AzuKo

Futurekind: design by and for the people

We’re so proud to feature in the Thames & Hudson book, Futurekind by Rob Phillips.

We have grown accustomed to two beliefs: first, that only experts can be designers, and second, that our everyday activities are harming the planet. Futurekind showcases design projects—across every scale, budget, and material—that have made a genuine difference in individual lives and in communities around the world.

AzuKo is pushing the idea of community-led design, to build capacity, to support communities in leading their own projects.
 

Both manual and manifesto, inspiration and call to arms, this rich and timely survey tells the true stories of world-changing collaborations between designers and communities, providing hope for humankind.

Futurekind is available in hardback >>

 

Design is meeting needs

We recently attended a ‘design quality’ conference for the built environment. One workshop titled, ‘Winning the hearts and minds’ was subtitled, ‘Engaging the community to obtain a YIMBY instead of a NIMBY (not in my back yard),’ or ‘How to assure you get your design through planning without local opposition’.

There is a disconnect in that thinking that says quality design is not a result of quality engagement, but rather, engagement is simply a tool to gain people’s favour (and that we already know what quality design is, so why would we need to learn from those who live and work in the context we’re designing for?)

What our project with Emmaus St Albans shows is that quality engagement at the outset of the design process is vital for a design that eventually does what it’s supposed to do - meet users needs.

In 2014 we began working with homelessness charity Emmaus UK in collaboration with Ryder and CRASH. We led a participatory design process to define the brief for an expansion of their building in St Albans. This building is responsible for housing, training and employing 33 formerly homeless people.

Emmaus UK supported over 700 homeless men and women in 2017, known as companions. In the same year the social enterprise arm of Emmaus UK - their shops - recycled or reused 3,302 tonnes of items. The shops are central to the charity’s success. They provide opportunities for companions to rehabilitate, learn and grow, while supporting the financial sustainability of the charity.

We gained insight into the experience and needs of those using the building - the companions, staff, leadership and trustees through a range of human-centred research methods including co-design workshops, participatory photography and in-depth interviews.

As a result of the engagement a consensus was reached to expand the storage and shop floor space, something that came as a surprise to then Chief Executive, Tony Ferrier, who believed the companions would have chosen first to expand their own leisure space.

Companion
Companions

We evaluated the project at the end of 2018, nearly 18 months after the building opened in its new form. Since the completion of the expansion, “profitability went up 23%”. Tony believes this is a result of simply having more items to sell. The expanded space and storage has allowed staff to better look after and store items, creating an improved experience for them and for customers.

The St Albans location has added resiliency to the greater Emmaus Hertfordshire branches. One staff member shares,

It’s taken a bit of pressure off. We have another shop that isn’t doing quite as well. It still means that we’re keeping steady. [It’s] a safety net.

Our early design workshops revealed that there was a fundamental issue with loading furniture and other goods into the shop. There were between 7 and 10 tonnes of furniture going through the front door each year, which caused “havoc” one companion described.

It’s made a vast improvement on the shop. I could remember one time we were having to lug an item, trying to stack it in there and trying to lift [sofas, king sized beds and stuff like that] past customers without hitting them... trying to get it through that front door, which is not exactly the biggest.
Companion

Friction with customers before the extension led to tense altercations. This friction was aggravated by the physical and psychological state the companions may be in at any particular time. One companion shared, “a lot of people that come in here they suffer from anxiety, depression… not able to talk to people. When I first moved in here, I had really bad anxiety”.

What we heard in our evaluation is that the new space has gone a long way to address the range of needs for the range of users. As a result of the building “you’re not banging around so much, you’re not trying to dodge customers” and “we don’t have customers diving on us before the furniture’s even been put up”.

Since construction, companions and staff have noticed a range of positive outcomes. Aside from, “it has made life a lot easier” the expanded space has ultimately resulted in:

  • Increased safety in the management of stock coming into and out of the shop - greater ease of working

  • More opportunities for companions to work and grow

  • Fewer mistakes, particularly around merchandising - greater confidence working on the shop floor

  • Reduced friction between companions and customers

  • A greater sense of place and belonging in the building

  • More professional layout of goods

These outcomes came to be because we facilitated a participatory discussion, reaching a consensus which served everyone - financial sustainability and dynamism for the organisation, an expanded and coherent shopping experience for customers and physical and psychological security for companions.

To learn more visit the project page >>

 

Author: N. Ardaiz

Are you our new Fundraising Officer?

Are you passionate about social impact? Help us annually increase and manage grant funding income from Charitable Trusts and Foundations.

We’re using human-centred design to tackle some of the world’s toughest problems, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help. We’re looking for an experienced fundraiser to join an exciting and dynamic team, in north London, to grow our income through relationship development, focused research and grant applications.

  • Role: Fundraising Officer - Trusts & Foundations

  • Time: 2 days per week

  • Salary: £24,500pa, pro rata

  • Contract: Fixed term, 1 year

  • Location: Camden, London with some home working available

The right candidate will be highly organised and able to communicate AzuKo’s vision effectively. You will have demonstrable experience of grant fundraising from charitable trusts and foundations as well as experience of report writing and the creation of business proposals.

NB: THIS POSITION HAS NOW BEEN FILLED