By creating a space that is actively welcoming to people without a permanent home and including them in the conversations that are being had about housing in the city, can we encourage a movement to create a fairer housing system that has a lived experience of homelessness in its DNA?

Within the world of design there is frequent debate over the ethics that sit behind design process and what is sometimes called ‘design thinking’. Design thinking seeks to solve problems, make things better and create new opportunities. But who defines the problem? Who are we making things better for? And who benefits?

At the heart of this debate is a shift within the industry from ‘prescription’ to ‘exploration’, from ‘participation’ towards ‘co-production’. This means a whole-hearted handing over of the reigns, a shift of not just responsibility but also of power and (crucially) of resource.

This all sounds well and good but in practice can be tricky, especially when it comes to housing. The provision of housing is complex, requiring different actors to work together (some with a high level of technical skill), through complex processes and legal structures.

At Transition by Design, we believe that cities should, as much as possible, be made by the people that live in them. We believe that citizens have not just a right but a responsibility to help shape the places in which they live, and to see themselves reflected in the city around them. This must not exclude the people for whom life in Oxford is most difficult; those people who are experts by lived experience, of homelessness, isolation, poverty and discrimination.

The question for us then becomes ‘how can we build spaces, structures, networks, skills and relationships that help this group to overcome the daily physical and social exclusions that they face?’

Read on to open our project sketchbook for Open House.