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External Engagement

We engage with a range of people and organizations beyond our taught programmes of study for students and grant funded research projects. 

We feel that engaging with public audiences and community groups is very important, so in addition to the free courses and educational resources that we contribute to OpenLearn under the Science, Maths and Technology and the Nature and Environment sections, we run and take part in many outreach and public engagement events. We believe that engineering and technology is for everyone, so offer a broad range of activities from events aimed at school children, through to talks for specialist audiences.

The School has many industrial links and collaborations with public, private and third sector organsiations as part of its research and teaching activities.

We also run or contribute to commercial enterprises as a means of maximising the impact of our academic activities. Our enterprise activities draw on our research and scholarship:

The School also contributes to The Open University’s international development activities mostly run through the International Development Office but also via the STEM faculty’s scholarship centre - eSTEeM. Our staff currently contribute to two major international development projects:

Partnership working

The Design Group has a strategic partnership with The Glass-House Community Led Design a national charity that supports communities, organisations and networks to work collaboratively on the design of buildings, open spaces, homes and neighbourhoods. The partnership has secured funding for over 13 collaborative research projects and generated resources that are of practical use to professional designers, architects, planners and community development officers, as well as community based groups and organisations and individuals with an interest in collaborative design and creative civic action.

Some of the external organisations we have worked around the themes of collaborative design and social innovation include: National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Historic Religious Buildings Alliance, Blackwood Foundation, Bow Arts, Bromley by Bow Centre, Poplar Harca, Fossbox, London Community Housing Cooperative, New Vic Borderlines, Social Farms & Gardens (Confederation of City Farms and Community Gardens) and the Greater London Authority among others.

Public engagement in design

Places of Connection at Tate Exchange

Design academics took part in the Who Are We? Programme at Tate Exchange in 2018 run by Counterpoint Arts and the Open University in in association with Stance Podcast and the University of York. Places of Connection was a drop-in workshop open to the public which invited members of the public to reflect on the everyday spaces in our communities where we feel a sense of welcome, belonging and connection. Participants built a wall of connected representations celebrating the social, faith and cultural spaces that connect communities, by creating and sharing their ideas, stories and experiences. The workshop was led by Theo Zamenopoulos, Katerina Alexiou and Vera Hale from the Open University's Design Group and The Glass-House Community Led Design.

Read more about the Places for Connection workshop here.

Prototyping Utopias public engagement project

The Prototyping Utopias public engagement project was funded by AHRC in 2016 as part of their Connected Communities Research Festival inspired by the 500th anniversary of the publication of Thomas More’s Utopia. The project delivered two open day events in Bow on the 30th of April and the 21st of May 2016. The first was focussed on ‘dreaming’ and the second on ‘prototyping’. You can view a film about these events here:

The project was also part of a major public exhibition, the AHRC’s Utopia Fair at Somerset House in central London, between 24th and 26th June 2016, which reached over 10,000 visitors.

Led by OU academics Katerina Alexiou and Theodore Zamenopoulos with The Glass-House Community Led Design and in collaboration with Bow Arts, Bromley by Bow Centre, Poplar Harca and artists Simon Daw, Paul Burgess and Emma Crouch.


Finally we want to acknowledge that The Open University is the host for the Sir Geoffrey Vickers papers and an online catalogue of them is available from the OU Archive web pages.

Sir (Charles) Geoffrey Vickers (1894-1982) had a varied life as a lawyer, soldier, economic intelligence officer and legal advisor. In the later years of his life he became a prolific writer and speaker on the subject of social systems analysis and the complex patterns of social organization.

The catalogue is also available from the Archives Hub website. The Archives Hub is a national gateway to descriptions of archives within UK universities and colleges. As part of the Hub, the Vickers catalogue is now cross-searchable with hundreds of other collections.

Academic Staff