Hothouses for Innovation

Service design


The Hothouses for Innovation initiative is a  partnership with  Crisis, the national homelessness charity.  It is a service design initiative aimed at improving  services and outcomes  for those who might benefit from Crisis support, employing design thinking and rapid cycle testing methods.     


 The need

Crisis  deliver services for people affected by homelessness in 11 locations, called Skylights, across the UK. While the context around homelessness is dynamic and changing at the national level, there are also important differences and dynamics in local areas. The Skylight model of support,  therefore,  must  constantly  be adapting and learning to ensure it can improve outcomes for communities in different environments.  

Our response

Selected Crisis Skylights have become Hothouses for Innovation  in which  the  Lab is facilitating a service design process that incorporates user-centred  and evidence-informed design.  The process starts with a  full-day workshop bringing Crisis staff and  service users  together with partner organisations to agree on a priority challenge that the Hothouse would address.  Next, we run a  Service Design Sprint in which staff,  service users  and partners rapidly develop  service adaptations  that responded to the priority challenge.  Finally, the Hothouses pilot the most promising adaptation  and  within a framework of rapid cycle testing. 


Work to date

  •  Challenge workshops at the Hothouses  

  •  Service Design Sprint  

  •  Implementation of the most promising adaptation  

  • Rapid cycle testing  

What next?  

  •   Dissemination of learning from the Hothouses across the network of Crisis Skylights  

  • Ongoing delivery by a Hothouse of their adaptation following refinement through the rapid cycle testing process  

    Our work started in September 2017  and  will conclude in September 2019.



Hothouses for Innovation at Crisis Skylight South Yorkshire (not yet published)

Employment Pathways at Crisis Skylight  Oxford: Independent Evaluation Report (not yet published)

Progressing Onwards  at Crisis Skylight  London: Independent Evaluation Report (not yet published)

Crisis Skylight South Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority partnership: Independent Evaluation Report

Employment Pathways at Crisis Skylight Coventry & Warwickshire: Independent Evaluation Report

Progressing Towards Employment at Crisis Skylight Edinburgh: Independent Evaluation Report

Oxford Challenge Brief

South Yorkshire Challenge Brief

Edinburgh Challenge Brief


Evaluation will set you free

Co-production in testing – the art of the possible?

Data-driven co-production: Challenging our preconceptions

Running a marathon as a sprint: service design accelerated

The Hothouses for Innovation initiative is a partnership between the  Dartington  Service Design Lab and Crisis,  a national charity for homeless people.  Crisis  helps people directly out of homelessness and campaigns for the changes needed to solve it altogether. Crisis’ ultimate aim is to eradicate homelessness

 For more information, contact:   

Ben Hartridge