Exploring mutual learning in co-design


  • Mirian Calvo ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7595-8163
  • Leon Cruickshank Lancaster University
  • Madeleine Sclater The Glasgow School of Art


Participatory design, Mutual learning, Social design, Collaborative design, Co-design


An emerging body of literature identifies a connection between mutual learning and co-design, yet it does not specify the nature of this connection or its implications for the practice of co-design. In this paper, we explore the theoretical and practical implications of mutual learning in co-design. We present three case studies with rural communities in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland (UK). Using participatory action research, we undertook a series of co-design projects with each case forming an action research cycle. Through these, we build cycles of insights concerning mutual learning and how this can contribute to practical co-design outcomes for participants. We also present insights that increase the duration and amount of mutual learning in co-design projects.

Author Biographies

Mirian Calvo, ImaginationLancaster, Lancaster University

Dr Mirian Calvo is a Lecturer in Participatory Architecture at Lancaster School of Architecture, UK registered Architect ARB, and a member of the ImagintionLancaster cross-disciplinary design research group at Lancaster University. She leads research between communities and the Public Sector with a particular focus on developing effective strategies and tactics to establish dignified participatory processes which are constituent parts of the communities' and public authorities' present, and not as temporary and inclusive processes for imagining speculative future scenarios. She led My Mainway, a project in partnership with Lancaster City Council (LCC), structured in a programme of engagement to give tenants and other community members a strong and inclusive contribution to the discussion about what to do with Mainway. Recently, she has been leading strands of research in EPSRC project Embedded Intelligent Empathy in Design, British Academy project Mapping Values, and British Academy project Youth, Democracy, and Sustainable Citizenship, and principal investigator in IAA ESRC Growing Together project. Participatory architecture stands for the democratisation of the production of social space. It employs designerly engagements to build a bridge between political, social, and economic agents, and citizens.

Leon Cruickshank, Lancaster University

Prof. Leon Cruickshank is Director of Research for ImaginationLancaster and principal investigator for Beyond Imaginationa 3 year £13m E3 project, awarded recognising Imagination as a nationally and internationally excellent research group. His focus is on co-design and involving a broad spectrum of stakeholders in research and creative processes. He was Director of Knowledge Exchange for the Creative Exchange, the £5million 4-year project focusing on digital public space and associate director for HighWire, the cross disciplinary EPSRC CDT looking at digital innovation. He also led the £1.2 million Leapfrog project, transforming public sector engagement through design and the follow-on Extending Leapfrog: Improving a million creative conversations. He consults for the UN on innovation in government with a focus on open design thinking.

Madeleine Sclater, The Glasgow School of Art

Dr Madeleine Sclater is a Reader in Art and Design Education and Senior Academic Fellow in Digital Learning at Glasgow School of Art. She leads the Masters of Education Programme in Learning, Teaching and Supervision in the Creative Disciplines and is Deputy Editor Principal Editor of the International Journal of Art and Design Education (IJAD). Madeleine is widely published and is a regular speaker at conferences and events, both internationally and nationally. Over the last two decades, Madeleine has developed a strategic international research profile in the field of Education, Art and Design and Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL). With a background in Fine Art (Painting) and digital media, Madeleine has pioneered and researched new collaborative methodologies, using advanced technologies for the development of distributed studio-based creative education.




How to Cite

Calvo, M., Cruickshank, L., & Sclater, M. (2022). Exploring mutual learning in co-design. DISCERN: International Journal of Design for Social Change, Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship, 3(2), 79–96. Retrieved from https://www.designforsocialchange.org/journal/index.php/DISCERN-J/article/view/94