The Right Voice for an Ambitious Vision

Developing the Edinburgh Futures Institute’s narrative while building an engagement strategy.


Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh




Insight Report, Brand Recommendations, Engagement Recommendations, and Inspiration

The Challenge

At the time of the engagement, the EFI was still defining its vision and was in the early stages of developing its programmes for research, education and partnership engagement. However, it had received feedback that its narrative and brand was unclear, as many struggled to understand its ambition. Additionally, the EFI planned to refurbish and situate itself within the Old Royal Infirmary — a historic building that many locals had and have a deep personal connection to. It was important to facilitate a conversation about the building’s future. 

With this project, the EFI were keen to start engaging key communities in discussions about the future of both the building and the Institute to collaboratively shape the development of the brand, the Institute, and to learn more about how they could better engage key communities going forwards.

Client Details

The Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI) is part of the University of Edinburgh and is developing progressive and non-traditional approaches to higher education. This includes giving students more autonomy over their learning, more choice over whether to study online or on-campus, promoting interdisciplinarity, and working collaboratively with a large range of partners. 

Project Links

Our Approach

After an initial immersion phase, learning about the history and cultural context of the Old Royal Infirmary building - as well as the ambitions for the EFI - we designed and helped organise several workshops with both students and members of the local community. 

In these workshops we looked to understand participants’:

  • Attachment to the building
    Many members in the local community workshop were proud to say that they had worked in the building when it was a functioning hospital, had been treated in the building, or had given birth there — these stories were shared among the group. 
  • Understanding of what’s happening
    We investigated participants’ understanding of what the EFI is doing and intends to do, exposing biases or misconceptions, some of which were due to poor communications.
  • Vision for the future of the EFI
    We investigated what participants’ visions of a ‘utopian’ version of the EFI would be, using this to inform recommendations. 

Reflecting on the findings from these workshops, we extracted key insights and formulated recommendations for the EFI’s messaging which were shared with the executive team.



New Narratives

We provided clear insight and recommendation about how the EFI should be framing its ambition and narrative. Soon after delivering the report the EFI invested in replacing the hoardings surrounding the Old Royal Infirmary site, making major changes in line with our recommendations. Our learnings are also being taken forward to upcoming activities such as brand development and website redesign activities.


A template for engagement

The process demonstrated the value of engaging key communities in visioning and strategy, while also providing advice on how to further engage. Since we completed this project, the EFI has conducted several further engagements, many of which we’ve helped to facilitate. 


“Andthen managed to balance engaging and exciting workshops with rigorous outputs. Their recommendations and insights were direct and straight to the point, articulating many of the things we’d previously struggled to.”

Siân Bayne
Assistant Principal of Digital Education and Director of Education at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, University of Edinburgh