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Collaborative Improvisation: Supporting Futures of Education Through 
Body-led & Participative Social Design

Collaborative Improvisation is a body-led & participative Social Design approach which supports engagement and agency during participatory processes to develop open and plural education futures.

Our relationship with near future certainty has been thrown into sharp relief by pending environmental crises and rapidly changing social landscapes resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic and wide spread global upheaval. An increased drive to participate in addressing the monumental challenges and engrained systemic imbalances we face has revealed a need for radically participative sensemaking processes to help shape new relationships with our systems.

This research aims to extend participative Relational and Social Design approaches with novel perspectives afforded by the body. Our bodies are socially situated and enactive - we come to know our context by being active in it. This makes the body a powerful tool to inform social transition processes. This research aims to understand the body as a fundamental modality for communicating and interacting with processes of social transition.

Key details

School, Centre or Area


  • Arts & Humanities Research Council / London Doctoral Design Centre

Personal links


More about Claire

Claire van Rhyn is a design researcher and educationalist with a distinctly post-disciplinary approach. Her work investigates the body as modality of communication. Through employing a participative Social Design approach – influenced by choreographic thinking and awareness-based approaches – her research develops a Collaborative Improvisational methodology for supporting processes of social transition within educational communities.

She holds a MSc in Education Research with distinction from University of Exeter. As transition consultant, she has worked with numerous schools and community groups, as well as in-service and pre-service teacher training. She has researched social and participatory processes in schools with Universities of Cambridge, Exeter and Roehampton.

Claire is a member of the Presencing Institute’s Social Presencing Theatre research group. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the Design Research Society. As Assistant Director for Shambhala Art Europe, she teaches and hosts workshops internationally on the subject of perception, embodiment and mindful-aware approaches to creativity. Claire’s early professional background is in Art Directing and Publishing Design.

MSc Education Research, University of Exeter
(with Distinction and Dean's Commendation)

BA (Hons) Education, University of Roehampton
(1st Class)

Community Engagement & Transition Consultant, Various, 2018 - present

Consulting Researcher, Social Presencing Theatre Research Team, Presencing Institute, 2018 - present

Co-Director and Lecturer, Shambhala Art Europe, 2008 - present

Visiting Lecturer, Royal College of Art, 2017 and 2019

Education Consultant, Various, London & South Africa, 2006-2015

Education Researcher, London Education and Inclusion Project, University of Cambridge, 2014.

Education Researcher, Developing and Trialing a Measure of Group Thinking, University of Exeter, 2014-2016.

Education Researcher, Images & Identity: European Citizenship project, University of Roehampton, 2012.

Senior Designer and Art Director, Quarto Publications, London

Senior Designer and Art Director, New Holland Publishers, Cape Town

Head Designer, De Kat Magazine, Media 24, Johannesburg

(2021) RCA Research Biennale. Royal College of Art. Online.

(2019) Design Research for Change. London Design Fair, Old Truman Brewery.

(2019) That which Transpires behind that which Appears. Sonics Immersive Media Labs, Goldsmiths, University of London.

(2018) Design Evolution. London Design Festival. Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art. London.

(2016) Communicating the Intangible. London Design Festival. Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art. London.

Wegerif, R., Fujita, T., Doney, J., Perez Linares, J., Richards, A. & van Rhyn, C. (2017). Developing and trialing a measure of group thinking. Learning and Instruction, Volume 48, pp. 40-50.

'Future-making in education through Social Presencing Theatre: an awareness-based anticipatory methodology', Anticipation Conference, Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Denmark, 2019.

Panelist: 'Communicating Change', Fields of Communication Symposium, Westworks, London, 2018.

'Ancient Technology: The body as anticipatory tool in the relational emergence of cultural change', Anticipation Conference, School of Advanced Studies, University of London, 2017.

'Tracing the transmission of culture through sensory and embodied means', Emergent Culture Conference (European Sociological Association), Exeter, 2016.

Keynote: 'Intangible Communication: The role of the body in transmitting culture during rapid change in social systems', CSCY Visual Research Symposium: Visual Research with Children and Young people, University of Sheffield, 2016.

'The Role of Sensory Aesthetic Transmission During Rapid Cultural Change in Educational Settings', Emergence, Intersubjectivity and Aesthetics Conference, University of Exeter, 2016

'Intangible Communication', PhD by Design, DRS Conference, University of Brighton, 2016

'Places and Spaces: The mobilisation of social-centred learning across multiple places and spaces', BCUR Conference, University of Nottingham, 2013.

Selected Workshops

Collaborative Improvisation, The Change Collective, AUTOGRAPH, London, 2019.

Exploring the moving body as a tool for social transition, London Design Festival, Royal College of Art, London, 2018.

Bodied Knowing, AcrossRCA, Royal College of Art, London, 2018.

Game Changer, London Design Festival, Hockney Gallery, Royal College of Art, London, 2016.

Being Relational, Design Research Society Conference, University of Brighton, 2016

Immediacy of the Body, London Shambhala Centre, 2016