Joinedupdesignforschools – public sector innovation in the UK

Whilst in London over the holidays, I accidentally (and happily!) ended up at the Sorrell Foundation’s Young Design Centre at Somerset House on the banks of the Thames. A fantastic display is presented in the What’s Next for Schools? exhibition, a product of the joinedupdesignforschools program.

The Sorrell Foundation was set up in 1999 to

inspire creativity in young people and to improve the quality of life through good design. The Foundation creates and prototypes new ideas, and joins up public-sector departments such as education and health with the UK’s world-class design community. It aims to deliver immediate benefits while
creating models with long-term value.

The joinedupdesignnforschools program

gives pupils the role of clients. They work in teams to create a brief for a design project that will improve the quality of life in their school. A designer or architect is appointed to work for them, and together they engage in a process that leads to innovative design concepts for schools….The creative process contains opportunities for pupils to learn and develop highly transferable skills that help them succeed, not just in creative thinking, but also in life in general.

Here are a few photos from the exhibition:


How does it work?

The joinedupdesignfroschools program breaks down the innovation process into four stages

The Foundation does not guarantee that all projects will progress to completion (due to lack of funding or feasibility issues) but for those that do, there is also a ‘follow-up’ stage.

A couple of case studies

Since 2000, over 10,000 British school children have participated in joinedupdesignforschools. I present briefly here only a few of the many projects undertaken.

Redesigning school uniforms

For one of the pilot projects in 2001, Aldercar Community School teamed up with the renowned UK fashion designer, Paul Smith, to create an alternative school uniform – the old one was considered drab and boring.

The students created mood boards and visited the Paul Smith design studios to understand the fashion design process and to discuss fashion likes and dislikes with the professional designers. The students also sought their fellow pupils’ opinions, and found there was an array of ideas about how the school uniform should look.

Aldercar and Paul Smith uniform re-design concepts

Aldercar and Paul Smith uniform re-design concepts

Though it seems the final implementation of the project may not have pleased everyone, the students gained a vital understanding of the (fashion) design process – its advantages and its constraints.

Redesigning an outdoor recreation area

Students at the Henry Compton School in London identified that their outdoor play area was uninspiring and presented a poor image of the school. As the boys explain in the video below, the playground is a mixture of bitumen and cars with not much else.

A team of pupils from the school worked with student designers from the University of the Arts London and an industry mentor to re-design the play area. They conducted research – including visiting the Tate Modern, and put together a brief for the design team, using, in part, the above video.

The final design (PDF, page 5) comprised of a running track, an improved gym, sheltered outdoor picnic areas and greenery. This project has not yet been realised.

Go check it out!

If you’re in London, I thoroughly recommend having a look at the Young Design Centre – the success being achieved through this program of co-design is impressive, and, perhaps more importantly, the benefit to the childrens’ self-esteem appears invaluable. Students, teachers and designers have all gained from their involvement in the program – see what they have to say.

And if you’re in Australia, do you know of any examples of co-design occurring in our education systems? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Find out more about joinedupdesignforschools

events, service design

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