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Meet the HWL Co-Design experts

The development of innovative services in the care sector to improve older employees working lives, is a complex challenge requiring a wicked solution. We want to help bring about that change from within, enabling care homes employees – intrapreneurs if you like - to identify, share and improve their work by owning the process.

Our co-design experts led by Prof Sarah Kettley, Chair of Material and Design Innovation and Dr Luis Soares, Research Associate are leading the development of the HWL Ripple co-design toolkit and explain the strategy, development and impact this could have in the care sector.

Sarah and Luis Healthier Working Lives Co-design

Why did you choose to use co-design in the HWL programme and why do you think it’s a powerful way of motivating change?

Communities fix stuff. “Co-design is about designing with, not for. What that means is that decisions – and changes – which affect peoples’ lives and livelihoods can be made by these people rather than imposed by someone else. In the Care home setting especially, it allows for space for personal growth and lets people join a community of practice.”

What’s the approach you’ve taken to co-design for HWL?

Pragmatism rules. “We needed to be very pragmatic as we’re working with care homes who are under huge pressure, plus we wanted to be quite principled in what we were doing. So, a flexible approach was adopted in the way we scheduled meetings but we always used the language of health pathways.”

How will you be able to measure the impact of co-design on HWL?

Needs met. “The best way we can assess impact is to work with the Care home staff to ensure that the products and services we develop really do meet their needs. Obviously, we will be looking at key areas such as levels of recruitment and retention and we will be adding our voice to improvements in policy such as professional progression and pay.”

What are some of the early insights that you’ve seen emerging from the process?

Emotional burden. “There have been so many important insights we’ve gained around areas such as teamwork, decision making and verbal communications. For instance, how can we effectively transfer data about a resident between shifts; how can we ensure consistency in training; what are the different attitudes to the role and presence of managers? We also learned a huge amount about the emotional burden of care.”

The impact I’d like to make as part of the HWL programme. As a Fellow of Edinburgh Futures Institute, I am leading on the collaborative development of an innovative design curriculum and research initiative and expect HWL to open up the design of data-driven futures to diverse communities and stakeholders.

Ripple Frame

Adopting the Ripple toolkit widely

The HWL Ripple toolkit have the potential to be applied to whole raft of personal, system and operational issues. The Circle of Care for instance could be adopted for job induction.


Care workers are naturally super-busy people so we don’t expect them to all become consultants overnight. However, as change-makers in their own organisations if employees can’t be entirely self-sufficient, the HWL Ripple toolkit will save a huge amount of precious time and energy.

Play at work

Change in a highly regulated workplace can create real anxiety where the learning curve for external consultants is too great or are affordable for small care businesses where often the need for improvement is most acute. The change may require new roles, working practices and lead to uncomfortable conversations. The HWL Ripple toolkit provides a way for care workers to imagine a better future for themselves and together.

Outsiders are valuable

Naturally there is still huge value in external, experienced and objective co-design facilitators to act as critical friends to stress test ideas or predict issues. The HWL Ripple toolkit provides a powerful way of employees getting started and maintaining momentum when budgets are tight and specialists with the insight are rare.

Academic and enterprise collaboration

The cultural difference between academic settings and business can lead to contrasting approaches and friction that prevents collaboration. HWL Ripple toolkit cuts though the differences and unites different cultures and roles in a shared sense of purpose, creating synergies that enable more effective collaboration.

Small changes

In a user-centred environment many desired improvements are micro, day to day adjustments that can make a big difference. The HWL Ripple toolkit can help overcome these small problems quickly and easily as well as address systemic transformation.

Join a HWL co-design team demonstration

Join a HWL co-design team demonstration of the HWL Ripple co-design framework in a hands-on workshop, designed to show how co-design can be deployed by both business and academia health and care projects.

Follow our Facebook page, where you can chat with us directly, as well as keep up to date with the latest insights from Care Sector research, and activities from the programme.

Get in touch if you’d like to participate -

In this story

Sarah Kettley

Sarah Kettley

Healthier Working Lives Co-design research lead

Luis Soares

Luis Soares

Healthier Working Lives Research Associate

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