Leveraging £5.9m to reduce isolation among older people

 

Co-design concepts and methodologies developed in a £100,000 AHRC funded Connected Communities project have leveraged almost £6m from The Big Lottery Fund to tackle isolation among the elderly in Sheffield. As a result, 12,000 elderly people in Sheffield are benefiting from the Ageing Better grant which uses co-design methods to deliver sustainable solutions to social isolation.

Selfie booth at a co-designed community event; one of the activities was a selfie booth as older people had mentioned that they felt invisible and no one asked to take their picture anymore. Credit: Open University.

The AHRC funded research project, Scaling up co-design research and practice, was led by Dr Theodore Zamenopoulos at The Open University, and included five community partners: The Blackwood Foundation, Fossbox and Flossie, Silent Cities, One Westminster and The Glass-House Community Led Design. The project focussed on co-design practices within these civil society organisations working in different fields (built environment, media, technology), and sought to understand how these practices and their impact on people and society could be increased and extended. Through connecting the existing resources of these organisations together, partners were able to create new opportunities for innovation, increase the capacity of the organisations to address complex issues, achieve more for less, and extend their outreach and impact. One of the Scaling up Co-design project partners, Silent Cities, was a major partner in the £5.9m Big Lottery Fund bid for Sheffield.

The Director of Silent Cities explained that the organisation’s involvement in Connected Communities Programme raised their profile as experts in co-design, and that this led to Silent Cities’ involvement in Sheffield’s Age Better bid. Many of the models from the Scaling-up Co-design project partners were presented to South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA), the lead organisation in the Big Lottery bid, and the work on co-design was cited as the key factor in Sheffield’s success. SYHA approached Silent Cities for advice on a co-design strategy for their bid and for Silent Cities Community Journalists to run a series of co-design events with older people across the city and to capture content from those events. Silent Cities recommended that co-design should be at the heart of Sheffield’s bid, and should have a genuine impact on how all organisations who support older people improve their services for older people. The events held by Silent Cities were examples of creative approaches to co-design, and by capturing the learning and resources, they were able to create a toolkit that could be shared with organisations across the city. Over 40 organisations that support older people in Sheffield have agreed to implement the co-design based toolkit; 43,000 toolkits will be disseminated.

This case study was featured within the AHRC 2014/15 impact report. (PDF, 7.7MB)

For more information on the project visit: Scaling up Co-design Research and Practice

Gateway to Research Project Link: Scaling Up Co-Design research and practice: building community-academic capacity and extending reach (Feb 13 - Jun 14)

Written by: Roshni Abedin