Category: Blog

Recent news about our projects

Are we working well together?

Are we working well together?

blog by Cathy Sharp, Research for Real

One of the recent highlights of my working life was a week when I took part in contrasting events and activities across Scotland. These spanned people and settings as wide ranging as academics interested in how to create ‘meaningful dialogue drawing on diverse knowledge’; care home managers wanting to engage staff, relatives and residents much more in creating high quality care; and GPs and other health and social care professionals interested in how their own developing collaborative leadership practices might produce better outcomes for people and communities. The highlight of a stimulating week was taking part in a Space Unlimited Lasting Change event that brought young people and teachers from different schools together to explore how to engage and sustain young people to be genuine and active partners in learning.

If there was a theme of the week, it might have been ‘how we talk to each other’ and ‘how we work together’ to learn. It seems to be all about relationships, not so much ‘who you know’ as ‘how you know’ – in and through relationships, where people can come together, to take the time to really know each other as human beings. In talking about their own experience of the Space Unlimited enquiry process, one of the young people said, that “there are people with good ideas out there, but they don’t feel confident or in the environment to share them”. My mind drifted to the staff meetings where most people don’t take part and those who shout the loudest get heard. Another young person suggested “all it takes is one conversation where your ideas get heard and it feels better” and so transported me back to my relief after sharing my anxieties about my mother with her care home manager. Then I heard that some [other young] people were coming to the Space Unlimited enquiry for different reasons, like getting out of class, and that it slowed things down for everyone else. Again, I was back in those meetings where you lose the will to live. And the young people must have known what I was thinking because next came “sometimes older people don’t feel heard either, or comfortable to share their ideas”.

It was an emotional and positive day. I shared these nuggets and got a Twitter howl of recognition from some unexpected quarters. It seems we’re not working well together, when we often say that this is want we want to do and just when, perhaps more than ever, this is what we need to do.

Words like challenge and disruption are strong words that might induce fear and conjure mayhem in our minds. But how might we ‘positively disrupt’ the unspoken ground-rules and invisible norms of school and working life? The ‘rules’ about who talks and when, who is heard and how the way we do this might be a tool for joint enquiry and learning – genuinely thinking and working together, whether we’re teachers and pupils, managers and carers or GPs and patients. We could learn a lot from young people, who have shown that, given the right conditions, they can say simply and sincerely what they see or feel in dialogue with others. And when they do this, the conversation almost always shifts to something more open, interesting and more possibility and hope-full. The young people sense this potential:

“I just don’t get why more of school can’t be like this, I mean, we learn about everything else – well, when we actually study – but not …you know…’us’.”

Can we all take more time to ‘study us’? Imagine what we might learn if we did.


If you’re interested to hear more about the Working Well programme, check out the case study here.

New Trustees

New Trustees

Can you contribute your knowledge and experience to make a difference? Do you believe young people deserve a voice?

 Space Unlimited has vacancies for new Trustees and we would love to hear from you.

Non-remunerated. This post is voluntary, although reasonable expenses, related to your duties as a Trustee, will be paid.

Four Board meetings per annum in Glasgow.

Established in 2006, Space Unlimited is a charity and social enterprise based in Glasgow working across Scotland. We support organisations to work in direct collaboration with young people in order to design and take action together. Our innovative youth-led enquiry process is a powerful catalyst for more collaborative leadership and for building skills and resilience – in individuals, within groups and across wider communities.

We are seeking to attract applicants for two positions on the Board. One with knowledge and experience of the fundraising sector and one from the social justice sector.

Our Board of Trustees guides our future and we are looking to make an appointment that will further strengthen and complement the skills and experience of our existing Board and help us deliver our strategic plan. As a Trustee you should be passionate about young people’s role in making change happen.

Please contact Lucy Walker on 0141 424 1403 or to discuss further. A CV and an idea of what knowledge and experience you can bring to the organisation will be really helpful, but in the first instance let’s have a chat.


This is an open application process with no set deadline.

Confident Transitions - trip to Loch Lomond

Confident Transitions – trip to Loch Lomond

Our Confident Transitions programme supports young people who are uncertain about their next steps after school and helps them to learn more about themselves, their passions and their talents.

The past year we’ve been supporting a group of S4 pupils (from Drumchapel High, St Thomas Aquinas, John Paul Academy and St Paul’s RC High School) through our Confident Transitions programme, and we took them on a trip to Loch Lomond to end the school year and reflect on their journey so far with us. The day was a lot of fun and we wanted to share some of the photographs of what we got up to:

Challenges centered around teamwork, focus and communication.
A scenic ferry trip from Tarbet to Inversnaid.
Reflection – woodland walks to reflect on what the young people feel they’re now more confident in, and how they feel about their ability to make change happen in their lives.

Islay and Jura

Last month we visited Isle of Islay to begin an exciting new long-term project, funded by Fourteen, which aims to help support young peoples’ aspirations on Islay and Jura. We ran some taster activities at Islay High School to recruit pupils that are interested in working with us and making a real difference in their community.

We asked the pupils to discuss the services and opportunities available to young people on the islands, before asking them to think about the following question:

How can we help to build a community that better supports the needs and aspirations of ALL local young people?

They were encouraged to respond with ideas based on their own sense of passion as well as the possibility of it happening, before considering the likely impact and effort of a project. Lots of great ideas were discussed – a bakery/youth cafe, community garden, gaming centre and more – and presented to a supporting group made up of local organisations, the Fourteen panel, parents and teachers.

Comments from the supporting group:

There is so much great energy in the room.
Can’t believe how professional they are.
The ideas are already sparking interest and support – and connections to other possibilities.
The group all seem to have grown in confidence.

