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:


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.

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.

Empathy and Employment

photo 2Inspired by the expectation that empathy between societal actors may foster greater collaboration and contribute to the conditions for social innovation, the Empathy and Employment project explored how the design of objects can facilitate interactions that foster empathy in the context of employment.

With the assistance of BA Product Design students from Central Saint Martins, the project brought together employers and residents in the rapidly developing, but relatively deprived, London area Somers Town. Through a collaborative process, students designed objects and interactions which enabled employers and residents to creatively communicate a wide spectrum of emotions about their needs, challenges and aspirations related to job seeking and recruitment, and to understand and empathise with each other’s experiences and perspectives.

Design Ethnography Research in the Rain – A case of literally being out of our comfort zone

“Where did you find out about planning consultation?

When I trained to be an architect”


Our students shouldn’t be surprised to meet a trained architect when interviewing people on the street in Kings Cross as it’s such a diverse and busy area but, because their current project is Reimagining Planning, it did seem fortuitous.

The students are in the first stage of the Reimagining Planning Design Sprint, a four-week collaborative project for Management Science students from UCL and designers from UAL. The project brings together students, users, non-users and experts from different backgrounds to collaborate to understand perspectives, co-design and prototype ideas for better ways to engage people in processes of neighbourhood planning and development control in the London Borough of Camden. Today, my group were using ethnography research methods to elicit information from a housing development site on Gray’s Inn Road.

After starting as a cold, dry week it was raining, making stopping people on the street to ask them questions a bit more difficult than it would have been a few days earlier. Beginning the consultations in the small French café drew positive comments from the business owner, who welcomed the increased customer base the 60 new homes will bring. And it was in a neighbouring café that the ex-architecture student was found. On the surface, the development seems to be optimistically received, but we shall wait to see whether this remains the case, when the students have dug a bit deeper and included data drawn from interviews with the experts in the field (hopefully not carried out in the rain).

Sarah Rhodes

A Vegetarian Octopus, a Pineapple and a Box…

…not the latest weird detox diet or the beginning of a joke, but a creative exercise to kick-start a PCL student project focusing on Youth Hubs in Camden. PCL Principle Investigator Professor Adam Thorpe facilitated a workshop for first year CSM MA Narrative Environment students on co-discovery. The group is made up of ten students from ten different countries that all bring their cultural influences, as well as their differing design disciplines, to the work.

This project gives the students a unique insight into how their skills and competences can contribute to the co-creation of place-based propositions for local societal challenges. The students will act as a bridge between a range of different organisations and individuals, helping to articulate and visualise the narratives of young people that are often overlooked. The group is divided into three smaller groups who have so far scoped their different youth centers and met some of the teenagers who use them, as well as interviewing the staff. The initial site visits have introduced the students to the buildings, people and the locales they will be working in. Some of the students managed to squeeze a game of pool in too, all in the name of research, of course.

Sarah Rhodes

Human-centred Design and Systems Thinking: Two Approaches Workshop

The PCL pairs design students and staff from the University of the Arts London with staff from the London Borough of Camden Strategy and Change Service, specifically the Systems Thinking Team. Ostensibly, both these collaborators use seemingly similar terminology to describe the methodology and methods of their work, although the ways in which they operate differ.

Through this workshop we examined the differences and similarities in our two approaches (human-centred design and systems thinking) and explored the possibility of developing a framework for integrating aspects of both, which we can subsequently test with the PCL. We looked at whether there is a language and/or a process that makes sense to all contributors of the PCL.


Working in pairs (one designer, one systems thinker), we examined the terms both approaches use and whether we can combine the two models we use – the design double diamond and the systems thinking loop.

In concluding the workshop, it seems clear that human-centred design can help systems thinking in the scoping phase of a project (particularly in scoping outside the organisation) and systems thinking can help human-centred design in the briefing stage.

We look forward to exploring this further as the PCL progresses and testing our assumptions in a practical way.


Sarah Rhodes