Pipe Cleaners and Post-It Notes

After nine months of designing, facilitating and implementing several design projects between our students, London Borough of Camden (LBC) and Camden residents, we are in a contemplative mood at the PCL.

Today’s reflective workshop focused on the challenges, benefits and limitations of the Public Collaboration Lab, with input from both UAL and LBC team members. On the whole, the positives outweighed the challenges and inevitably, we had far more to contribute than time would allow. However, this initial reflective session will be followed up with more comprehensive individual discussions, as well as separate design project evaluative sessions to capture everyone’s experience of the Public Collaboration Lab to date.


To the Barricades! Inflatable Cubes Build-and-Play Sessions

Linking to the Red Lines COP21 event earlier in the year, here’s a new build and play event coming up this weekend:

Saturday 16 April – Building Cubes

Sunday 17 April – Playing with Cubes

Venue: The Hive, Dalston, London (260-264 Kingsland Road, London, E8 4DG)

Register here: http://goo.gl/forms/DlzisfpPFy

They float and fly. They stand, protect and inspire. The inflatable cobblestones that were brought to life in the streets of Paris during the UN Climate talks last December are now replicating across the globe in preparation for a #BreakFree week of action this May 2016.

Our contemporary barricades are made not from barrels and rocks – but mylar insulation foil, double-sided carpet tape, and velcro.  In Paris we fought against the State of Emergency that aimed to ban all dissent and forced our way on to the streets on 12 December.  From there, we collectively resolved to take the fight to the fossil fuel industry in 2016.

From Saturday 30 April to 4 May, Reclaim the Power will hold a mass action camp to shut down the UK’s largest open cast coal mine at Ffos-y-fran in South Wales.  Later in May, international climate networks from across Europe will join together to occupy an opencast coal mine at Lausitz Germany as part of ‘Ende Gelende’. In our actions, we will use the inflatable cobblestone concept as a both a practical and symbolic tool for collective disobedience and resistance.   

To prepare our inflatable interventions, we will run three sessions in total:

Building Session 1(Time and Date still being confirmed – sorry! Check here for an update)

Building Session 2 – Saturday 16 April at the Hive, Dalston 11am – 6pm.

In these sessions, we will learn how to build the Inflatable Cubes from start to finish (it takes about 4 hours).  All materials will be provided.   Check out this chirpy 7 minute instructional video:https://vimeo.com/157500007/414539a398

You only need to attend one of the Build sessions, not both.

Play Session – Tactical Deployment  – Sunday 17 April at the Hive in Dalston, 12.30pm – 6pm.

This is a practical training session focusing specifically on how we could use the Inflatables in various action scenarios.  We will look at the role of the affinity group and experiment with how we can use the cubes for maximum tactical advantage against our fossil fuel adversaries.  Check this formations video for some ideas: https://vimeo.com/160391763/fb47dfda6e

Place are limited for the build sessions and we’ll need a clear idea of numbers, so please apply on this quick Registration form: http://goo.gl/forms/DlzisfpPFy

The building and training sessions are mostly intended for people who will be attending the End Coal Now action in Wales in May.  However, if you’re not sure if you can go to the Welsh action, don’t hold back on registering anyway.

Email info@reclaimthepower.org.uk for any questions.

With thanks,

Reclaim the Power’s Emergent Cobble Army

Knowledge Quarter Community Engagement Show & Tell

Wellcome Collection
83 Euston Rd,
London NW1 2BE

Monday 14th March 2016

Organised by the Knowledge Quarter’s Community Engagement subgroup, the Show and Tell evening event at the Wellcome Trust’s beautiful Reading Room was an opportunity to showcase the work of the Public Collaboration Lab. We exhibited the Future Libraries and Home Libraries Service projects, showing photos, videos, publications and creative consultation tools. Several Central Saint Martins MA Industrial Design students designed and made an engagement tool for the evening – a KQ Community Engagement Map – that participants could use to map the communities they work with, visually showing the networks and reach of the KQ organisations. The students were on hand for the evening, discussing their PCL work and advising on the KQ community engagement map.

The evening provided the opportunity for KQ partners to network and try out some of the community engagement activities offered by their neighbours (the baby T-Rex feet proved very popular!)

(More photos can be found in our Facebook album here.)

