The think tank, the housing association, the children’s charity and the co-designers

Friendly Families Nursery - Deptford's co-produced parent-led nursery

A new, affordable, parent-led nursery co-produced by families through increasingly detailed play-based design and construction workshops.

How did the collaboration come about?

New Economics Foundation (NEF) had the big idea as part of their campaign around affordable childcare. Peabody identified an unused site and made it available at a reduced rent. Coram Family and Childcare provided early stage profesional input around safeguarding, pedagogy and regulatory frameworks. Collaborative Design and Build (Co-DB) developed and delivered the co-design programme and physical construction. Local families steered the spatial design and pedagogical direction throughout, eventually taking full directorial responsibilities.

NEF initially approached Coram and Peabody who supported and hosted the pilot project. Co-DB was brought in to develop a joined-up design and build strategy, that would both fit-out the space and engage and support the local community. Together Co-DB and NEF secured funding for the capitol works from the GLA’s Good Growth Fund before beginning initial stay and play sessions together.

Incrementally families have then gone on to take part in increasingly complex design and build workshops, have formed a directors group, employed nursery managers, and will be opening as an OfSTED registered nursery setting in September 2020.


What were the most important factors that contributed to the success of this project?

Response to need
Combination of skill sets
The ‘big’ idea
Delivery of project
Social impact

Project funding

Trust for London and GLA Good Growth Fund

Will the project continue beyond COVID-19 lockdown?

Yes. It was initiated before COVID-19 and will continue indefinitely. However, the arrival of COVID-19 and subsequent lock-down highlighted beyond measure the significance of childcare within our economy, as well as the potential for parents to work more closely with early years professionals to develop and design it around their needs.

It also made clear the value of an empowered, well coordinated collaborative team in responding to the crisis and making the necessary changes to both the physical environment and service provision in a joined-up and progressive manner.

Any other comment?

A collaborative, process-led design strategy was key to instilling local community ownership of the project from the start and to engendering the skills and ambition amongst families to build their own nursery through collaborative means.

By focusing on engaging early years children, their siblings and parents in the planning, prototyping and construction of the physical environment a whole ethos of doing it together is being built-up on both a physical and emotional level.

This ongoing project highlights the value of using co-design thinking to form collaborations that pair established bodies with under underrepresented groups on an equal footing. By challenging professional practice to open up to the ways of working of even our youngest citizens we are building more sustainable, creative and valued services and spaces within our communities.