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The Building Connections Fund: Co-design and community spaces

Guidance and Final report

The cross-government Building Connections Fund is an £11.5 million partnership between the government, the National Lottery Community Fund, and the Co-op Foundation, working to reduce or prevent loneliness across England. You can read about our role as learning and evaluation partner here.

In addition to the main fund, in November 2018, the Co-op Foundation is supporting efforts to maximise the use of community spaces, particularly for young people. This included focusing on co-designing services with young people.

As a key component of the government’s Loneliness Strategy, funding was allocated to 144 projects, with a short delivery period of three months, between January and March 2019.

We conducted a qualitative evaluation of these projects to better understand the role of co-design and community spaces in reducing loneliness for young people.


Our work included:

  • Exploring the outcomes of co-design on participants, beneficiaries and the wider community;
  • Exploring how organisations were successful or unsuccessful in engaging young people in co-design, including the extent to which they integrated young people in the evaluation of co-design;
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of improving community spaces on reducing youth loneliness;
  • Identifying the factors that can help communities make better use of community spaces.


Read our full report below to discover what worked well:


By evaluating how co-design was used by Building Connections Fund grantees, we were able to identify the common factors which the most impactful charities have. From what we learnt, we’ve published practical guidance on planning and evaluating co-design for community spaces. It includes:

  • Top tips for creating and monitoring a co-design process
  • Advice on how to evaluate co-design by reflecting on: the benefits of co-design for staff and young people; the quality of the co-design process; and insights into addressing loneliness and social isolation.

This guidance was developed for the Building Connections Fund grant-holders who are working specifically on co-design and community spaces, but it can be used by any charity or funder looking to design or improve its co-design process.

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