The Lab’s Ideas

With the themes underway and the agenda set, it was time to start experimenting with our ideas.

Over a rapid week- long design sprint, our ‘sprinters’ formed mixed teams, clustering around topics of shared interest. In just a few days they had to research their topic, observe the spaces and places they wanted to explore, find and interview users, develop ideas, build initial prototypes, test them in the real world, capture learnings and then prepare a vision for what the idea could become in its next iteration.

 

 

In Tandem

“How might we make outdoor connections between people who are at home all day?”

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AJMAL ISMAIL
COMMERCIAL MANAGER,LENDLEASE

JANE SCOBIE
POSITIVE AGEING CONSULTANT

Overview
Some of the loneliest people are at home all day, through circumstance eg. working from home or caring for young children, or because of poor physical or mental health. In Tandem wanted to explore ways to help people at home connect together outside.

During their research in West Walworth, they identified local community garden groups interested in socially-prescribed gardening activities, and found many local spaces and places for lonely people to connect. But there wasn’t much information about how to find those spaces or who to connect with.

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Building on the Kick Off event insight that to access hard to reach people you need to go where they go as part of their routine, the group designed and prototyped “a facilitated well-being walk” from the GP surgery to local community gardens and spaces.

The walk was co-designed with members of the community and trialled with residents, who expressed pride in their community spaces and were keen to enjoy local nature and heritage.

Patients at the GP surgery were interested in the idea of facilitated walks as a way of getting out and meeting people, and our vision is for regular lunchtime walks from the surgery, supported by maps and signage and hosted by volunteers who can introduce people to the community gardens.

What They Learned

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  • Even a small intervention like this is enthusiastically received.

  • The weather is important!

  • Co-create ‘places of interest’ with people who live there, build on existing community initiatives and tap in to local pride

  • Start and end the walk in familiar, ‘neutral’ places eg. GP surgeries, McDonald’s

  • Develop a good relationship with the GP surgery and build on the growing importance of ‘social prescribing

Next Steps

  • Second prototype for the West Walworth well-being walk, with a physical and online map

  • Share learnings and micro-insights about the local community with relevant groups in Southwark via Lendlease and Southwark Council

  • Identify ways to link to social prescribing best practice, working with local GPs and Clinical Commission Groups, and nationally with the Royal College of GPs

 

 

Hack Your Halls

“How might we change student accommodation to eliminate loneliness and address mental health issues?”

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JAKE HEITLAND
DEVELOPMENT COMMERCIAL MANAGER,LENDLEASE

LAETITIA LUCY
ECONOMIC CONSULTANT, ARUP

Overview
Reports of student mental health issues have increased fivefold in the last decade, and this group wanted to explore how student accommodation design could tackle loneliness. To ensure the prototype was student-led, the group visited universities and halls across South London, interviewing students about loneliness and mental health. Students shared that halls could feel isolating, sterile and unwelcoming, and that whilst they had a strong appetite to make halls feel more cosy, communal and friendly, cost, safety measures and management rules often made it difficult.

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The group created a prototype ‘hack box’ with students, including items to make their space feel better such as lighting gels, cushions and plants. Their vision is that the hack box will be given out across a student accommodation block, with students empowered to shape their spaces to make them feel more like home, in combination with better signposting to university mental health services and student-led welcoming events. Designers could then engage with students who have hacked their halls to co-design future student accommodation

What They Learned

  • This is emotional work and the horror stories were heartbreaking - we felt a real sense of responsibility to the communities we met and wanted to help

  • The lack of single ownership and management creates a serious disconnect between universities and student halls - leaving some vulnerable students unidentified and unsupported

  • Extroverts and introverts have very different experiences of living in halls, and accommodation design needs to take both in to account

  • Students feel health and safety and cost have been prioritised over mental health in the design process - literally putting lives at risk

  • User co-design unlocks the answers quickly and gives a powerful sense of agency over spaces.

Next Steps

  • Work with design students and university groups to create a ‘hack box’

  • Partner with brands like Ikea to fill the hack boxes

  • Trial the hack box in several halls of residence

  • Speak to various universities to identify and address gaps in mental health services between student accommodation providers and universities

 

 

London is Lonely

“How might we tackle the stigma surrounding loneliness and get london talking?”

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TESSA BLENCOWE
DIGITAL STORYTELLER & FILMMAKER

IRENE PALACIO
DESIGNER & PHOTOGRAPHER

Overview
Despite loneliness being a widespread issue, the stigma around admitting it means that, far too often, people don’t reach out for help, even to their closest friends, family and colleagues. This is particularly true of young people, who, according to recent research, are by far the most affected.