We’re looking forward to returning to Islay to provide support to all involved in this project – the pupils as well as the group who will be assisting them – so their ideas can take shape and become meaningful over the next 18 months.

Funded by the Fourteen Programme | Foundation Scotland

New Urban Voices at MAKLab

New Urban Voices at MAKLab

Our New Urban Voices project aimed to help groups of young people in Dundee and Angus to influence and lead change in their local communities. A collaboration with Creative Frontline, we paired groups of young people with experienced designers, artists and council workers in an effort to play a part in their changing areas. In Angus, the project continues to focus on the upcoming community campus – what would make it feel more like part of the community, and how it can feel like a valuable resource for the whole community of Forfar and not ‘just a school’.

Last week we brought project participants to the MAKLab digital fabrication studio in Glasgow – pupils from across all year groups of Forfar Academy designed ideas for the campus and brought them to life through model making. They thought about the look and feel of the internal environment – decoration, signage, colour schemes; and, the outdoor spaces on campus – how they might be used for learning, relaxation and welcome. Prototypes were created through laser cutting, laser etching, 3D printing, glue guns and other traditional model making methods and materials. They created some signage for the inside of the building, but mostly focused their efforts on the outdoor spaces, building models of:

Outdoor classrooms
‘Nature-hide’ study rooms with working lights
Water features to highlight all the schools and communities connected to the campus
Play parks for all ages
Viewing decks and work platform
School ‘house’ seating area
Summer houses for socialising and games
Standing stones for a ‘quiet reflective space’
And, new recycling bins for all around the campus

An amazing day was had by all and the team at MAKLab – specifically Delphine, Andrew and Louise – were amazing with the group. It was great to see the young people so quickly making sense of how their designs might come to life in conversations with the MAKlab team, and to see them getting set up and working independently after only brief instructions and guidance on the software.

All of the models created will be exhibited both within the school to other pupils and staff and also in their local community at community engagement and pop–up events in August and beyond.

Funded by Kickstarter, Creative Scotland, the RSA, Dundee City Council and Angus Council.

Alcohol-Related Harm

Alcohol-Related Harm

Previously we worked with pupils at Port Glasgow High School, Inverclyde, to look into the issues that young people in the area face in relation to alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harm. We are onto the second phase of this project now, working with them to implement the ideas they identified with us through youth-led enquiry. The ideas are both school and community focused and include:

  • using social media more effectively to engage with young people
  • designing activities for a local youth club
  • school-based events that can support a dialogue between young people and their parents on alcohol misuse
  • designing and piloting school-based peer support activities for young people
Young people again will be leading these projects.
Funded through the Scotch Whisky Action Fund, Foundation Scotland and The Robertson Trust.
S1 Discovery Day

S1 Discovery Day

Stevie and Gill recently ran our ‘Skills for Life and Work – S1 Discovery Day’ at Stonelaw High School, designed and facilitated by S1 students. It was an opportunity for S1s to learn more about themselves – the skills and qualities they already have – and to connect these skills and qualities with real life. It was an action packed day with visits from a Campus Police Officer, School Nurse and Active Schools Coordinator who each shared their personal development journey – the skills, strengths and interests they started out with and how they have developed these in different jobs over the course of their career.

Owen Cook of Space Unlimited Interviewed for Kibble Podcast

Our Joint Managing Partner, Owen, was interviewed on the power of having young people and adults work together. Listen to the interview here
Owen discusses his methods and style of working in some detail during the interview. It was great to hear about Space Unlimited’s approach to learning and development. Particularly the way it has changed the lives of young people and adults. Owen’s passion and enthusiasm for the work he does is wonderful. I think it translates to this interview in the most wonderful way.

– Mark Fraser at Kibble

Stories of Change

Friday, September 04, 2015 by richard

What is the real impact of our work?

Read direct from young people and teachers who have been emersed in the Space Unlimited process.  We are delighted to share our recent publication Changing Schools Together: The Stories

New stories of change will be live on our dedicated page soon, with stories from our work in communities and business sector.

Contact for hardcopies of any of our publications.

Changing Schools Together Young People As A Source Of Energy For Change In Education

Friday, March 27, 2015 by richard

On 4th March 2015 we hosted an event to share and learn from our recent Changing Schools Together programme, which ran for two and a half years from 2012 to 2014.

We wanted to bring together young people and teachers from the programme and give them an opportunity to share a rich picture of their experience together with a range of stakeholders who had not been directly involved. Our aim was to support an open dialogue about the learning and implications of the work for people, practice and policy.

It was a lively morning and the big talking points included:

Mutual respect – the young people felt very strongly about why this is important, what it looks like and how it increases confidence. They said that it’s clear people find it easier and safer to talk when mutual respect is explicit.

Keeping momentum going – not exactly a surprise topic and it provoked an interesting discussion about where does the energy come from, the model or process or from the young people involved?  How does the school create space for dialogue? The importance of young people’s natural energy seems like an important asset – in school and beyond!

Embedding change and leaving a legacy – teachers and students wanted to emphasise the importance of the perception of any group of people trying to lead change.  It must be seen to be about real change for students and staff to take it seriously.  Thinking in advance about how to sustain the group as people leave and join (the group and the school!) also helps.

Personal impact – teachers and students talked about increased confidence and skills (for now and later life) and also a sense of being part of the school and feeling listened to.  Relationships between teachers and young people felt less scary with more trust.

We would like to thank everyone involved again for giving up their time and energy to take part.

You might like to read this blog from Fiona Munro at The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) who was there and has reflected on what she heard and the insights it prompted.