Network Thinking for Social Impact

Loughborough University – Information Systems and Digital Innovation MSc

Module: Organisational Design and Network Thinking for Social Impact


–    Consider the societal challenges as articulated in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and appreciate how the complexity of these challenges require a systems / networked approach to develop innovative, multi-dimensional solutions that go beyond disciplines, individuals and organisations.

–    Gain an understanding of how networks can influence interaction and collaboration to create practical solutions to complex challenges and co-create conditions for collective benefit.

–    Analyse the design of Organisational structures and consider the emergence of fluid, agile and decentralised organisations that follow holacratic principles of self-organisation.

–    Utilise Design as a theoretical framework to develop and iterate ideas, solve problems, and prototype and test appropriate and considered solutions.

–    Encourage personal skills of communication, teamwork, decision-making and collaborative leadership. Encourage a holistic approach when dealing with the complexity of global social challenges.

–    Evaluation of new technologies, protocols and instruments for connection and collaboration.

–    Inspire the social impact leaders of the future.

Module design: Warren Bramley, Visiting Fellow in Information Management and Design.



The Morecambe Bay Project was a speculative design project, in collaboration with Aedas architects, that explored the future potential of Morecambe in 2030.

“Maybe we forgot that seaside towns were meant to be the escape from long working hours, smoggy cities, and ceaseless traffic. This place is perfect. Flat. Ideal to walk or cycle. Fresh air, sea breeze, big skies, big view. The Spa, on the front, that’s part of the new hotel has a pool that projects to the edge of the Bay, like an infinity pool. No wonder health nut Oliver Hill, the architect of the Midland designed his modernist hotel here. You can almost hear him say, ‘Morecambe? It restores the spirit.'”

In taking a co-design approach, the project engaged community stakeholders in imagining the future potential of Morecambe in 2030. The process began with a natural visual representation of the community’s vision for the future of Morecambe Bay Front, which used sea shells as artefacts collected from the beach and presented them alongside a scaled schematic of the sea front of Morecambe. The participants then placed the sea shells on the plan and described what each shell represented in their vision of Morecambe’s future, including features such as a new art gallery or an extended lido. The use of natural materials in this way acted as a device to encourage imagination and creativity in envisioning the future of the bay.

“The public spaces around this area of Central Morecambe have been built on standards set by the Tern Project. There’s always been a good feel for art in Morecambe. Why wouldn’t there be, Morecambe is to the brush, what the Lakes are to the pen. The new spaces to create and exhibit that were built near to the Midland, and the new Fine Art Centre for the University of Cumbria have really enlivened the arts community. You can’t walk along the prom’ without seeing someone with a sketchbook or camera. That’s what I love about Morecambe; it has texture.”

The ideas generated from the co-design process were developed into a written narrative, a speculative future story, guided in collaboration with architecture writer, Phil Griffin, which set a collaborative aspiration of what Morecambe could be. The final writing and co-created shell artwork were publicly exhibited to encourage debate and feedback, inspiring further engagement with the community.

“The Stone Jetty makes a great stage, and so does the new sweep of promenade extension, that springs out from the jetty, and loops back to the prom’ just by the theatre. This is quite a surprising walk over water, like the ramps in the Penguin House at London Zoo. And just across from it is the vibrant Marina that serves fishermen and sailing enthusiasts, some who sail to Morecambe from their training quarters round the bay in Capernway.”

The Morecambe Bay project was a collaboration that allowed the community to come together to imagine the future of their seaside town. The outcome was an inspiring vision for Morecambe, rooted in the values and aspirations of the community.  The result was a shared vision of a vibrant, thriving, and sustainable Morecambe, one that aims to capture the imagination and spirit of both its residents and visitors alike.

“Everything fits with the natural beauty that surrounds Morecambe. Panoramic views. Light or dark, Morecambe has the most beautiful backdrop. The architecture clicks so well. Views from every position. And if you want to take a closer look, drop into the Observatory, adjacent to the Bay Discovery Centre, or hire one of the snug bird huts that sit on stilts between the rocks.”


Collaborators: Art Direction: Debbie Goldsmith. Narrative: Phil Griffin. Graphic Design: Darryl Hardman

An Appreciation

Anthony Wilson passed away on August 10th, 2007. 

For those lucky enough, including myself, to work for Tony, it was like embarking on a new journey of discovery. I was hired at Factory Records straight out of university in 1998, long after its heyday and I soon learned that working for Tony was an education in itself.

In his company, I found myself immersed in a new language. I listened intently to his conversations, watched his reactions, and marvelled at his ability to engage and entertain. In his black Jaguar, we would travel up and down the motorway, and he would regale me with tales from the fall of Babylon to the Spanish Inquisition, the War of the Roses to William the Silent, and the future of digital music that no one else at the time could imagine. For me, it was like working for Merlin.