This project group set out to tackle stigma in two ways - by highlighting that loneliness is an issue that can affect everyone, and by using artistic storytelling to get Londoners talking about loneliness.

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They created an immersive art gallery experience, combining portraits of lonely Londoners with audio interviews. Members of the public were invited to take headphones and listen to these stories. This encouraged them to open up about their own experiences, and the feedback was really positive. People said they were grateful for the chance to talk and were surprised how much better they felt for sharing their story. They were reassured by hearing and seeing other people’s stories of loneliness, and felt a sense of shame had been lifted from them.

What They Learned

  • Don’t wait for permission, funding or the perfect idea- the prototype gallery took a few hours to plan and create and was set up in-between two shops on a busy street. It worked!

  • People want to talk about loneliness and feel heard- the act of sharing is itself a first step to feeling better

  • The diversity of stories enabled everyone to feel they are not alone in their loneliness

  • Loneliness really doesn’t discriminate- the group were surprised by just how diverse the stories were in the short space of time they were on the street.

Next Steps

  • Following up with members of the public to find out what impact the gallery had on them 2-3 weeks later

  • Further develop the user journey ensuring that the gallery can signpost people to support

  • A guerilla gallery in 100 spaces around London - using underutilised spaces across the city

  • Gathering 100 stories of loneliness in London, representing every borough in the city, and sharing insights with policy-makers and practitioners at a public launch.

 

 

Elephant Says Hi

“How might we connect newcomers to existing communities in the local area?”

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TANIA HAN
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NGO CONSULTANT

LIZA MAKAROV
INNOVATION CONSULTANT, CULTURE CLINIC

JENNY SAWYER
SENIOR DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, LENDLEASE

Overview
Elephant and Castle is an area of London experiencing rapid change. It has new and existing communities living side by side, but with limited interaction. We know that transition times are when people can feel really lonely, especially when moving to a new area.

The group set off by interviewing residents and discovered that many of the ‘newer’ residents used the area as a base to get to other parts of London quickly, and didn’t feel a sense of belonging to Elephant and Castle.

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In comparison, existing residents have a real sense of place. The group designed and tested a campaign, Elephant Says Hi, to help create a sense of belonging in the community, and to connect all residents with spaces, places, groups and activities across the borough. Early feedback was positive, particularly with local retailers. Their vision is to create a grassroots campaign led by the community to encourage all residents to feel at home in Elephant and Castle.

What They Learned

  • Prototyping and user research can push you very far out of your comfort zone - but it’s hugely valuable in generating fast insights and learnings

  • A lot can be achieved in a short space of time with a limited budget

  • When working with new collaborators, check-ins are really valuable to ensure everyone is feeling valued and their ideas are being heard

  • There is huge value in co-designing with the community - in this case, retailers and residents had really valuable insights, and are likely to be engaged more if they are brought on the journey.

Next Steps

  • Identify local creatives,students and community groups to co-design the campaign and tap into the power of social media

  • Hold a creative session todevelop the campaign further

  • Prototype with pilot retailers, groups, spaces and places and get user feedback.

 

 

Craftmoves

“How can we make public transport more sociable and facilitate meaningful interaction between strangers?”

KAREN ARTHUR
FASHION DESIGNER & SEWING TUTOR

LEXIAN PORTER
STUDENT & DISABILITY ACTIVIST

EDITH WHITEHEAD
PHOTOGRAPHER

Overview
This group explored the role of everyday interactions between strangers as a way to combat loneliness and isolation. They focused on public transport, typically an anti-social place, but somewhere many people interact already on a daily basis.

Using craft, they tested the role of small acts of disruption to facilitate conversations between strangers. The craft they choose was simple and accessible, from colouring in, to folding simple origami and cross stitch, and then encouraged people to pass them on as gifts, creating more opportunities for conversation and connection. The feedback was extremely positive, with many commenting that the intervention had ‘made their day’.

Their vision is for craft kits to be shared on tubes and buses, and for crafting and interaction between strangers to become normalised on public transport.

What They Learned

  • Craft is a simple but effective way to get people talking - without direct eye contact, it feels more subtle

  • Authorities can be really supportive - ticket stations at TFL were very supportive and helped refund fees

  • Rush hour is best avoided

  • Need a low barrier to entry - e.g., colouring in.

Next Steps

  • Do several more prototypes to explore which methods are most engaging

  • Follow up with users to assess impact and the user journey

  • Engage with TFL, and either Metro or Evening Standard, to develop a pilot

  • Crowdfunding campaign to cover cost of kits and training volunteers.

