Design Club update: A shift in strategy and focus

We’re moving away from volunteer-led design clubs and towards a curated directory of design thinking tools for kids

Design Club
5 min readJul 13, 2022


Design Club Intro slide on monitor — Photo: Lee Jeffery

A reminder of our vision

Nurture empathy, collaboration & problem-solving skills in children, to help make the future world a better place.

An updated strategy

Existing strategy

Volunteer-led clubs — Grow and support a UK-wide community of volunteer-led after school and weekend design clubs.

New strategy

Design thinking tools for kids — Build a directory of products, projects and programmes that get kids doing design and design thinking.

Why this new strategy?

In short, two years of lockdowns and restrictions have impacted both in-school and weekend delivery of clubs, and we never quite recovered.

A quick look at the last two years

January 2020 — Great start to the year for Design Club. After school clubs and weekend clubs were on the rise. Our community was growing. Super mentors were emerging. We were getting traction.

March 2020 — The UK went into its first Covid-19 lockdown. Since then, it’s been a challenge. Progress has been patchy.

March 2020 to now — We got some funding to help reboot Design Club. Design thinking activities were delivered to kids remotely at home and in school. Once things began to open up, we ran an-person club at the weekend. Since September 2021, Monica, Chris, Jemima, Lee, Yvette, Dave, Claudia and others have delivered more in-person sessions.

Jemima, Design Club co-founder, deserves all the credit. She’s been the driver behind Design Club for the last two years. Back in March 2020, Jemima wrote about How to run a Design Club mini-project from home. Since then, it’s been all Jemima. Supporting mentors, experimenting with delivery, pushing things forward with grace and determination.

I have so much love and respect for Jemima. ❤️

Kids working away at Jemima’s club in West London — Photos: Jemima Gibbons

Why the past two years have been challenging

Reflections and realisations, in no particular order:

  • Hard to get access to schools — Getting back into schools has been stop-start. Policies changed and schools have only recently been welcoming non-staff back into school.
  • Covid continues to have an impact — Many people are still concerned about infection. They have dependants and family to care for, or existing health conditions. Covid didn’t disappear on 19 July last year, when restrictions in the UK were lifted. Instead, there seems to have been a lasting social change. For many, distancing and caution are now a preferred choice. Conferences hand out green, amber and red lanyards to indicate whether or not touch is welcome.
  • Remote delivery hasn’t worked — Remote working has transformed our lives. But doing creative stuff with kids remotely doesn’t work so well. There are technical and logistical challenges. It’s hard to build relationships with kids. It’s nearly impossible to tune into and influence the vibe of the group. I started Design Club because the experience of working with kids in a classroom is fun and rewarding. It’s much tougher with remote.
  • Not as easy to nurture community — We’ve been able to reach a wider demographic of volunteers. But we’ve found it more difficult to bond and foster a sense of shared mission as a community. When we ran events in real life, active volunteers would enthuse newbies to start clubs. It was easier to share knowledge and support each other.
  • Measuring success is more difficult — Impact measurement has always been a challenge. Covid makes it even harder. With less real life contact, communication and collaboration, it’s been difficult for us to get a real sense of what people are doing, thinking and feeling.
  • People are very tired— Lots of creative and tech people feel exhausted and are recovering from the demands of the last two years. Mind has published many resources on Coronavirus and work, including info on coping with burnout, which says: a recent study by Monster found that 69% of employees working from home are experiencing symptoms of burnout. It’s unsurprising when you consider how many of us are juggling busy work schedules, video calls, home-schooling and household chores everyday.
  • Funding has gone elsewhere — Funding has always been a challenge. We’ve experimented with different messages to communicate the importance of design thinking. But in the last two years, we’ve struggled to get cut-through. Covid, the cost of living, the Ukraine war, and the global refugee crisis are more urgent problems.
Lee Jeffery running a Design Club at Simms Cross Primary School — Photos: Lee Jeffery

What the new strategy means for Design Club

Build a directory of products, projects and programmes that get kids doing design and design thinking.

We’ll no longer be…

  • Actively finding new volunteers to mentor and run design clubs
  • Supporting new volunteers to run design clubs
  • Running regular Meetups — future events will fit the new strategy

We are considering what do with…

  • The community Slack —open for existing mentors, reviewing end of 2022
  • Our online shop — likely to be closed by end of 2022

We will be…

  • Finding and categorising design activities
  • Encouraging others to suggest and contribute design activities
  • Showcasing different types of design activities for kids
  • Offering consultancy to orgs planning to run design activities with kids
  • Redesigning the Design Club website to reflect our new plans

Design activities = products, projects and programmes

Thank you to everyone who has supported us

So many people have supported Design Club along the way.

Jemima and I would like to say thank you. To the advisory team. To our 40 supporters and funders. To the 120 people in our Slack community. To our 260 newsletter subscribers. To our 500 Meetup group members. To all those who’ve supported and engaged with us on social media.

Most importantly, we want to send a big heartfelt thanks to the 200 amazing mentors who have delivered or helped deliver Design Clubs in schools, at home and at weekends. We salute you!