One of the fondest memories I have of Tony was the night we missed a gig and ended up sitting in a service station near Northampton reading the first draft script for the film 24 Hour Party People – a story written about his life by the brilliant Frank Cottrell Boyce. Tony played Tony Wilson and I played everybody else. I’ve never laughed so much, and I realized just how amazing and incredible his life had been. I felt truly privileged to have spent time with him.

Tony was devoured by curiosity, waking up every morning with a sense of purpose and eagerness to see 

what adventures the day would bring. As Truman Capote once said, ‘if you’re a special person, you need to lead a special life,’ and Tony embodied this belief like no one else. For Tony, anything was possible, and he exuded confidence in himself and his opinions, which made the people around him feel sure too.

Despite his larger-than-life personality, Tony was humble and approachable. He was willing to discuss his weaknesses and would mischievously take the blame for everything. He was wonderfully pretentious, using his intelligence and wit with an open heart that drew others in. As one online dedication since his passing put it, ‘around my poxy sink estate, pretentious was the new glue-huffing thanks to T Wilson.’ He was a true renaissance man, able to discuss Plato and Kafka as easily as Rugby League.

When Tony needed to turn it on and make his intelligence felt, he could do so with ease. Once, while watching a young, unsigned band perform at the back of a small venue, we were surrounded by London music industry types who weren’t paying attention. When one of them leaned over and said, ‘yeah Tony, they’re good, but I can’t hear the single,’ Tony paused, moved forward, and peered over his glasses. He replied in a calm but firm tone, ‘Yes, that’s because they haven’t written it yet.’ He then quoted Marcel Proust: ‘The reason for which a work of genius is not admired easily at first is that those who have erected it are extraordinary, that few resemble…’

Tony made you proud to be from Manchester.

He was a man of stature and fame, yet incredibly humble to those he was close to. I remember watching him carry box after box of brochures into the Palais in Cannes. As a junior, I kept saying, ‘don’t worry, I’ll do it,’ but he wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, he wanted to help, and as he set off with the final load, he whispered, ‘oh, you should know, darling, to quote Hegel, the mode of production determines the mode of consciousness.’ I should have known there was a deeper reason behind his actions.

His humility extended to his achievements, as he was never a big fish in the small pond of Manchester. His Manchester was Manchester, the World, and to know how respected he was, one had to walk into the hall of the New Music Seminar in New York and watch Tony try in vain to finish a conversation as he was constantly interrupted by the greats of the music industry, people like Roger Ames, Seymour Stein, the masters of the music universe, who were in awe of our Mr Wilson. In the global music industry, Tony will be remembered in line with the great music mavericks like McLaren, Ostin, Philips, and Ertegun, incredible people that changed the face of the industry by bringing their huge intelligence and spirit to the simple art form of popular music.

Every second I spent in his company was a true adventure. I owe him a great deal. 

Having a mentor is a true blessing, and Tony was the best. As the saying goes, ‘a person dies twice: once when they take their final breath, and later, the last time their name is spoken.’ Tony’s name will continue to be spoken for years to come, and I’m honoured to have been a part of his life.

Tony Wilson was a mentor, a friend, a renaissance man, and a visionary. 

Venceremos, W. And thank you,

Warren Bramley

Factory Records. 1998 to 2002.


This piece first appeared in the Creative Times magazine.

Chetham’s School of Music

Chetham’s School of Music, located in Manchester, is a co-educational, and specialized institution devoted to the study of music. In 2012, the school inaugurated its state-of-the-art New School Building, designed by Stephenson STUDIO, which marked a new chapter in Chetham’s rich 600-year history. The new facility boasts acoustically optimized practice and performance rooms, as well as modern, well-lit spaces for academic study. Additionally, the building features The Stoller Hall, a cutting-edge performance venue that fosters connections between professional and student musicians.

In conjunction with the construction of the New School Building, and in collaboration with graphic designer Darryl Hardman, we worked with Chetham’s School of Music to create a new visual identity for the institution, the first in over 150 years. The school desired a contemporary identity that reflected the new state-of-the-art building. The design process involved extensive ethnographic research of the school’s culture and community, as well as further research into the school’s history, values, and goals, and was centred around the creation of a new logo, typography, colour palette, and imagery. The visual identity became an integral part of the wayfinding and signage within the new building, also etched into the fabric of the building itself, becoming part of the history of the institution for generations to come. 

