The Margins Project

Over two weeks in August 2011, I participated in Service Design Summer at Central Saint Martins, London. This provided an short opportunity to work collaboratively on a live Social Design project, with clients representing the Private, Public and Third Sector.

The project would require all my broad skills, from initial user-research and insight-gathering, ideation, prototyping and testing, to communication.

We worked in multi-disciplinary teams to a very tight 8-day schedule and delivered a new service concept to the client on the final day.

Our client was project manager for The Margins Project – a homelessness charity, run within the Union Chapel in Islington, London.



Problem | Homelessness breaks down self-confidence and social skills and deprives people of networks. The personal history of the homeless is always very complex, with substance abuse, mental heath issues, alcoholism and family breakdown common.

The opportunity | A training course, run by the Margins project, for a diverse volunteer group, with an emphasis on service user engagement, offering individual support and evaluation, so that the training could reflect users individual and complex needs.

The service users would be ex-homeless people, now in stable housing, but still using Margin’s existing services, as well volunteers at the Margins project, who have once experienced homelessness. The Service users would also be drawn from the wider community, the unemployed and those on the margins of society that can only be reached through Margin’s community partners. The client felt that existing volunteers would most benefit from a service designed to support them regain some self-confidence and allow their volunteer work to be more mutually rewarding.

The project goal was to create a training service, which could offer personalised support and evaluation, and would encourage participants to move forward in their lives and encourage re-integration into a wider social society.

Me Presenting ideas to the team

The proposed solution | ‘The Step’ is a service concept in which each volunteer would be given the structure, support and skills to help existing paid staff run the Margins Café, used by up to 800 customers of The Union Chapel, before and after concert events.

Profits from the Margins Café (as a Social Enterprise) would become a sustainable source of financial support that would enable The Margins Project to continue to run its Sunday drop-in services for the homeless.