Guest post

by Dee Hennessy

The two-​day Leapfrog young people’s co-​design residential took place in LICA last weekend and it was quite a thing – really quite a thing.

Facilitation, knowledge exchange, co-​design; they all inevitably require elements of flexibility and responsiveness – of improvisation – but this event was of an altogether different order. It was not just necessary, but essential, constantly to turn and to twist on ever contracting and moving ground just to keep the young people engaged and to energise and animate the processes for them. The team had to deflect and absorb the many, unpredictable and highly charged points of interconnection between group members as allegiances realigned for reasons that were much more important to them than anything we had hoped they would focus on. But they did focus; they focused and they worked really, really hard on challenges that were difficult for them to both acknowledge and to address.

There was powerful sharing of experience and emotional highs and lows on a scale we couldn’t have predicted. With intensive cajoling, they stayed on task when it mattered. They were inspired and inventive and brave and offered their feedback at key stages, in ways that frankly stunned us, it was so powerful. They generously considered and explored the massive challenges they face in their lives and went on to design practical new tools to support the experiences of young people like them – and to come up with accessible and incisive names for these tools.

There were so many extraordinary moments throughout the weekend – the words they wrote about the experience when no-​one was looking, the video they made in the chair-​rotating style of The Voice, the personal points of contact between the young people and staff that frankly has us in tears, and the laughs we had with them. We walked them through the maze of their achievements, ran races with them, listened to them describe what they had learned about themselves from being there, and tellingly, we watched as they hung around in the LICA foyer after it was all over, not leaving, not wanting to go but capturing selfies with us, hugging us and making us cry all over again. They were just brilliant.

We have yet to discover what effect this experience will have on these young participants in the longer term, but it can be confidently said that the impact on the delivery team was, and will remain, profound.