From Idea to Action

Prototyping in Calderdale made residents leap into action with their Listening Sofa


People in Calderdale don’t hang around. Residents and staff finalised prototype ideas for their Listening Sofa on a Thursday afternoon and put them straight into action just a day and a half later at West View Park Family Fun Day in July. Isn’t it amazing what communities can achieve!

  • Greenhome at Threeways provided the sofa, table and lamp
  • Phoenix Shed Halifax knocked up the sign
  • North Halifax Partnership and Halifax Central Initiative staffed the sofa
  • United Reformed Church stored the sofa over the weekend

The idea came from a Public Square workshop, in which residents were challenged to come up with new ways of getting involved in local decision making and talking with the council. This included looking at the issue from provocative angles, stretching ideas and turning thinking inside out.

At a second workshop, ideas were developed into prototypes using 3D models. Learning here is not to be precious about your idea. If you are happy to chuck your prototype in the bin, it’s a prototype! This was a chance to test an idea, learn how it might work, how it might change to be better, and used by the people it’s designed for. By testing, we look to challenge and find new solutions, which means we may go back to the drawing board…and that’s why a prototype is not precious.

Residents and staff were energised about developing models into reality and wasted no time in planning for an immediate community event. They positioned a sofa and side table, recreating a safe space for conversations.

A sofa is a great concept as it builds on emotional connections people have with their furniture. Recreating a living room opens up a space where people can have all sorts of conversations, for instance how Calderdale has changed.  As a mobile tool, the Listening Sofa also brings people together, reducing isolation with its quirkiness.

This idea came from residents and council staff working together, sharing the thinking and doing in real partnership.  This energy encourages more people to talk about what needs to be better in the place where they live.

The simplicity of this idea can improve how people live together, work together and build better places.

Pandora Ellis, Democratic Society said, As Public Square host, it was inspiring to see the people of Calderdale demonstrating exactly how a recycled sofa can create new relationship between residents and the council.