Full list of participants:

Service Design in Government 2016 Conference

Photograph taken by Sarah Rhodes


Beginning with a story about how a simple change in type size on a commonly used form led to two major wars and a world wide economic crisis, and ending with the metaphor of blind men describing an elephant, the Service Design in Government conference was really interesting.

Dana Chisnell from the Center for Civic Design in the US started the day with the first keynote about how design affects world peace, with the example of usability testing on American ballot designs. It was only after the 2000 American election with the ‘hanging chad’ issue that the State Department realised user testing on ballot papers would be useful. Lawsuits, economic meltdowns and IT disasters all kick start governments to look at design. Dana closed with ‘ultimately citizens will be better off because design is present’.

My main objective for attending the conference was to learn more about systems thinking, particularly in the context of design and local government. Storytelling and Design as a Tool for Systems Leaders was a mini-workshop facilitated by two collaborators; Jonny Mallinson from the Innovation Unit and Kristian Tomblin, a healthcare commissioner from Devon County Council (DCC). They collaborated on using storytelling to transform the service provision for people affected by domestic and sexual violence and abuse.

The last presentation of the day was on system thinking, given by Benjamin Taylor from the RedQuadrant consultancy. RedQuadrant work at the service end, to change public service delivery, they don’t work in digital, “I don’t think many people are doing service design in services, but in digital services”.

For Benjamin, a good way into systems thinking is American organisational theorist Russell Ackoff’s car analogy – if you take the best parts of the best cars and put them together, you don’t get the best car in the world, the parts have to be able to work together and to view the organisation as a technical problem. A whirlwind, informative tour of systems thinking, organisations and government followed.


Sarah Rhodes


Cover photo taken by Service Design in Government 2016 

Two sides of collaboration: online survey for local government

At the Public Collaboration Lab we’re conducting research to increase understanding of Higher Education Institutions’ (HEI) role in supporting innovation practices within local governments, through design-led collaborative projects (those projects that engage designers and apply design methods and approaches as a central activity within the project).

National HEIs have already shared their design-led collaborative projects with local government through an online survey. Now, we want to invite local government across the county to complete an equivalent survey.

We’d love to hear from you about your experiences of local government collaboration with HEI in design-led projects. This will help us develop typologies that illustrate different approaches to collaboration, that will help articulate synergies between design activities and local government needs and aspirations, and lead to greater potential for future collaboration.


The survey should only take 15 minutes, and your responses are completely anonymous and will only be used by us in non-commercial research that forms part of the Public Collaboration Lab project. You can only take the survey once, but you can forward it to your colleagues to participate before the survey is closed on 31st April 2016.

We thank you in advance for your participation, and look forward to sharing the findings of our research with you.

Introducing the Public Collaboration Lab Exhibition Is Now Touring

19th February to 11th March 2016

We were delighted to install the Introduction to the Public Collaboration Lab exhibition at the London Borough of Camden (LBC) offices in 5 Pancras Square at the end of last month. On Thursday 25th February we had an official launch, with members of the PCL team from both UAL and LBC available to speak about the work so far. The feedback has been very positive and we are looking forward to taking the exhibition to other venues at a later date.

Future Libraries

IMG_2161As part of a range of measures to address the challenges of reduced funding from central government, Camden Council is exploring opportunities for reshaping Camden’s library services with the aim of creating £800,000 in savings by 2018.

MA Industrial Design for Publics at Central Saint Martins explores how design and designers can contribute to collaborative creative activities that bring people together around issues of concern to them, facilitate the articulation of these concerns, and support collaborative sense making and scenario building in response to these concerns, sharing insights in meaningful and accessible ways.

In the Future Libraries project, research staff and students worked with council officers and front line staff to design creative interactions that engage library users and other citizens in talking about their concerns, needs and desires relating to future libraries.

Libary Film Export from PCL Lab on Vimeo.

Home Libraries Service

HLSThe Camden Home Library Service (HLS) delivers books to people who are housebound due to a range of health related issues. The service is currently under review due to the local government cuts.

The Home Library Service project paired MDes Service Design Innovation students from London College of Communication with HLS frontline officers who explored the future of the HLS through service design thinking methods and tools, engaging different stakeholders, including the public and Age UK. They co-designed how the HLS may be reconfigured in the future through new relationships and technology, exploring opportunities for the service to be utilised to address other societal problems such as loneliness and related social care issues.