School of Participatory Design

Putting people at the heart of public services & policy

With a focus on practice led learning, the school of participatory design offers new skills to build better services and policies alongside citizens.
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"I can't do my job without their knowledge"
Jaimie - Co-design alumni
Policy Advisor, Department of Veterans Affairs
"I have tried to adopt a co-design perspective in my day to day work as I believe​ that we need creative solutions to complex problems"
Allison Hendon, Co-design alumni
"From an academic perspective, it’s easy to get stuck in the problem, programs like this help to utilise skills from the community, it is good to have broader views"
Co-design alumni
"It (Co-Design) empowers everyone to be involved and gives strength to decision making"
Co-design alumni
In a time of decreasing trust and relevance, the public purpose sector is responding through more open and collaborative approaches.

We are using participatory design, co-design, design thinking and/or human-centered design practices to enable the public purpose sector to work alongside citizens, not for them.

Through this practice, we work to better understand people's behaviours and needs and co-create policies and services and; re-engage with citizens along the way.
Get in touch to find out more

Who is this for?

We’ve worked with hundreds of people and organisations to form new habits and cultivate human centred ways of working.
This for anyone involved in the public purpose sector whether policy makers, staff in service delivery, executives, managers, officers.
Some of our customers

Impact evaluation

We’re partnering with The Policy Lab to prototype an impact evaluation framework to build evidence about the value of participatory design in the public purpose sector.
First 1000
Prototype solutions accepted by the leadership team and the co-design method adopted for further trials. 82% of the participants said their prototype has secured additional funding, resourcing or support.
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Transitioning out of Out-of-home-care
Prototype solutions were accepted by the working group, 200+ action commitments made by key decision makers and funders from state and local government, community service organisations and philanthropy to continue the work of the prototypes.
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Learn with us

We can’t be just be told how to work with citizens, we need to experience new ways of listening, deliberating and engaging.  
Our program carves out time for participants to play, experiment and fail safely while working with a real world project.
A 9 week program
  • Weekly 3 hour studio sessions
  • Hands-on practice between weeks
  • Weekly one on one expert coaching
How does it work
We run programs internally with existing project teams and support you to create the authorising environment to work collaboratively with end users.
What our Alumni Value
“I’ve stopped jumping to solutions too quickly, I try to take time to seek out other perspectives”
“I can see how these tools and skills can be applied in many different contexts, not just a co-design process”
“I realised that the co-design process doesn’t begin until you start talking to people”
“I enjoyed building and testing low-fidelity prototypes, you gain instant feedback and better insights”
“I’ve learnt how to communicate the value of this practice and take others on the journey”

A community of practice

All program participants have access to events and other professional development activities.
Co-design symposium
In partnership with Melbourne Knowledge Week and Monash University, we’ve held sold out symposiums that have brought together the best practitioners from across Australia to share skills and knowledge in all things design thinking.  Learn more here.
View more on the Symposium
Discussions, reflections and learning from our community on the value and challenges of participatory design.

Our team

Learn from some of Melbourne's leading design practitioners across all sectors of government, non-for-profits and other organisations. They will bring expertise from a variety of practices and disciplines.
Claire McEwan
Claire McEwan is a Changemaker, design thinker and facilitator based in Melbourne. Claire is an experienced and skilled facilitator and social researcher with a passion for translating insights into impact.

Her unique approach to strategic planning and leadership combines the methodologies of design-thinking, anthropology and lean start-up; creating the conditions for evidence-based, collaborative and dynamic decision-making and problem solving.
Sam Rye
We can’t be just be told how to work differently, we need to experience new ways of working and practicing. Our program carves out time for participants to play, experiment and fail safely while you learn new skills and work with real world problems.

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Laura James
Laura James is a  facilitator and experienced co-design practitioner. With a background in management consulting, Laura draws on deep expertise of design thinking methodology to derive simple approaches to complex or challenging topics.

Laura has predominately worked in the social and for-purpose sector, she is passionate about using co-design to develop deeper understandings of lived experience and scaling impact through building co-design capability in individuals and communities.
Kylie Long
Kylie draws on her ability to engage and empower diverse audiences through her facilitative leadership roles in startups, Government and not-for-profit sectors.

She’s worked with hundreds of people and groups with the purpose of facilitating fresh solutions to complex problems. She has 15 years experience in growing capacity of professionals in facilitation, social innovation and leadership.


What is the total time investment?
The program is run over 9 weeks. Each week Project teams will be asked to commit 3 hours to studio time and 2-3 hours ‘homework time’ to apply learning to progress a real world project.
How do I know if this program is right for my organisation?
If you are looking to create multidisciplinary teams, space for civic engagement and provide better services and policies; this program will provide carve out time to learn and experiment with the guidance of our expert facilitators.
How does the learning occur?
Over 9 weeks, you will take part in weekly 3 hour studio sessions, where you will learn and practice new tools. Between weeks, you will spend time applying what you’ve learnt and progressing your real world project with the guidance of expert coaching.
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