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Sustainability through community: collaborating with end users to achieve public health benefits, empowerment and equality

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The Health Design Collective is a social enterprise with a focus on coming together as a collective community to create and continuously improve products to benefit individuals with long-term health conditions. Our focus is the impact on the quality of life that our products can have in the community through their accessibility, effectiveness and attractiveness.


People are less likely to be physically active, socially involved and engaged in roles that matter to them when their options are limited to unattractive, uncomfortable or expensive products. Our aim is therefore to help people be more physically active, offer public health benefits, improve self-esteem and decrease social isolation, stigmatisation as well as health inequalities.


We emphasise sustainability through community. This innovative business model is based on the collaboration between individuals with a variety of experiential and professional expertise who feed into idea generation, prioritisation, co-design and product development. These include academics, key stakeholders such as the MS Therapy Centre as well as a social media network of end users with long-term health conditions. 


Profits from product sales will support further research, innovation and promotion of user-centred product design principles in the field. As a result, Health Design Collective contributes to the empowerment of others, both directly through the impacts of products on end users and through our relationships with collaborators.



In 2018 we were starting to develop our ideas and business plan. We were encouraged to submit to the Social Enterprise category of the Converge Challenge competition. Converge Challenge work with Scottish Universities to encourage and support the development of spinouts and start-ups to make sure that great ideas from staff, students, and recent graduates from Scottish Universities can become products and businesses. The application process is very supportive and helps you to move forward, whether or not you win. We were able to discuss our ideas with Converge Challenge staff, and when we reached the second stage, this meant that one of us could participate in valuable training. This helped us to refine our business plan. We were absolutely shocked to reach the finals, and actually win the Runners-up prize in the Social Enterprise category! It helped us develop belief in ourselves and in the Health Design Collective. 


Directors of HDC were awarded Queen Margaret University's Innovation Fellowship in 2018/19 and 2019/20 to co-design, develop and test the minimum viable product and file patent application. Working with Buchanan Orthotics, using an iterative design approach shoes were designed working with people living with foot-drop. With this funding support we filed UK and European patent applications. We have been subsequently awarded a third Innovation Fellowship to support development of our marketable product. You can read the full story here


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Health Design Collective team picture

Our directors provide wide-ranging expertise and resources and are thus key to HDC’s innovative development:


Kavi Jagadamma (on the right)

Senior Lecturer at QMU

Expert in gait analysis and orthotics


Gillian Robinson (on the left)

Lead Physiotherapist at Compass Therapy Centre

Analyses people’s needs, tests existing products and develops new ideas


Cathy Bulley (in the centre on the right)

Professor in Physiotherapy at QMU

Expert in qualitative research and user experiences


Derek Santos (in the centre on the left)

Professor in Podiatry at QMU

Expert in orthotic design and testing


Health Design Collective relies on the invaluable support of its partners including the MS Therapy Centre and Queen Margaret University. The collective expertise, resources and perspectives provided by academics, students, stakeholders and the network of end-users are also crucial in the development process of HDC’s projects.


I am a Senior Lecturer at Queen Margaret University. In my early career I worked with children with Cerebral Palsy in India. I came to QMU in Edinburgh to do research and now I mix that with innovation. I am passionate about user-centred product design, which is at the core of the Health Design Collective. 



Hi, I am a Professor in Queen Margaret University. I started out my career as a physiotherapist and quickly found that I love to do research. I am particularly interested in the experiences and needs of people who are living with long-term health conditions. I use that research to advocate for people – to tell their stories and argue for better types of support. I’m still a researcher at heart, but I love the fact that now I’m involved in researching products that I’ve had a role in developing, and that cater directly to the needs of people. 



I am a Professor in Queen Margaret University. I am a qualified podiatrist by profession but soon moved into academia after doing my PhD in bioengineering and I then followed this with a MSc in Podiatric Surgery. My focus has always been in teaching and studying human gait and provide possible solutions through insoles, shoe modifications, rehabilitation, etc.  Talking to colleagues with a similar interest we formed the Health Design Collective (HDC) where we work with people living with health conditions and listen to their problems and their views on possible solutions to some of their, for example, functional challenges.



In 2002 I qualified as a physiotherapist and have always loved my work as a clinician, with a particular interest in neurological rehabilitation. After 10 years working in the NHS in London, I moved to Edinburgh and have since worked as Lead Physiotherapist at the Multiple Sclerosis Therapy Centre Lothian. I am passionate about helping people along their journey with long term conditions, finding solutions to their problems and a path to being the best they can be. I hope that through HDC, I can take a more proactive step towards finding better solutions for my clients, because they deserve it. 



Our Policies and Procedures are in line with the ethos of the social enterprise. Please click on the following links:

Equality Diversity and Inclusion Policy

Grievence Procedure

Disciplinary Procedure

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