Guest post

by Dee Hennessy

Twelve unsure, and in some cases very vocal, young people came together for the first time on their journey towards becoming Leapfrog co-​designers. This was a particularly hard to reach constituency we wanted to work with, and as a result they didn’t immediately grasp or trust what was about to take place or what it might lead to, and they made their feelings about this very clearly heard.

During this two-​hour taster session the approach was to demonstrate the value of their contributions by engaging them in co-​design by stealth; gently ambushing them and then congratulating them on what they had achieved. We needed to build their confidence by valuing and listening to them but we also wanted to begin the process of generating co-​design outputs. Challenging for them and us.

The group began by defining how they wanted this session and the subsequent residential to look and feel in terms of structure and mood: they wanted to be active, to engage in team challenges and to get tangible rewards, to work in small groups and not to write too much – if at all. They wanted a balance of quiet and loud activities, changes of seats and scenery and all this to be punctuated by breaks, snacks, ice-​cream and entertainment.

A team challenge followed, with four teams engaged in developing ideas for a food commercial targeted at children using foods that would be familiar, but fun to add healthy value to. The brief was to combine these foods in new ways to look great, be ‘a bit healthy’ and make the audience want to eat them. Working with the key ingredients of fruit; fruit juices and low calorie fizzy drinks; frozen yoghurts and sorbets; (interpreted as slush puppy) and melted chocolate, all four teams exercised their creative flair with one re-​imagining the packaging of fizzy drinks in pouches that also served as hand warmers when empty and activated through snapping!

The elements and sequencing of the residential section of the programme were then co-​operatively determined and their views sought on the characteristics that should define the selection of participants. Finally each young person was given both a tick and a cross to choose how to signify their answer to the question “Was this morning good or bad?”

We meet up with this animated group again in mid-​November, to develop their confidence and these connections further, and no doubt to be held to account for what they have specified!