Collaborators: Photography: Jonathan Keenan. Project Manager: Pip Roche

Folk Design

I lead an annual participatory design workshop as part of the MSc Leadership and Innovation in the Public Sector program at Atlantic Technological University, which is open to civil servants from both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The workshop draws a specific analogy between design and folk music, demonstrating that design can be as participatory and collaborative as folk music traditions, where everyone is invited to contribute regardless of their expertise.

‘over time each folksong becomes esthetically ever more appealing — it is collectively composed to perfection, as it were, by the community.’ – Cecil Sharp

To contextualize the importance of inclusive design practices and the plurality of design forms, the workshop draws upon various design thinkers and practitioners. By highlighting the works of the Scandinavian Cooperative Designers and Enid Mumford’s socio-technical design experiments of the 1960s, the workshop emphasizes the significance of participatory design, co-design, and collaboration in creating meaningful and inclusive designs.

The primary goal of the workshop is to foster an understanding of design as a participatory and collective process, where everyone has the opportunity to contribute their unique perspectives, skills, and experiences, resulting in more innovative, inclusive, and sustainable designs for the public sector. 

The workshop was developed in collaboration with designer Charlotte Bentley

Born Of Attention

Born of Attention was a design exhibition at The London Design Festival that aimed to explore the reality of information overload, examining the concept of attention and its significance in a rapidly evolving technological landscape.

As Michael Eysenck and Herbert Simon, amongst other theorists, have pointed out, attention is a constant negotiation between our current point of focus and other alternative stimuli. The negotiation is particularly intriguing because we are not often conscious of the processes of selectivity and capacity that govern it. 

As part of the exhibition, a multi-tasking virtual reality experience tested visitors’ abilities to process multiple streams of information simultaneously. This immersive experience aimed to shed light on the cognitive demands of modern technology and the impact it has on our attention span and ability to focus.

“In practical terms, we see our ‘mental models’ only when something refuses to conform to them. This is the business proposition of magicians and conjurers. They exploit our cognitive limits. They learn to train our selectivity and to work around our capacity. More deeply, mental models can be understood as reflecting our entire understanding of complex things, like our work, friendships and family. Our social relationships sometimes stumble or fail when a person does not conform to a mental model that is held about them (‘I did not expect him to behave like that’). The representation is not the same as the reality.”

In addition, the exhibition hosted a specially commissioned interactive film piece by performance artist, Jenny Lee. The piece explored the relationship between attention and perception, inviting the audience to question what it truly means to ‘pay attention’ in a world where distractions are ever-present. 

“It is not just in Psychology that we hear about the nature of Attention. In Art and Literature, major figures have long ruminated upon it, often invoking their struggles to build creative attention in the artistic process. Here is Henry David Thoreau warning of the perils of that interrupt system:  “Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”

Born of Attention sought to challenge visitors’ perceptions of attention and its role in shaping our lives and relationships with technology, and to reflect on the demands of modern life and consider the importance of mindful attention in a world that is constantly vying for our attention.

Collaborators: Research: Rebecca Welsh. Graphics: Olivia Tirard. Animation: Sabina Dallu and Olly Starkey. Set installation: Glen Wearmouth. Contributing Writer: Professor Peter Kwalek. Programme Leader: Becky Lyon. Performance Art: Jenny Lee

Blue Sky

In collaboration with Sam Pattinson of Treatment Studio and stage designer Willie Williams, U2’s long-standing Creative Director, we created a film to accompany the band’s performance of the track ‘Bullet the Blue Sky’ on their Innocence and Experience World Tour.

Inspired by the work of IPE academic Susan Strange and her book Casino Capitalism, we aimed to re-contextualize the track, taken from U2’s 1987 album, The Joshua Tree, and focus on the global financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath. The film utilized looped news footage and graphic animation, presented on a 30-meter-long, hybrid LED screen suspended in the centre of each arena throughout the tour.

The film featured a repeating visual of a swarm of locusts, drawing on the lyrics of the song and the biblical quote from Nahum 3:15 NIV, which reads: “There the fire will consume you; the sword will cut you down— they will devour you like a swarm of locusts. Multiply like grasshoppers, multiply like locusts”. 

The final show in Paris was broadcast live across the USA on HBO.

Collaborators: Reseach: Rebecca Welsh. Edit and Animation: Olly Starkey and Sabina Dallu. Art Direction: Ebony Hoorn and Ellery Roberts. Graphics: Darryl Hardman. Advisor: Professor Peter Kawalek. Project Director: Pip Roche

Create A Highway

‘If You Create A Highway’ was an exhibition designed and curated as part of Clerkenwell Design Week that explored the fluid frameworks that define human relationships and the impact of innovation and technology on these relationships. The exhibition was inspired by the ideas of South Korean artist Nam June Paik, who is renowned for his innovative use of video and electronic technology in his artworks. The quote “if you create a highway” is often attributed to Paik and reflects his belief in the power of technology to shape and influence our experiences and relationships.

