Opportunities to Design ‘Sustainable Communities’: An Investigation into an Emerging Design Market, Shaped by the UK Government’s ‘Sustainable Communities’ Agenda

By Mary Rose Cook.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In 1997, the Labour Government came to power in the UK and embarked on a public sector reformation focusing on; personalizing public services for better quality and accessibility, tackling harmful public behaviours and regenerating local environments. By addressing these issues, the Government aimed to create ‘Sustainable Communities’, which promote social equality in health, education and living conditions.

The responsibility of creating Sustainable Communities lies with local level public sector organizations such as Local Councils and the National Health Service’s Primary Care Trusts. Over the past twelve years they have been in charge of commissioning services from organizations that they believe can support their Sustainable Community goals. The author believes that the implementation of this agenda has been a major factor contributing to designers working collaboratively with the public to develop and improve initiatives and services in health, education and regeneration.

By reviewing Government literature focusing on 20th century precedents for social change and transforming public services, such as the Beveridge Report, the Brundtland Report and Local Agenda 21, insight is provided into the development and structure of a market place in which design agencies are commissioned by public sector organisations. Interviews with key market players and the author’s first hand experience as the co-founder of Uscreates (one of the design practices in this new specialism) provide practical case studies that offer insight into the evolving industry.

Keywords: Public Service Reform, Public Sector Design, Sustainable Communities, Collaborative Design, User-centered Design, Social Change, Design Markets

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 4, Issue 6, pp.209-220. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 648.193KB).

Mary Rose Cook

PhD Student, Architecture and the Visual Arts, University of East London, London, UK

Mary Rose Cook is the Director and Co-founder of Uscreates, an award winning creative agency that is pioneering collaborative approaches to change public behaviours for a better society. She draws on skills in social research, social design and social marketing to change behaviours through communication design, public service improvement, strategy development, education, training and events. Alongside her work, she is in her final year of a PhD which is entitled: ‘Has the emergence and current practice of social sustainability created a market for the design industry and how have designers and design – the methods, processes and practices – shaped this market and adapted to work within it?’


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