Developing participation in social design: Prototyping projects, programmes and policies (protopublics for short) is a project commissioned by the AHRC which aims to prototype new kinds of research collaboration oriented towards achieving societal change and collective outcomes.

This project builds on Mapping Social Design conducted for the AHRC in 2014 by Professor Guy Julier, Dr Lucy Kimbell and Dr Leah Armstrong of the University of Brighton and Jocelyn Bailey (see Among other recommendations, the final report urged research councils to set up collaborative projects in which arts and humanities and other researchers become active participants in crafting new services, experiences, projects and policies that address contemporary issues. Rather than specifying how this should happen, the AHRC is supporting the prototyping of new collaborations between researchers and practitioners.

ProtoPublics, running between January and September 2015, aims to support the emergence of new collaborative, cross-disciplinary, design-oriented research to do this.

Led by Julier, Kimbell and Armstrong and working closely with the AHRC, this project includes the workshop in April. This blog captures some of the challenges and possibilities of doing this kind of research and will synthesise some of the learning from the projects that emerge from the workshop and are supported by the Project Development Awards.

Further, the AHRC is using the current project to experiment with new ways of commissioning research and building capacity in research organisations geared towards cross-disciplinary, design-oriented projects including those that engage with local, regional or national public or community organisations, groups and issues. Inspired by ‘agile’ approaches to software and product development, the AHRC is open to seeing new forms of research methodology emerge through the collaboration of participants in a project.

Project Team

The project is being undertaken part-time by a team based at the University of Brighton and Victoria and Albert Museum. The researchers are: Professor Guy Julier (PI), Dr Lucy Kimbell (Co-PI) and Dr Leah Armstrong (research assistant).

Professor Guy Julier
@guyjulier |

Guy Julier is the University of Brighton Principal Research Fellow in Contemporary Design at the Victoria & Albert Museum. This post is dedicated to developing and running a research programme that addresses contemporary issues in design that also links the museum, the university and professionals in the creative industries. Read more about Guy.

Dr Lucy Kimbell
@lixindex |
Lucy is a designer, researcher and educator. She is a part-time Principal Research Fellow at the University of Brighton undertaking an AHRC design research fellowship in the Policy Lab, Cabinet Office. Her background is a mixture of consulting in design innovation, especially in digital/services, and teaching and research. Since 2005 she has developed and taught an MBA elective on Designing Better Futures at Said Business School, University of Oxford, where she is an Associate Fellow. Lucy’sService Innovation Handbook was published by BIS Publishers in late 2014. Read more about Lucy.


Dr Leah Armstrong
@LeahJArmstrong |
Leah black and white
Leah completed an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Brighton Design Archives and Chartered Society of Designers in April 2014  and now works as part time Research Officer in Contemporary Design Culture at the V&A Museum, where she helps to programme the Design Culture Salons, among other things. Leah is also a Research Assistant at the Glasgow School of Art, where she is investigating the culture of studio-based learning. She teaches on BA Humanities at the University of Brighton. Leah graduated with a BA Hons (First Class) in History from the University of Manchester in 2009, before completing an MA in Cultural History also at the University of Manchester.


2 thoughts on “ProtoPublics

  1. Pingback: AHRC call for applications to attend a ‘Developing participation in social design: Prototyping projects, programmes and policies’ workshop on Prototyping Design-Oriented Cross-Disciplinary Research | MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

  2. Pingback: ProtoPublics ‘Sprint’ Workshop: Prototyping Design Orientated Cross Disciplinary Research | Research and Funding Opportunities

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