Each year, students on the Service Design for Social Innovation module at Loughborough Design School explore solutions to a real-life, community-based problem.
This year, their brief was to encourage wider community use of the heritage site, which has faced challenges in attracting both volunteers and visitors.
Collaborating with key stakeholder groups, including Loughborough Archaeological and Historical Society (LAHS), The Crop Club, and Fearon Hall, the students co-designed a range of solutions, responding to research findings and user feedback.
Presented at an event at Fearon Hall last month, the ideas included a sustainable community café, historical role-playing game events for children, a sensory garden for dogs and augmented reality experiences.
One group proposed a co-working space which utilises specially designed spotlights for using the space at night, whilst another designed climbing structures which reflect the history and heritage of the building.
As part of the project, each student group produced a video prototype which demonstrates how the solution would work.
Dr Carolina Escobar-Tello, Lecturer in Industrial/Product Design and module leader commented: “It is increasingly important to bring teaching outside the studio walls and create opportunities for students to deal with current social challenges, and embed their learning in a practical way.
“This is what the Service Design for Social Innovation projects allow the students to achieve. In this setting, traditional boundaries between students, educators, stakeholders and end users become blurred.
“It offers an enriching experience for all parties involved in such projects by bringing people together, adding value, and reflecting the true nature of these bottom-up collaborations.”
Speaking about the collaboration and its impact, Alison Mott, Treasurer of LAHS and a long-standing volunteer at the Old Rectory Museum, said: “I was blown away by how much effort the students put into the project, from canvassing opinion on the museum from people in the town, to extensively researching the viability of each of their ideas.
“The consultation meetings at Fearon Hall drew in a body of people interested in the Old Rectory who otherwise we would have known nothing about and who look set to swell our volunteer numbers.
“Best of all, we’ve gained a youth perspective on the Old Rectory – an age group crucial to its long-term future – and have been introduced to solutions completely outside of our experience.
“Several of the groups signposted viable ways to make those solutions possible and we intend to move forward with some of these ideas, including chasing potential sources of funding and establishing further links with the University.”