accelerate the exploration of new potential solution spaces."
Giulio Quaggiotto, Bas Leurs, Jesper Christiansen - Towards an experimental culture in government: reflections on and from practice.
Read more about Experimentation Culture here, or see my freely accessible Field Guide to Experimentation here.
Emergent & Adaptive Strategy
"Emergent strategy, strategy for building complex patterns and systems of change through relatively small interactions, is to me—the potential scale of transformation that could come from movements intentionally practicing this adaptive, relational way of being, on our own and with others."
Adrienne Maree Brown - Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds.
Read more about Emergent & Adaptive Strategy here.
About Complexity Practice
My work around complexity is largely informed by fields such as Complexity Science, Ecocentrism and Ecology. Building on these insights, I have built a practice suitable for complexity through my work on Social Labs (platforms for social change) and Systemic Design (generative approaches to working on complex challenges).
"Complexity theory challenges the dominant tradition of what is deemed 'scientific' and 'professional'. It questions whether we can act as if the world behaves like a machine - is predictable, can be divided into parts, and defined by unambiguous cause-and-effect links. Complexity theory emphasises that the social and natural world is organic, systemic, shaped by history and context. Things are affected by many causes and connections and these act together, synergistically. The future emerges, cannot entirely be known in advance. What happens next is affected by history, chance, choice, and the particularity of the local context."
Jean Boulton - Embracing Complexity.
Read more about Complexity on Jean Boulton's site here or my Complexity summary which was part of my Masters here.
Ecocentrism finds inherent (intrinsic) value in all of nature. It takes a much wider view of the world than does anthropocentrism, which sees individual humans and the human species as more valuable than all other organisms. Ecocentrism is the broadest of worldviews, but there are related worldviews. Ecocentrism goes beyond biocentrism (ethics that sees inherent value to all living things) by including environmental systems as wholes, and their abiotic aspects. It also goes beyond zoocentrism (seeing value in animals) on account of explicitly including flora and the ecological contexts for organisms. Ecocentrism is thus the umbrella that includes biocentrism and zoocentrism, because all three of these worldviews value the nonhuman, with ecocentrism having the widest vision. Given that life relies on geological processes and geomorphology to sustain it, and that ‘geodiversity’ also has intrinsic value, the broader term ‘ecocentrism’ seems most appropriate.
University of New South Wales, PANGEA - Why ecocentrism is the key pathway to sustainability.
Read more about Ecocentrism here.
"Have you ever hiked through a forest and noticed the incredible diversity of organisms living together, from ferns to trees to mushrooms the size of dinner plates? Or taken a road trip and watched the landscape change outside the window, shifting from oak forest to tall stands of pine to grassy plains? If so, you’ve gotten a classic taste of ecology, the branch of biology that examines how organisms interact with each other and with their physical environment."
Khan Academy - Introduction to Ecology.
Learn more about Ecology here.
"Systemic design is not a process, but a new space for harnessing dynamic complexity as a generator of innovation and value creation. Systemic design can help us to bring diverse stakeholders towards a shared frame of reference for collective action. It can help to shift the thinking, patterns, and culture of organizations and even societies. Systemic design allows us to operate beyond the boundary conditions of smooth-water approaches without becoming overwhelmed by complexity."
Alex Ryan - What is Systemic Design?
Read more about Systemic Design here.
Thanks for reading about some of the disciplines and ideas which inform my work. If you've made it this far, perhaps you'd like to connect for a chat?