Working with The Engine Room on the backdrop of an age friendly survey, set to improve the lives of older people in the borough, Cheshire West and Chester Council, and the University of Chester sought strategic redirection to reinvigorate our action plan.
But with so many stakeholders involved in the process, and a hunger to include the very demographic this project served, it was important to consider how every voice could be pulled into something productive and compelling, without stalling progress. This took shape in a number of ways…
Inviting collaboration at all levels
In empowering societal change, the success of human-centred design lies in the active collaboration of various stakeholders. In the context of transforming Cheshire West and Chester into an age-friendly borough, this included local authorities, academics, and Age Ambassadors who reside in the local area.
But how do you get people in a comfortable space and open their minds to a process that’s critical to design thinking methodology working?
How do you get closer to stakeholders with differing priorities and opinions so they impart ideas constructively? How do you include older people with lived experiences, in a way that feels equal and inclusive?
Of course, participants had varying levels of scepticism at first. Local authorities naturally questioned the likely return on investment from the approach as well as the involvement of third parties, while academics from the university were inherently philosophical. However, through working with The Engine Room, we all quickly embraced and invested in the process. Thinking on our feet, we successfully found ‘common ground’ and were able to pinpoint ideas that resonated with all involved.
Fostering open dialogue, empathy, and shared decision-making, this human-centred and collaborative approach created opportunities to understand and address dissenting public views constructively, leading to more effective conflict resolution and consensus-building moving forwards. And, although intangible, the joy derived from the learning and development perspective was invaluable.
Making design thinking accessible
In order to make design thinking accessible to everyone involved, we collectively recognised the need for a fresh start and a complete reconfiguration of the project and its partnerships.
We realised that, to truly empower societal change, we needed to draw insights from lived experiences and make sense of the complex issues at hand, rallying everyone around a simple purpose.
Throughout the project, we adopted a two-pronged approach. Firstly, The Engine Room focused on breaking down misconceptions surrounding design thinking, ensuring that all participants understood the value and purpose of their involvement. By demystifying the process, they aimed to make it inclusive and encourage active engagement from all stakeholders. Secondly, they sought to create an appetite for continued collaboration and investment in the project for years to come. Instilling a sense of ownership and long-term commitment among stakeholders made sure that the impact of design thinking will be sustained beyond the project's duration.
Empowering stakeholders with the tools to move forward
Empowering stakeholders with the tools to drive initiatives forward is a key catalyst for societal change. By engaging participants and encouraging them to think differently, the design thinking approach has fostered a sense of empowerment and ownership for years to come. Age Ambassadors continue to oversee regular delivery groups with members of the public, for instance, while this collaborative methodology has also been mirrored elsewhere in wider university workshops — a testament to the value it can add.
By shifting the traditional role of the council as the sole driver of change, individuals feel as though they fulfil a greater purpose and truly commit to their responsibilities. When given the tools and opportunity, their passion, dedication, and relatability make them powerful agents of progress, proving that true societal change is driven by the people, for the people.
If you want to learn more about The Engine Room’s role in transforming Cheshire West and Cheshire into an age-friendly borough, why not explore the full case study? Or, if you want to learn more about your brand challenges and the positive change you can make, let’s continue the conversation.