Proto-policy is a three month pilot project running from June to August 2015, which aims to investigate how ‘design fictions’ -provocative visual texts (artefacts, images, films) that materialise scenarios about, or provide clues to, future ways of living-can be used to help politicians and community groups imagine the future implications of policy initiatives in creative ways.

Proto-policy is part of the Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project ProtoPublics, which aims to support researchers and community partners to become active participants in ‘crafting new services, experiences, projects and policies that address contemporary issues’. For the purposes of this pilot, Proto-policy will focus on issues of ageing in place (people remaining in their homes rather than move to institutional facilities) and isolation.

Imagining alternative ways of living in old age has become a cultural preoccupation, hence the extraordinary popular success of the ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, yet talking to older people about the future (particularly the ‘older old’, those aged 80+) is virtually taboo. This project uses design fictions to address that taboo by inviting older people to imagine and, with the assistance of a designer, create visual texts (artefacts, images, films) that materialise scenarios, or provide clues to, future ways of living in compelling ways.

Proto-policy will run a series of creative workshops with older people communities to respond to the ‘Ageing in Place’ policy agenda by co-creating future design fictions that envisage what a future of ‘flexible living’ – a third space that has the benefits of independent living without the downsides of loneliness, fear and vulnerability – might look like. These would be shared with politicians in a ‘design fiction provocation’ event to be held in Westminster in order to help negotiate political questions.

Through its project partners, the All-Party Parliamentary Design and Innovation Group (APDIG) and Age UK, this project seeks to build a shared understanding of the constraints and opportunities of political issues around Ageing in Place and loneliness through design fictions. The APDIG is a cross-party coalition of parliamentarians and design sector organisations that works to develop new design policy ideas and critique existing government decision-making around design.