Delivering change through an inspiring co-design approach

Client: Barnardo's x IKEA

Every year, around 10,000 children and young people in England, aged 16 to 18, leave local authority care. Many find this difficult and unsettling, as they figure out how to live independently without friends or close family.

Barnardo’s wanted to address the issues facing young care-leavers through a pilot co-creation project in partnership with IKEA.

They briefed us to deliver creative solutions for a digital toolkit that would empower young care leavers to develop the skills and confidence they need to start living independently.

We worked with 11 care-experienced young people and put them at the heart of a co-creation approach to ensure the project delivered exactly what they needed.

Our scope of work spanned three phases, delivered over two years:

First, we co-designed the LifeLabs brand with the young people, and, through primary research and workshops, established the need for an online “video-based toolkit” of independent-living resources in five areas: DIY, managing money, reducing energy consumption, batch cooking, and mental wellbeing.

Second, we designed this portal with them, and produced 18 videos covering these themes.

Lastly, we developed a collaborative exhibition in IKEA Exeter: a chance for the young people to be seen and heard, and a celebration of skills learnt and friends made throughout the project.

leap's award winning co-design work for Barnardo's lifelabs project
stills from mobile-first instructional videos created by care-experienced young people for barnardo's life labs

With clear direction from co-design sessions with the young people, we developed an online portal which was a mobile and video first design; set up to stream videos that would be housed on YouTube; with a busy, vibrant look and feel that incorporated black and white images; and structured to allow for supporting back stories to be told through video and text.

digital outcomes of Leap's awad winning lifelabs project for barnardo's

We collaborated with youth specialist video production teams to develop the video content for the platform. We created four experience-led videos of young people sharing their lived experiences and overlaid with animation to highlight the key points, and eight instructional videos including cooking skills and budgeting tips. As with the portal, the young people were involved in every key creative decision and helped guide the videos’ direction. The videos focussed on the five skills areas identified in our research in phase 1.

The final phase was a collaborative exhibition in IKEA Exeter: a platform for care-experienced young people to be seen and heard, and to celebrate the skills they’d learnt and the friendships they’d made during the project.

The exhibition involved workshops and creating behind the scenes videos, which were streamed as part of the exhibition and also added to the portal along with supporting content about the young people’s personal journeys.

The exhibition was centred around the idea of pride, which emerged as the central theme from the planning workshops. It was designed around the personalised pieces of furniture the young people created in the DIY workshops. These items were displayed on plinths with QR codes linking visitors to videos of their personal stories as care-leavers.

At the centre, a large screen streamed a behind-the-scenes video from the workshops. Large-format floor graphics made of quotes from the young people guided visitors through the exhibition. At the end, there was a wall of large-format portraits of the five young people who had taken part – their identities protected by images of their favourite home space.

This is BRILLIANT. Stop what you are doing and watch this. This is exactly how we should be listening to and learning from young people. This is “story” free; not a chance anyone could watch this and respond with pity. This is voice, power, integrity and true insight. So refreshing.

Nataliya Deleva

Head of Voice and Influence team at Barnardo’s

The Impact


The co-creation process had a huge impact on the care-experienced young people involved. They formed friendships and grew in confidence as they learnt new independent living skills.

Within six months, there were over 1,200 unique users of the portal and over 1,100 views across the videos – from an 800-person target audience.

As a result of the positive impacts delivered from this pilot project, Barnardo’s supported by IKEA is expanding it to a nationwide programme – with the potential to reach 150,000 young people in or leaving care.

For the first time, a care-experienced young person has been employed by Barnardo’s to help coordinate the expansion.


Systemic change: the project was aligned with key findings from IKEA and Barnardo’s 2021 research report which highlighted the difficulties young people face when they leave care. Recommendations were presented to the Government in response to the England care system review.

Minimised carbon emissions: despite the length and scale of this project, a large portion was worked on through the Covid pandemic. Travel was therefore restricted and so carbon emissions were kept relatively low as the majority of the project was managed virtually.


Due to the early success of the co-creation approach, Barnardo’s corporate partner IKEA decided to support the project with £75,000, which enabled the creation of the online portal, videos and supporting content, and the exhibition.

Following the project, IKEA extended their corporate partnership with Barnardo’s by 12 months, donating an additional £70,000 to support this expansion.

IKEA’s additional £70,000 will help LifeLabs to:
– Recruit a young care-leaver to a new role to lead the roll-out
– Develop the portal’s functionality
– Create new content for the portal
– Run skills workshops with groups of young care-leavers across the country.

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