Proto-policy is a three month pilot project running from June to August 2015, which aims to investigate how ‘design fictions’ -provocative visual texts (artefacts, images, films) that materialise scenarios about, or provide clues to, future ways of living-can be used to help politicians and community groups imagine the future implications of policy initiatives in creative ways. For the purposes of this pilot, Proto-policy will focus on issues of ageing in place (people remaining in their homes rather than move to institutional facilities) and isolation.

Imagining alternative ways of living in old age has become a cultural preoccupation, hence the extraordinary popular success of the ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, yet talking to older people about the future (particularly the ‘older old’, those aged 80+) is virtually taboo. This project uses design fictions to address that taboo by inviting older people to imagine and, with the assistance of a designer, create visual texts (artefacts, images, films) that materialise scenarios, or provide clues to, future ways of living in compelling ways.

Proto-policy will run a creative with older people to respond to the ‘Ageing in Place’ policy agenda by co-creating future design fictions that envisage what a future of ‘flexible living’ – a third space that has the benefits of independent living without the downsides of loneliness, fear and vulnerability – might look like. These would be shared with politicians in a ‘design fiction provocation’ event to be held in Westminster in order to help negotiate political questions.

Project team:

Principle Investigator:

Dr Emmanuel Tsekleves, Senior Lecturer, Design Interactions, Lancaster University


Dr Fiona Hackney, Associate Professor of Design Cultures and Community Engagement, Falmouth University

Anna Whicher, Cardiff Metropolitan University

Jocelyn Bailey, PhD Candidate, University of Brighton

Naomi Turner, Senior Manager, Policy Connect

Project News

ProtoPolicy Design Report

The project’s design report is freely available. The report provides a description of the ProtoPolicy project, the research methods employed and its key findings.

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ProtoPolicy Design Report

ProtoPolicy Video Journey

This video provides a video journey of the ProtoPolicy project. It shows the path the research team followed, which included a number of co-design workshops with older people imagining the future implications of policy initiatives in creative ways. This lead to the co-creation of two design fiction provocations, which were presented at an event in Westminster Palace.

Guardian article about the value of design fiction in creating debate by asking what if, receives a lot of attention and comments from readers

The article presents how sci-fi films have influenced the development of several modern day technologies and how the value of science-fiction has been also recognised in the rise of a new method for designing technology, called ‘design fiction’.

Design fiction, isn’t fiction but a technique for thinking ahead, predicting future technologies, potentially influencing policy, but most importantly creating debate by asking what if? In this way, science fiction can be used as a tool to help design future societies and technologies, giving the public has a say on it too.

It also includes an explicit mention to the ProtoPolicy and ProtoPublics projects. 

To read the article click here.

Euthanasia Wearable Design Fiction

Following the co-design workshops at Lancaster and Falmouth two design fictions have been developed.

The Euthanasia Wearable Design Fiction comprises of two documents, namely a quick start guide, a anti-Euthanasia campaign flyer and a Euthanasia Wearable prototype. The Euthanasia WearableDesign Fiction is an direct response of our older people co-designer group to the needs for self-control and living with dignity.

The Design Fictions aim in creating a visual and fictitious world of what the future may be like and can be downloaded for free. The aim is to explore whether co-designed Design Fictions could help older people to increase their engagement with policymakers developing a discussion on Ageing in Place, loneliness and isolation.


Euthanasia Wearable Quick Start Guide

Anti-Euthanasia Protesting Flyer

Smart Object Therapist Design Fiction

Following the co-design workshops at Lancaster and Falmouth two design fictions have been developed.

The Smart Home Therapist Design Fiction is an indirect response of our older people co-designer group to the government nascent policies of integrated care and ageing in place included in the Conservative Party Manifesto.

The Smart Object Therapist Design Fiction comprises of three documents, namely a Smart Object Therapist job application, the Smart Object Therapist intervention report and prescription and a short video interview between the Smart Object Therapist and an smart object home user.


Smart Object Therapist Job Interview

Smart Object Therapist Intervention Report

Smart Object Therapist Prescription

ProtoPolicy Design Fictions presented at Westminster 

In a launch event held on Monday the 7th of July at the Palace of Westminster, the AHRC-funded Protopolicy project, presented the Design Fictions that emerged through the co-design workshops at Lancaster and Falmouth. The Design Fictions (namely The Smart Home Therapist and The Euthanasia Wearable) were well received and generated discussions on the benefits and challenges of using Design Fictions for policymaking.

The research team engaged in discussions with civil servants, politician and other design professionals on the use of Design Fictions for as co-design tool with community groups (interested in ageing, loneliness and social exclusion) to increase their engagement with policymakers. 

The event was organised by the ProtoPolicy partner APDIG.

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Interesting design micro-fictions emerge from our 1st co-design workshop

A number of older people and staff from Age UK Lancashire participated in the half-day co-design workshop run at Lancaster. Working in groups, workshop participants looked at policy document extracts on the themes of ageing, ageing in place and loneliness/isolation and responded to these.

A number of themes emerged from grouping our co-designers responses to policy. These themes were then used to co-create design micro-fictions looking at 5 years, 10 years into the future and beyond, which were shared within the workshop.

Further grouping of the design micro-fictions were grouped revealed a number of interesting themes (i.e. communication, transport, independent living and health economy) and technologies (i.e. Skyping and holograms, self-drive cars, pop-up community buildings, escalators at home/garden and several more) relating to ageing in place and social isolation.

These will be explored in the next series of co-design workshops in Falmouth next week. img_0045 img_0078 img_0102 img_0146_0 img_0148_0 img_0211 img_0215_0 img_0223 img_0232 img_9977

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