Small Actions = BIG Impact

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: Arpa Aishwarya

Human actions are the leading cause of most threats to biodiversity, either directly or indirectly. This also outlines that changing human behaviour allows us to reverse the current crisis at hand. Small actions by many people collectively can bring impactful change to achieve a global goal like biodiversity (Bowie et al., 2020). Yet policymakers have made limited progress in mitigating its challenges due to their path-dependent behaviour that fails to support new interventions. While evolution brings continuous transformations to our planet, how do we think stagnant policy ideologies can be a solution to support our planetary boundaries? Are our policymakers ready to take their small action for change?


Change Agents in Action © CREATIVE COMMONS CC BY 4.0 2024. Meeri Aaria, Arpa Aishwarya, Kamilla Grämer, Haoyue Lei. DESIGN FOR GOVERNMENT. AALTO UNIVERSITY.


Who’s ready to lose control?

As we enter the second half of our project, we see how similar small changes within our ministries can bring radical transformation to build policy coherence horizontally. However, as Meadows (1999) states, encouraging variability and experimentation directs towards a state of ‘losing control’. So, the critical question here is, who is ready to lose control? Reflecting on their years of experience collaborating with various ministries, our partners at the Prime Minister’s Office have come across officials within these institutions who are highly motivated to step away from the path carved for them and foster new ways of thinking. We call these individuals ‘Change Agents’ who take the initiative and orchestrate new changes within an organisation. In this blog, I will share how we think the Prime Minister’s Office can facilitate the ‘Change Agents’ to take small actions towards reaching the nation’s vision for biodiversity.


Change-making process: Where do we begin?

As a group, we think that the Prime Minister’s Office has the most comprehensive understanding of policies on biodiversity and their cross-linkages. Hence we propose our partners in VNK take the role of ‘Leads’ of this change-making process and support the change agents within the policy-making cycle. Now, I will share with you two actionable steps that our team thinks VNK can take to catalyse this transformation.

1. Connecting the “Change Agent Network” 

While solving the challenge of policy coherence, we also decided to practice coherence practices within our classroom boundaries. As it has been a while, let me remind you that we are three teams working in the same case of policy coherence. However, within different strategic levels of cross-ministerial, inter-department and vertical agencies. Our weekly supergroup meetings have been very insightful in seeing the bigger picture of the challenge we are trying to solve. One such insight was realizing that we all found potential ‘Change Agents’ within our targeted lvels.

From there came our first actionable step, connecting the network of change agents. Starting with our leads in VNK, we suggest the network grows first within its Strategy Department, then across the 11 ministries, and their departments and finally reaching the vertical agencies they are associated with. With time, the ‘Change Agent Champagne’ will trickle down the tower reaching out to every spirited individual ready to pop the bubble of their organisational silo!


Change agents in all levels © CREATIVE COMMONS CC BY 4.0 2024. Meeri Aaria, Arpa Aishwarya, Kamilla Grämer, Haoyue Lei. DESIGN FOR GOVERNMENT. AALTO UNIVERSITY.

2. Support for Knowledge Creation

Science says that our understanding of global ecological processes is strongly linked to the outcomes of our environmental decision-making (Pitzén et al., 2023). We know that our change agents are highly spirited but do they have ‘sufficient’ knowledge about biodiversity? Evaluation of their existing knowledge can give us the answer to that question, but what is more important is the system has accessible education support for those who need it. Our partners at VNK see this educational approach as a great stepping stone to generate knowledge about biodiversity but also to strengthen experts’ collaborative skills for better decision-making. As designers, we can smell a need for a design intervention here! Do you agree?



As I mentioned at the beginning of my blog, to create a big impact, small actions need to be taken collectively by many individuals. That means our change agents need to actively voice their motivation to influence future change agents within their teams. Let’s bring in a pandemic reference to make this clearer. It’s like the more people in a room catch the flu, the more people it gets spread to. Strengthening positive feedback loops has been shown to bring growth within existing systems. Currently, with this understanding of how our partner, VNK, can facilitate this change-making process, our team is eagerly waiting to outline a design intervention for the next phase of our project.

Interested in our design intervention?

Remember to keep an eye on our final blog post!



Bowie, M. J., Dietrich, T., Cassey, P., & Veríssimo, D. (2020). Co-designing behavior change interventions to conserve biodiversity. Conservation Science and Practice, 2(11).

Meadows, D. (1999). Leverage Points Places to Intervene in a System.

Pitzén, S., Lukkarinen, J., & Primmer, E. (2023). Coherent at face value: Integration of forest carbon targets in Finnish policy strategies. Ambio, 52(11), 1861–1877.


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. More information here about the DfG 2024 project briefs. Hold the date for the public finale on Wednesday 29 May!

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