Why asking questions about the wider system is essential

‘What if’ prompts to speculate potential impact around sharing data between NGOs

The questions we ask before designing a product or service are crucial.

They frame our understanding of the problem and inform the product decisions we make. Unintended consequences often arise when the framing of the problem space was too narrow or the questions asked didn’t consider the wider system.

I’m interested in exploring how technology is fundamentally shaped by the questions asked, when they are asked, and how we unpack problems.

In this short post, I will outline key questions I’ve been testing with digital teams to ensure we are designing responsibly and understand the wider context before intervening.

This…


Creating space to care for yourself and others

Illustration by Moonassi

With it being Mental Health Awareness week, I was asked if I would share my personal journey at an online event. I have never openly discussed the impact that mental illness and addiction has had on me and my family in a public space. I reluctantly said yes, knowing that it would be challenging but with the hope it might bring some healing too –– and I’m glad I did.

I’ve learnt through my own experiences that there isn’t a manual on how to deal with difficult memories and feelings. However, there are things you can do to practice self…


Poetics of space book cover, illustrated by Nick Misani, a series of line drawings of three dimensional shapes with different areas filled in with colour
Poetics of space book cover, illustrated by Nick Misani, a series of line drawings of three dimensional shapes with different areas filled in with colour
Poetics of Space book cover, illustrated by Nick Misani

Creating space for casual ‘water-cooler conversations’ is difficult in a remote setting. It often feels forced. It’s hard enough for established teams to find space to reflect and exchange stories, let alone for those who’ve never connected with their colleagues in real life because they’ve switched jobs during the pandemic.

Whether you’re setting up a new remote team or working within an existing one, it’s important to establish a structure to foster resilient and adaptable teams.

Over the past few months, I’ve been testing out some different ideas to create an environment or ‘scaffolding’ for teams to do their best…


How I catalogue my learning to grow as a practitioner

screenshot of my learnings and resources curated in Miro
screenshot of my learnings and resources curated in Miro
Catalogued learnings and resources

I’m one of those people that can’t sleep until the thoughts floating around in my head are either written down or sketched out. I used to see this as a negative thing, like an obsession to think through all possible scenarios of a given challenge or idea. Over the last year and a half I decided to try something different. I developed a system to structure my thoughts to allow space for reflection, rather than attempting to solve things immediately.

It all started with a daily moment of reflection. Every morning, for nearly 500 days now, I write or sketch…


Mapping cash aid delivery in an emergency response

When was the last time someone asked you ‘what are the unintended consequences of releasing this feature?’ Or ‘who else may be directly or indirectly affected by these product decisions?’ These questions are generally not considered or often hidden away in backlogs, as the briefs we are answering are asking us to innovate, disrupt and create the next big thing.

When everything is telling us to speed up, make faster decisions and release new iterations, we leave ourselves with less time to consider the potential negative effects our design choices may have. This product centric focus approach can be extremely…

Aly Blenkin

Interested in the intersection between design, technology, and social impact.

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