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LCC and Camden Council co-design set of policies to help local families after Covid

Illustration of people on a bridge
  • Written byAnnika Loebig
  • Published date20 August 2021
Illustration of people on a bridge
Good Help for Camden

What does good help look and feel like for families in need?

In January 2021, Camden Council reached out to London College of Communication to find the answer to that question, marking the beginning Good Help for Camden. The collaborative project led by Dr Silvia Grimaldi, Course Leader for MA Service Design, involved LCC students and academics, local families and the Public Collaboration Lab working together to co-design policy recommendations for the borough's family services.

Service Design is a catalyst for change. In this project, we demonstrate that we connect the community with policy design, and their voices to the future vision and strategy.

— Veron Lai, Associate Lecturer on MA Service Design at LCC

LCC students from MA Service Design and MA Data Visualisation worked with 22 parent changemakers to help Camden Council’s Family Services understand what good help looks and feels like after Covid-19. They exchanged experiences about the ways in which the pandemic has impacted family life in Camden and used the strengths and wisdom of the communities in the borough as a foundation for their policy suggestions. The parents’ insights informed and refined the concepts proposed by the students, leading up to the creation of value statements exploring good help principles.

“A lot of conversations came up during this project, including design justice, privilege and biases that come with it,” MA Service Design student Ritika Periwal tells us. “I think we were able to have deeper conversations about the power we have in the system as designers and what we need to be careful about. It also highlighted what people are motivated by and we could closely examine and co-create solutions that would work for them.”

The co-designing process

Design justice was at the heart of Good Help for Camden. The project was built on deliberative dialogue and participatory design, and continuously asked whether anyone would be left out or harmed by the design suggestions. As the pandemic impacted Camden families in different ways, the diversity of the team was a crucial aspect of creating a design vision that was as broadly applicable as possible, bringing together families from 12 Camden wards, representing 11 ethnicities.

“The presenters, organisers, and speakers were really friendly, shared their stories, and listened to other parents’ experiences and stories as well; how Camden connects them and what is special for them. It also gave me more awareness of Camden facilities that are available and learning that I can use those too and suggest them to other people,” said one of the parents.

After the group consulted with Becca Dove, Head of the Family Services Department, and leading industry experts such as WHO advisors and senior NHS employees, the final outcome resulted in 9 projects divided into 3 categories: Service Transformation, Disruptive Design & Policy and Reimagining the Future.

It made me feel like I was part of something bigger and that I could make a change, and I could talk to people about any issues I was having, and how to help.

— Parent and resident in Camden

“The experience has been great,” Veron Lai, Associate Lecturer on MA Service Design at LCC, tells us. “Becca and her team have been extremely supportive throughout the process, and the changemaker families were super engaged with all the activities, despite staff and families juggling homeschooling and other struggles in the middle of lockdown. They saw the values of this project and gave their best support to us, from participating in remote interviews and workshop to testing ideas.”

On 28 April, a group of parent changemakers and Service Design students and academics presented their final design vision, which was positively received by everyone involved. Georgia Gould, Head of Camden Council, reassured the principles set by the parents would be at the heart of Camden Renewal Commission: “I pledge to do anything I can to support councillors and local leaders in making sure that this is how services are delivered in Camden, and that I take the work you’ve done to other colleagues and parts of the country and share it more broadly.”

This is one of the most inspiring projects I’ve led, spanning service design, co-design, policy, futures, systems, design vision and design justice.

— Dr Silvia Grimaldi, Course Leader for MA Service Design

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