Topic: Movement | Reading time: 10-12 minutes

In the Beginning:

On a stormy evening in early October 2017, we found ourselves on the first of 3 trains, travelling North from Oxford to the beautiful (and usually placid) town of Windemere. Windemere is nestled on the banks of the largest body of water, in Cumbria’s Lake District. We had been invited to a team building week by our client, Camerados.  

 Why? We still had absolutely no idea. Directors Maff Potts and Jenny Fox had invited me on the pretext that my ‘creative input would be valuable in developing their big bet’ – and that was enough to grab my attention and secure our attendance. 

 Camerados is a relatively young organisation with some seasoned heavy-hitters behind it – and some big, big aims. They started with a belief in a simple but powerful idea: that friendships (however loosely defined) and a sense of purpose could help people tough times; and that isolation and loneliness underlie many societal problems, such as poor mental and physical health, addiction, homelessness, and a general lack of community cohesion. I mean, how many of you reading this know the names of the neighbours living either side of you on your street, let alone how they are feeling on any given day? 

With the support of and design giant IDEO, Camerados had been learning from their already impactful social action around the globe. From Public Living Rooms in NYC to micro- businesses in Blackpool, it was time to consolidate this body learning into their two ‘big bets’ – one which would see teepees erected in hospitals around the UK, and the other which would catapult the organisation into a global movement.  

Camerados teepee

On the first evening in the rented holiday house overlooking the great lake, we were told about their plan to create a Living Room in a Box. 

 The idea for the Living Room was a Box is simple. Take what had already been a unanimous success around the world, Public Living Rooms – and replicate it. The limitations around doing this was twofold: The Association of Camerados, the good people employed by Camerados, are not physically able to fly around the world promoting the message and besides, what they had learned was the painful truth that: sometimes their guiding presence, was in itself a perceived hindrance. People need to help one another, it’s part of the healing. 

When presented with the initial sketches for the box, the first thing that was apparent to us was that sending hundreds of boxes filled with promotional information out around the globe would be ineffective. This wasn’t an exercise in promotion, publicity or advertising – it was about human connection. The second ingredient, that we felt was missing, and what makes Camerados so special – was an insatiable need to continually learn from their community. How would we track and learn about the recipients of the boxes?

Following those initial days of excited conversation and relentless sketching, an idea took form. We knew that the boxes had to feel special – meaning they would likely be fewer in number. And we came to believe that for the movement to gather a self-generating momentum, the box needed to be sent from one group of Camerados to another – picking up experiences as well as contents as they crossed continents and cultures.

Camerados Living Room in a Box sketches

 We designed the box with two distinct sections, one to be shared items that spoke to the experience of the movement and the other (which will be replenished between every voyage), will give the groups hoping to start a living room a helping hand with promotion and decoration. Added to the box was a book detailing everything that has been learned about the concept of Public Living Rooms – and inviting the new Camerados to add to this story. We also affixed a countdown timer to the inside lid of the box, instructing those who opened the box – that the need to act. Once the timer ran out, after 90 days, the box would be collected and transported to the next group. It still makes us laugh thinking of this being discovered by border control and confused with a ‘loneliness bomb’. We know – this makes us bad people!

We have just come to the end of our first round of living rooms, and Camerados received the boxes back on Tuesday. Needless to say, the results were incredibly productive and enlightening for everybody involved. We saw some boxes returned in pristine condition, others completely weathered by the sea, some boxes filled to the brim, and some boxes used as the gateway to anti-isolation without the contents even being used. One party missed their box so much that they built their own! The outcome was a huge success and it proved hat the Camerados movement can and will be spread across the globe – whether they’re a physical part of the living rooms or not.

If you need some ideas on how to spread your message or would like to talk to use about designing some alternative messaging – please contact us or call us on +44 (0) 1865 807570.