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Walworth Living Room


Client: Pembroke House Settlement

Funded by: Guy's & St. Thomas' charity

Role: Service design lead & Community participation


“This process has shown me that my health is manageable. You can do something about it. When I used to think about it, it would seem too much, too difficult to try and balance it all; what can I really do about it? But seeing it visualised I realise that it’s okay, actually I can do this.”


Tackling health inequality on neighbourhood level 

A whole-systems approach to multiple long term conditions in Walworth, London that works on a neighbourhood level. We brought together the Walworth neighbourhood; a group consisting of local health providers and community organisations who work together to create a vibrant, healthier and happier neighbourhood. 

One physical element of this approach is The Walworth Living Room; the social front door to services and support, but firstly to social connection. It is public space where social and community activities blend with health services and shared work spaces. Individuals and organisations meet here who would otherwise not come in contact with one another. Everyone is welcome and has the opportunity to engage in existing activities or start their own, and build valuable connections, trusted relationships and a sense of agency that will improve their quality of life, health and wellbeing. 

Visit the Walworth living room website


The challenge 

Walworth is a microcosm of the modern inner-city life, with vast sways of regeneration surrounding estates that have some of the highest levels of deprivation in the UK. The area also has a high prevalence of people living with three or more long-term conditions. Pembroke House Settlement is a charity that has been supporting Walworth, Southwark for over 130 years, and are one of the only settlements still in their original setup. Even though they and many other organisations do amazing work, the overall level of poverty and health in the neighbourhood hasn't much improved. The neighbourhood needs a completely new and collaborative approach to improving health. 

“I’d like somewhere to go. To have a reason to get up in the morning. At the moment I just get up and

think: what’s on the telly? It would be nice to go to a place to have coffee, have a chat with people. I’d like to pass on my knowledge to people. I can’t show how anymore, but I could explain it.” James, a Walworth resident 

Example of Health Chronicles from people with long term multiple health conditions in Walworth  
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I conducted ethnographic research with 7 people with multiple long term health conditions living in Walworth to get a deeper understanding of their experienceThe architecture studio We Made That mapped Walworth to understand it's existing assets and the movements of its residents. 

We brought together a small group of likeminded individuals from different health and community organisations who are all passionate about setting up a collaborative way of working. We ran a series of workshops and prototyped possible solutions. Over time we engaged more and more people, slowly extending the group over time. 

The Walworth living room was opened as a live prototyping space. We involved architecture students, residents, community organisations and health providers to prototype possible solutions together, while growing the neighbourhood engagement. We set up a cafe and provided opportunity for residents to set up their own activities like a chess and coding club for children, a community cinema club and a parent's cooking club, while slowly engaging more and more communities in Walworth.


We worked together with Ratio, a research company focused on the importance of relationships. They helped the team to reflect on and learn from our prototypes with the gathering of in depth quantitative and qualitative data. 

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The journey

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The impact 

Since the Walworth living room opened, we helped residents set up 39 clubs and activities and have started 25 partnerships with organisations in Walworth. We've been getting about 50 visitors a day through our open door. Service providers work with us to deliver a new kind of care to people, that starts with building relationships and a sense of purpose. 

“All the people that I know that come here, will make others feel welcome. I met so many people here, and that helped me also develop my skills." local resident 

"You can do what you want here. If you want to craft you craft, if you want to talk you talk. We do knitting, looming, we exchange ideas all the time." local resident 

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