“More generally and still more profoundly: that which is human is also technological. It was always this way. The dualism between the human and the technological is called ‘sociomateriality’ by Wanda Orlikowski, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). To your grandparents or your great-grandparents, a refrigerator or television was ‘tech.’ To their grandparents, electricity was unfathomable in its possibilities. Once, all things were new. To us, now, robotics, artificial intelligence and blockchain are ‘tech’. But soon they won’t be. They will be just another part of the material of life. We’ll have utilized them, integrated them and made some sense of them. And we will have changed something of ourselves in that process.”

The exhibition aimed to bring these ideas to life by encouraging visitors to react, interpret, and contribute to the research through digital and visual interactions. Performance poet Ross Sutherland created a short film that was featured as part of the exhibition, layering parts of the video ethnography with his own unique observations.

The research focused on interviews conducted in several London locations, where participants were asked to describe the last piece of media on their phones. Through these interviews, the research aimed to pick up cues and coincidences of the culture and explore the way in which people give meaning to their experiences. The exhibition hoped to spark a conversation about the sociomateriality of technology and how it is changing our lives, from the intimate to the grand, the economic to the private interest.

“Everyone now can report some little flicker of change – some new pattern to their life brought by internet technology – and for some of us these flickers add up to a sky. Some of us are crazy enough to see a panorama in the tick-tacks of change, a pattern that links every little story into a new culture that still has its own long way to travel. This culture is new and just forming. It is all about us now, as much ethereal as it is in the road underneath. The whole of life is changing, a new too-huge vaulting plain has opened up around us, and we race like specks of electricity into it.”

The exhibition continued the conversation about the intersection of technology and human relationships that Nam June Paik had started. By encouraging visitors to react, interpret, and contribute to the research, the exhibition aimed to spark a deeper understanding of the impact of technology on our lives and how we can shape our experiences and relationships in the digital age.

Collaborators: Research: Rebecca Welsh, Louis Papaloizou and Stephanie Turner. Graphics and Set Design: Darryl Hardman. Set Installation: Tim Warren. Contributing Writer: Professor Peter Kawalek. Programme Leader: Becky Lyon. Poetry: Ross Sutherland. Project Manager: Sinead McCarthy.

Coloral Cycling Co

The Coloral bidon, a fluted alloy bottle with a cork stopper and tooled cap signed off with a scripted logo, was a staple of road cycling during the golden age of the 1940s and 1950s. This metal container was derived from the Old Norse word “bida,” meaning container.

The Coloral bidon was not just used to carry water, but also to preserve a simple blend of milk and sugar that kept energy levels high during competitions and even wine when celebrating victories. Its recognisable design made it a common sight at Le Tour de France and gained cult status among fans and riders alike.

However, despite its popularity, the production of the Coloral bidon dwindled with the introduction of plastic alternatives, eventually ceasing in the mid-1950s due to manufacturing pressures.

Fascinated by the history of the Coloral bidon, we as a team of three enthusiasts and co-founders embarked on a three-year journey to revive this British design classic using modern-day materials while staying faithful to the original design. 

We took great care to remain faithful to the original design while incorporating modern materials and technology. The re-engineered Coloral bidon features food-grade stainless steel that is brushed for a muted finish, ensuring the bottle is lightweight, compact, and has been modified to fit modern-day bottle cages. Additionally, the bottle is vacuum-insulated, ensuring that cold drinks stay cool and hot drinks stay piping hot.

Stockists: Labour & Wait | Tokyo Bike | Rouleur

Kings Cross

A design collaboration with Gehl Architects to reimagine the public realm outside Kings Cross Station in London. 

The aim was to develop a design fiction framework that would inspire and engage a diverse group of stakeholders, including local residents, businesses, and other key players with an interest in the area. By leveraging the potential of design fiction, we sought to open up possibilities and encourage imaginative thinking and discussion about the potential of the space.

To achieve those objectives, we devised a human-centered design approach that incorporated scientific metaphors and fictional character profiles to create a narrative for the space through which we were able to envisage future scenarios in which the public realm outside Kings Cross Station was fully optimized for social interaction and engagement.

The project was preliminary in nature and focused on sparking discussion and debate among stakeholders about the possibilities for the area. By collaborating with Gehl Architects and drawing on their expertise in architecture and urban planning, we were able to create a design fiction framework that was rooted in sound design principles and took into account the needs and desires of the people who would ultimately use the space.

Visualisation: Darryl Hardman, Stephen Holden and Gareth Edwards