Emma Barrett Palmer

Emma brings passion and creativity to the table, pushing at the boundaries of humanitarian and systems innovation. She is a skilled and creative facilitator, researcher, educator and leader. Her unique experiences in inclusive and participatory design enable people to live and work better together. 

Professional roles


  • authentic, creative and action-orientated leadership
  • passion, empathy and commitment to ethical and inclusive change
  • highly skilled communicator, listener and international public speaker 
  • understanding of complex organisational, ethical and legal frameworks 
  • qualitative and multi-method research and analysis techniques
  • whole systems thinking - intercultural, interdisciplinary, intergenerational
  • multi-stakeholder community facilitation, organisation and action
  • strategic and humanitarian innovation
  • collaborative and participatory design methodologies for full cycle strategy, service and product development

Experience, impact and recognition

  • Cutting-edge research and understanding

The Welcome Tent - a roaming ex-army catering tent - is a new model comparable to a "lab" space but which aims to be more inclusive and accessible using multi-sensory expression through universal languages. 

Earlier in 2017 a collaboration with IRISS - Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services - in Scotland, 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)
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