 

 

Know Your Neighbourhood

“How might we connect residents in high density buildings?”

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VICKY HILL
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT, FABRIK

REBECCA COWAN
CONSTRUCTION DESIGN MANAGER, LENDLEASE

TOBY KESTERTON
DIGITAL MARKETER, LENDLEASE

DAVID FEARON
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT, URBEN


Overview
Apartment buildings offer so much potential for community - but modern design features such as fire safety doors, lifts, security entrances for each floor, and restrictions on use of communal areas for things like washing and plants, mean that all too often neighbours never even see each other, let alone get to know each other.

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This group explored how to use small design interventions to nudge neighbours into connecting and meeting. They prototyped an initiative where each day neighbours were asked to share how they feel using colour codes displayed in a communal lobby. The vision for this group is to trial more interventions like this one, make a playbook for apartment designers and also scale up ideas across new developments in London.

What They Learned

  • Have a big vision, but find the simplest and cheapest possible way to prototype it - the original idea for interactive mood lighting became post-it notes

  • Iterate - be prepared to evolve the idea each day based on feedback

  • Permissions make change almost impossible - the system is set up to stop residents doing anything in these spaces. Even post-its on a door were a problem

Next Steps

  • Further prototypes in the same block to assess the impact of interventions on community interactions, iterating the idea further

  • Test in other blocks in different contexts eg. social housing, existing blocks

  • Develop a full pilot in a new block in Elephant Park

  • Share learnings with other developers and designers.

 

 

Yellow Balloon

“How might we use underused spaces in buildings to enable residents to share and connect?”

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XAN GOETZEE-BARRAL
PROJECT OFFICER, SUSTRANS

THOMAS BRYANS
ARCHITECT & CO-FOUNDER, IF DO

ALEX QUATTRONE
CONSULTANT, HATCH REGENERIS

KATE BEECHING
COMMUNITIES TEAM,CLARION HOUSING GROUP



Overview
There are many residential areas and streets with under-utilised spaces, from pocket parks to the undercrofts of buildings, that could be places for connection. But all too often they are places that feel neglected and unwelcoming, and can even foster fear. This group spent four days experimenting with the undercroft in Drapers Estate, a large covered area at the entrance to the apartment building. They interviewed several residents in the block about their lives, loneliness and how they felt about the undercroft space.

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The group then designed an intervention, delivering a yellow balloon to each flat and asking residents to write their story or a message to their neighbours. All the balloons were brought into the space, and residents were encouraged to read each other’s messages. On the final day, the group used large pieces of yellow fabric to amplify the messages and encourage more interaction. The project received generally positive feedback, with a call for greater engagement within the community.

The group’s vision is to do further experiments like this one, both at Drapers and elsewhere, to explore how temporary installations can create connection, and to create a playbook for local authorities, architects and developers to incorporate into new and existing spaces.

What They Learned

  • Engage key community leaders early on, e.g., Residents' Association

  • Have at least one resident in the project group to increase buy-in

  • Simple day-long interventions can inform the design process of something longer

  • Simple interventions can start conversations and connections; playful interventions are a great connector - the balloons worked well

  • People are really open to engaging - they want the place where they live to be more friendly.Next Steps

  • Further prototypes in the same block to assess the impact of interventions on community interactions, iterating the idea further

  • Test in other blocks in different contexts eg. social housing, existing blocks

  • Develop a full pilot in a new block in Elephant Park

  • Share learnings with other developers and designers.

Next Steps

  • Revisit Drapers and conduct further research and testing, and evaluate the impact of the installation

  • Adapt and test the idea of installations in other blocks, working over a longer time frame, to ensure the residents can be more involved in the design process

  • Cretae a playbook to use installations in other new and existing blocks and streets.

 

 

Social Library

“How might existing public places enhance social connections?”

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FLORENCE GUPPY
PROGRAMME LEAD, HARINGEY COUNCIL

MIRANDA KIMBALL
PLACE DEVELOPMENT MANAGER, LENDLEASE

ZOSIA POULTER
BRAND MANAGER, NESTA

ANGELA BRENNAN
DEVELOPMENT MANAGER - IQL, LENDLEASE



Overview
Our cities are abundant with spaces created, in part, for the role they can play in fostering connection, places like libraries, parks and leisure centres. Yet these spaces often fail to serve the loneliest members of our communities. What if we reimagined their role as places for connection, and designed them with that in mind?

