Design for Social Innovation - It’s all about people

It’s been a year of firsts for me at Curative, and the DSI Symposium was no exception.

It’s pretty amazing how much information can get squished into your brain in such a short period of time. For the sake of brevity here are three key themes that grabbed me and actually they are said best by some of those who spoke at the symposium…


1. We must all learn to meet difference and sit with it, rather than try to fix it

- Christian Penny (Toi Whakaari) , Keynote speaker

Where this was once a room of individuals, acting individually on their interpretation of design for social innovation - there was a sense that actually we can now begin to act as a collective and that we are a community. Like any other community there is diversity amongst us, in background, in thought, in opinions and in practice. We are a community learning to be in the darkness of the unknown, but we are there together.


2. We are like the kaitiaki for this practice

- Noel Brown (DNA)

Being a freshie to this world, I expected to be the one in the room with the most questions and the least answers. In reality, we all had questions and we didn’t necessarily have the answers. We are co-creating our own practice and I came to the conclusion that we’ll always be in a state of flux, it is part of the nature of what we do, how we do it and the people we are working with. We are only guardians for our practice, not the owners, and we must let it change and grow and be there along the way.

3. If you desire a future of your making, you must fight for it. Otherwise you don’t deserve it.

- Kirsti Luke (Ngāi Tūhoe, CEO), Keynote speaker

There was a range of experience in the room, but it did feel like there were many trying to fight the side of design for social innovation and human centred design either externally or within their organisations. It’s hard to build a case to a cynic, or someone used to old school ways, when your practice doesn’t yet have all the rules (and likely won’t ever have ‘set rules’).

Here at Curative we always say people are the experts in their own lives and hearing Kirsti speak reinforced for me the privilege we have in working with communities. It reinforced that what we bring is our expertise and knowledge in order to help but I will never completely understand what life is to them. I must use my voice to stand up for what we do, so that we can strengthen the voice of the people and communities we work with. This is what we are fighting for, a future where social change isn’t something we do to people, but something we create with them.

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Jo Mitchell


Special thanks to Billy Matheson for the photographs. 

Jo Mitchell