For the last few weeks I've been in full on COVID-19 response mode for my organisation (Conservation Volunteers), mostly focusing on marshalling internal and external communications as we moved towards a shut down of our in-person volunteering to do our bit to slow the spread of coronavirus.

My attention this week started to turn to the implications of postponing our core activities. …

Complexity is too…. Complex.

What do people mean when they use terms like Systems Thinking and Complexity? Why are the definitions so dense and hard to engage with? Why are they so… complex?

“the complexity of a system emerges from the interactions of its interrelated elements as opposed to the characteristics of those elements in and of themselves. Complexity science is the study of such emergent system behavior, and seeks to understand how the complex behavior of a whole system arises from its interacting parts. Complex behavior generally cannot be reduced to, or derived from, the sum of the behavior of the system’s components.”…

Photo by Bruno Ramos Lara on Unsplash

On Converging Ideas, Connecting Dots & Designing Platforms

This is a fieldnote which attempts to articulate four ingredients which are mixing around in my head, all converging to inform the development of a platform to support environmental conservation groups.

** It was originally published on my personal Fieldnotes site, where there’s no paywall and an easy subscribe button too :) **

This article was originally published on, where I am now primarily publishing my notes from the field.

Since 2013, I’ve been exploring how we can support Conservation groups around the world using technology. 6 years later and I’m exploring that same problem in a new and exciting way.

The News

I’ve decided it’s time to end the Volunteer Impact / Kanopi journey. At least, in it’s current form.

The good news is, that I am still working on the idea of a digital platform for the conservation sector, with my (old and) new employer, Conservation Volunteers.


I have begun shutting down…

Photo by Jonathan Kemper on Unsplash

Reflections after exploring a funder program officer role

*Don’t believe the ‘11 minutes to read’ — this is because there’s a comprehensive References section which makes the post about double the length!*

Recently I’ve been looking into finding a new home for some of my skills and experience. I’ve worked across design agencies, youth development, environmental conservation, tech startups and social labs, amongst others – my background is multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral, so finding a vehicle through which I can serve wholly can be somewhat tricky. …

Working with organic materials to shift mindsets

I was recently invited to work with Swinburne University’s students studying a Masters of Design Strategy & Innovation, by the excellent incognito sum. We had met up and started talking about where Design (and the world) is headed, and we came to the conclusion that a 2 part workshop might act as a good provocation — the first part, a talk about ‘Decentering The User’, and the second part a participatory toolkit session to reflect back their studies on Design Leadership thus far.

I hope to write up the Decentering The User talk as well soon, just follow this Fieldnotes…

Kulin Nation, Australia

Part 1: A Systems Leadership Journey Begins

I was extremely grateful for the excellent Rachel Sinha & Tatiana Fraser recognising the need for a localised Australia & New Zealand cohort, for their pioneering peer-learning leadership program, The Systems Sanctuary.

Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

Modelling and communicating how to shift systems

As I’ve written about in the recent past, I focused my recently completed Masters of Design focused on a domain I’m particularly passionate about — environmental issues.

This post aims to uncover some of the research, thinking and framing of systems change and systemic action, from my Masters Thesis. I share the model I worked with to communicate my systems change initiatives.

If you’re interested in a spot of reading, you can read the entirety here:


  • Communicating the research, synthesis, strategy + execution for systems change is difficult but necessary. I present a model for doing that.
  • I share how…

Perspectives on Systems Change, Strategic Design, and Seasonality

This post is dedicated to my father, Mark, who passed away in February this year. Dad taught me so many important lessons about life, work, and what it means to try to bring a little joy to people’s lives.

This year has been difficult. The sudden passing of my father led to rapid shifting of priorities, the darkness of grief, and quiet support from a small cadre of very good humans. Thank you to you all, you brought light in a very dark year.

However this post isn’t about grief, it’s focused on some professional reflections from my work which…

A selection of books from my Masters research

My top 15 books and articles from a Masters of Design

I recently handed in my thesis for my Masters of Design (MDes). It centered on how we can improve the social and environmental outcomes of environmental conservation projects, and took a slant towards systems change.

I studied part time over 2.5 years, whilst continuing to sharpen my practice of addressing complex challenges in the field, so built up a wide landscape of reading.

This post begins to explore and make accessible the research from a range of different angles, because to be honest, how many people are actually going to read a 10k word thesis these days?

That said, if…

Sam Rye

Connecting with people with purpose; working to make people more comfortable working in complexity, so we can make better decisions that restore our planet.

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