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This group explored the role of libraries as places for connection, observing several libraries in Southwark and Haringey to research how users currently connect in the space and experimenting with ways to make them more interactive. They tested small ‘hacks’ or ‘nudges’ to facilitate connection. For example, moving newspapers into coffee table style layouts to encourage people to read more socially, and wearing badges to give people permission to start a conversation. The reaction was positive with people connecting and conversing. They also researched other libraries and are sharing their learning with the government’s ‘Libraries Taskforce’. Their vision is to create a series of toolkits sharing best practice amongst local authorities, starting with a toolkit on libraries.

What They Learned

  • Even the smallest changes can have a big impact on how users interact within a space

  • Local authorities are looking for support, learnings and ideas -they are time and resource poor

  • There are pockets of brilliant case studies all over

  • There isa lot of value in collating and sharing what works.

Next Steps

  • Create a draft library toolkit

  • Host a gathering of librarians to further build on toolkit and share learning

  • Measure impact of interventions and collect case studies

  • Explore the role of toolkits for other spaces

 

 

Technology Against Loneliness

“How might we use technology to create meaningful connections between elderly people?”

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KATRINA CURRIE
HEAD OF PRODUCT SUPPORT, KRAYDEL

ADAM SUTCLIFFE
HEAD OF EXPERIENCE, KRAYDEL

ROSS WEATHERBURN
PROJECT MANAGER, LENDLEASE

RUSHIV NAYEE
SERVICE IMPROVEMENT OFFICER, BRITISH RED CROSS



Overview
While technology is often cited as a driver of loneliness, particularly amongst younger generations, it can also play a valuable role in connecting those who are unable to leave their homes, or find it difficult to get outside as much as they would like.

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The group trialled the idea of ‘virtual lounges’ with a number of elderly and isolated users, using video technology to connect multiple isolated users and explore the role of these lounges in tackling their feelings of loneliness. They discovered that users wanted to actually do things on the calls and not just talk, such as attend a virtual class.

The feedback from members of the community and from peoplewho work with the elderly and chronically lonely was positive.Their vision is a programme ofvirtual lounges trialled in 2019 in partnership with the British Red Cross and Kraydel.

What They Learned

  • The hardest to reach users take a lot of time to identify and find. It’s important to find groups who have accessed them already and work with them

  • Prototyping and sprinting requires hustle - don’t wait for emails, pick up the phone

  • Technology is not enough of an enabler on its own, it needs facilitation

  • People don’t want to interact with strangers at random - they want to use technology to interact with people they already know or can relate to in some way

  • Joining a group virtually before going in person can help to overcome anxiety at starting a new activity

  • People want to do stuff online - not just talk, e.g., learn something, play games, do activities

  • Prototyping doesn’t have to be as scary as you think - it can be as simple as sitting with someone and testing out a video call.

Next Steps

  • The group are sharing their learnings to inform a larger scale pilot between British Red Cross and Kraydel to trial virtual lounges

  • Virtual webinars are being trialled in a Lendlease site to engage local care homes in the development of the local area.

 

 

East Street

“How can we break down the barriers preventing people from participating in shared spaces?”

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EVIE TREANOR
CONSTRUCTION PROJECT MANAGER, LENDLEASE

ALAN BRYANT
SENIOR STRATEGIST, LIVITY

MEG SODZAWICZNY
RETAIL DEVELOPTMENT MANAGER, LENDLEASE

DANIEL BLYDEN
DESIGNER, IMPACT HUB



Overview
The group focused on East Street market in South London, formerly one of London's most popular markets. The market footfall is now in decline, partly because newer residents don’t shop there. Whilst initiatives have already been put in place to create community spaces in the area, they are not used, and new residents don’t feel a sense of belonging in these spaces. The group spent three days immersed in the market, researching loneliness and connection with market stall owners and shoppers.

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The group realised that shopkeepers were trusted, knowledgeable, and that they could provide the invitation needed to encourage participation in shared spaces.Over the next two days, the team took over a shop on East Street and encouraged locals to come in to co-create the space. Itbecame A Public Living Room andthey asked the shopkeepers to give invitations to passersby,telling them to come into the shop. Many locals responded and came in holding their invites, proving that shopkeepers are an important connector and should be community champions.

What They Learned

  • People either don’t know about spaces that are available to them, and/or don’t feel included or as if they belong in those spaces

  • A simple invitation can break down those barriers and create further connection

  • Loneliness does not discriminate, anyone can be lonely.

Next Steps

  • Develop the idea of shopkeepers and traders as community champions

  • Provide local, independent retailers with a toolkit that offers guidance on the local area, and training on how to make meaningful connections with potentially vulnerable people

  • Ask larger retailers to help tackle loneliness by using their self-checkout systems to engage with their customers better, providing more information about local activities and community groups, either on screen or via a printed receipt.