User Tools

Site Tools


Co-design for Living Well in the Digital Age

David Wilcox and Drew Mackie. Discussion draft 1.0 September 17 2015


Run a one-day Living Lab event to explore how maps, apps and storytelling can support living well in the digital age from two perspectives - national and local. National: after pre-event research, map and develop co-operation between organisations in the ageing and technology fields. Local: evolve a co-design framework and set of tech and other methods that can then be used in a number of pilots within a ficitious but realistic community. Share ideas and resources between national and local sessions running in parallel - using some of the methods we’ll be discussing on the day.

Use the event as a focus for prior research into the potential for technology in ageing better, and follow through with action at local and national levels. Engage a range of organisations in this process in order to build the relationships needed. Dry-run a smaller event in a London neighbourhood to test the format and help catalyse the first local pilot.

The context

Our exploration into Living Well in the Digital Age identified the need for action at three levels to make use of technology in support of living well and ageing better: personal, community, policy and funding. We have developed a range of games and simulations for co-designing action at different levels, and a framework for methods to support development. These include network mapping of assets and interests; tech and other methods for information, communication and collaboration; reporting and storytelling to animate conversations using a range of media.

Nationally, Age Action Alliance - who supported the exploration - are now keen to use mapping, communication apps and stories to develop greater cooperation between the 800 members, and explore how their expertise and resources can support local action.

On the local front, Big Lottery Fund have encouraged us to develop a proposal based on our Living Labs model for local use of maps, apps and storytelling. We are in discussion with several areas where this approach could be piloted in practice.

Recent developments provide a favourable context to develop both national and local approaches.

  • The One Digital Consortium, supported by Big Lottery Fund, is training at least 1400 Digital Champions and promising to make this a framework for wider cooperation
  • A report to BIG recommends that all ageing projects should, where possible, include plans for the use of digital technology
  • The Centre for Ageing Better promises innovation, and is likely to start investigating the role of tech in ageing (confirmation expected shortly)
  • Government has developed an Open Policy Making toolkit and Grey Cells model that provides a top-level framework for the approach we are advocating
  • There could also be useful linkages with programmes like Realising the Value

The challenge - and opportunity

The use of technology to support older people at community level requires greater tech capability among local groups and organisations, some shared understanding of the potential, and a flexible framework for cooperation. Many groups will look to their national parent bodies for guidance. If the national bodies also have some shared understanding of local potential - and strong relationships among themselves to provide mutual support - it will be easier to develop and then scale local pilots. So why not bring the key interests together to co-design a strategic programme - just as we could advocate co-design of local pilots?

The aim would be to develop a framework and set of methods that could be widely adopted and expanded - the equivalent of an open source operating system and set of social apps. It would complement, at community level, the Open Policy Making toolkit being developed by Cabinet Office.

This won’t be achieved in one day, but a co-design event, together with work before and after, could create shared understand, a sense of purpose, and commitment to support further development nationally and locally.

The event

Here’s first thoughts for an event in which we have national and local sessions running in parallel, with exchanges between the two.


Locally our co-design games and simulations include:

  • The fictitious community of Slipham to provide a context for exploring how tech can benefit people, groups and initiatives
  • The use of Slipham personas to show how everyone needs a different digital solution, blended with other media and methods
  • Mapping the assets in Slipham
  • Playing through development of different project ideas and tech methods, using assets, designed to benefit a range of Slipham people exemplified in the personas.

We could use Slipham as the common “game board” where different teams work on a number of scenarios. These might include, for example:

  • Building on strength-based community development approaches like ABCD. Community builders and community organisers introduce tech to existing work that helps connect people and develop new initiatives, using local resources. A key element is developing the capacity of local community and voluntary organisations.
  • Whole system development with a local authority or partnership that is introducing social prescribing or other methods to create links between public services, local resources and service customers.
  • Community media. Use hyperlocal blogs and web sites, local radio and other media initiatives as the backbone for extensive community engagement. Convene and promote events to connect different media and serve people more effectively.
  • Do it Yourself. Explore how citizens can use existing social media platforms to develop their own support systems.

The advantage of using a fictitious but realistic community - like Slipham - for a national event is that people from different areas and backgrounds can project into that space their own experience and collaborate in creating a common framework.


We explored the scope for national mapping and use of comms apps at an Age Action Alliance meeting on September 16 2015, and started work on a base map. If AAA wish to participate, this work could be developed before an event - and might be of interest to agencies like Big Lottery Fund and Centre for Ageing Better who are themselves scoping the field.

At the event we could start with a base map, showing who knows who and who has particular resources and expertise. Teams might explore how they could work together to support the teams working on scenarios in the local session.

Connecting national and local

During the course of the day we would offer:

  • Ways for national and local teams to share ideas and resources
  • A drop-in social media cafe to provide people with hands-on experience of different apps

event format

Testing the format

We would test the format at a dry-run event in London - probably in East London - with participants from local groups and some national representatives. We could still work with a fictitious scenario - just as we created the London Borough of Slipham for a workshop with Southwark council and local groups. This could help catalyse the first local pilot.


livingwell/labevent.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 15:20 (external edit)