BIO Links via Agents of Change

This blog post reports on work-in-progress within the DfG course! The post is written by group 1A dealing with the Prime Minister’s Office’s brief on ‘Fostering Policy Coherence in Biodiversity’. The group includes Meeri Aaria from the Collaborative and Industrial Design program, Arpa Aishwarya from the Urban Studies and Planning program, Kamilla Grämer from the Creative Sustainability program, and Haoyue Lei from the Environmental Design and Creative Sustainability program.

Written by: Haoyue Lei

When we first met in the Design for Government class in February, we never knew we would come so far! The previous blogs tracked our journey from understanding the current policy-making system to ideating potential changes. At the time of writing this last blog, we just had our final show at the National Pension Institutions, proudly presenting our proposal to our partners. For those who couldn’t attend, this blog is a good opportunity to have a glimpse into our work and the journey that led to it. And for those who were there, you might find some behind-the-scenes details that we didn’t get to share during the presentation.

Sparkling time in the final show © CREATIVE COMMONS CC BY 4.0 2024. Meeri Aaria, Arpa Aishwarya, Kamilla Grämer, Haoyue Lei. DESIGN FOR GOVERNMENT. AALTO UNIVERSITY.

Our proposal is developed from the idea of identifying change agents. We envision a network system that connects these motivated but often siloed individuals in change-making, leading to the coherence of policies. Therefore, we named our work, ‘BIO Links via Agents of Change’. Our proposal outlines a pathway for integrating this network of change agents into the existing government system, structured in four steps. And although these steps are presented sequentially, we recommend stakeholders revisit and refine these steps every 12 months (it is inspired by our study on the policy circle!).

4 steps towards the Change Agent Network © CREATIVE COMMONS CC BY 4.0 2024. Meeri Aaria, Arpa Aishwarya, Kamilla Grämer, Haoyue Lei. DESIGN FOR GOVERNMENT. AALTO UNIVERSITY.

To help our partners adopt this pathway, we outlined “how it works” and “where to start” for each step. Let’s start at the first step, Build the Network! It involves establishing a network of change agents through both formal positions and informal frameworks. During the ideation session, the pros and cons of formality has been discussed a lot. This hybrid mode in the final proposal is intended to balance impact influence and self-driven freedom. Also,  we suggest the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to be the facilitator of change agents’ recruitment. In our ideation process, the incentives are another struggle for us. Among dozens them, we favor the idea of a special LinkedIn profile for change agents to booster their career and showcase their commitment in biodiversity— imagine displaying a badge of BIO Change Agent on your LinkedIn profile! How appealing is that!

The second step is to Unify the Pathway. After assembling the change agents, we now try to align them by jointly strategy making, vision sharing, and value assessment. We want to achieve policy coherence on the interpersonal scale. So, this step highly values transparency and traceability in communication. We discover many existing tools for this step, such as the OECD Coherence Matrix (2022, P17) and the UNEP Action Checklist (2021, P105).

The third step, Create Links, establishes contact points for change agents to interact and integrate biodiversity into their work. We propose a four-tiered approach to creating links, varying in formality, size, and frequency: from a 24/7 online forum to an annual network conference. We especially designed a contact list template for our partners to visualize details and schedules for these connections.

The fourth step, Assess the Strategies. It involves evaluating progress at three key times during the 12-month term. we designed a checklist to help cross-check intentions and targets in the network. Also, we believe effective communication of assessment results is crucial. In response, the four-tiered approach in the third step are highlighted again,  to provide feedback and gather additional information.

In the final show, our partners highlighted that the “change agent” concept has been discussed within government departments. We are so glad to hear that we and the partners are processing together. Although our proposal is still a long way from being realized, the fact that it is already being discussed is a very positive sign.

However, we are aware of the limitations of this proposal. Some limitations come from the subjective factors of this research process. This 14-week research journey only allows our team to propose one possibility without practical testing. Also, there are only four members in this research team, and the interviewee samples are limited, compared to the large population of public servants and stakeholders. In other words, personal bias is inevitable in this process.

At the same time, we recognize the limitation in the social background — resistance to change. There are two significant resistance forces. The withdrawal of the Finnish government is the primary one. According to our interviewees, the Finnish government is now trying to decrease the financial budget for biodiversity recovery, limiting the financial support and human resources for practical changes. Additionally, the contradictory voices against biodiversity-benefit action are still recognizable. One proof is the consistent protest from the Finnish farmer community (Hodgson, 2024). Though there are a lot of compromises in the policies, the negotiation for mutual benefit is far from enough. With these resistance efforts, the our final proposal would have to be refined further to be implemented.

However, we believe the change is necessary, and it is necessary NOW! We don’t aim to provide a one-time-to-all solution for policy coherence, but a preferable future for the central government and a potential direction. Through this journey of depicting future, it is absolutely clear that some changes in mindset are already happening in the government house. Though we are not optimistic about the practical outcome of our proposal, we are confident that the efforts toward the proposed future are worth a try!

Now, at the end of our four blogs, I would also like to ask you, our dear readers: Are you a change agent?

Other sparkling moments during the process © CREATIVE COMMONS CC BY 4.0 2024. Meeri Aaria, Arpa Aishwarya, Kamilla Grämer, Haoyue Lei. DESIGN FOR GOVERNMENT. AALTO UNIVERSITY.


1. Hodgson, R. (2024, March 20). Fate of Nature Restoration Law could be decided in Budapest. Euronews.

2. OECD (2022). Italy’s National Action Plan for Policy Coherence for Sustainable Development. OECD Publishing.

3. United Nations Environment Programme (2021). Making peace with nature: A scientific blueprint to tackle the climate, biodiversity and pollution emergencies. United Nations Environment Programme.

The DfG course runs for 14 weeks each spring – the 2024 course has now started and runs from 26 Feb to 29 May. It’s an advanced studio course in which students work in multidisciplinary teams to address project briefs commissioned by governmental ministries in Finland. The course proceeds through the spring as a series of teaching modules in which various research and design methods are applied to address the project briefs. Blog posts are written by student groups, in which they share news, experiences and insights from within the course activities and their project development.

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