The final day of the Summer School started with a keynote titled Empowering Communities through Design Research from Irene McAra-​McWilliam who is the head of the School of Design at Glasgow School of Art. Irene talked about projects she has been involved in, including Flourish, which aims to give a voice to invisible or challenged communities. Irene showed us a series of slides that contained images that had yet to be made public, many designed by Leapfrog’s Cara Broadley. One of the slides illustrated the Flourish timeline, on which Irene talked about how they have worked with communities in smaller engagement activities called ‘Flurries’ and also in bigger groups.  Some of the Leapfrog team discussed how this could be a relevant model for the new Neighbourhood Centre project.

Irene talked about the importance of extremely high quality artefacts in her work, which she believes creates a deep memory within the person using them and how they are the design in design research. She gave the example of a booklet that the Flourish project gave to participants at an event for which every detail was carefully considered. This made me think about our approach on Leapfrog, on which we are actually exploring what could be argued is the opposite. We try to co-​design our tools with non-​designers so that they can have ownership of them, have the confidence to adapt them for the needs and to make them easily accessible and non-​intimidating. However, we do still see the importance of design and we do utilise the design skills within the team to refine co-​designed tools. I think Irene’s beliefs have challenged me to think more about the role and effect of design in the project.

Irene’s presentation was followed by a lightning talk from Gayle Rice and Josie Valley from IRISS, The Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services. Gayle talked about IRISS and their aim to carry out research to support social services and make them better equipped for their work. Josie focused on the Pilotlight project, which is working with co-​design teams of service deliverers in Scotland to design pathways to self-​directed support. She presented five top trump cards for a culture of collaboration, which were Equity, Level Playing Fields, Adaptation and Time. Josie explains the cards in more detail in her blog post on the Pilotlight website.

I thought the way the collaboration tips were broken down into Top Trump Cards was a great way to make it easy for the delegates to remember. Pilotlight’s approach to breaking down hierarchies by paying people who do not earn a salary to attend the workshop was interesting. I made a note of the Inclusion Checklist tool, which is something that Leapfrog could use when working with people with very different needs. I also thought it was interesting how the project emphasised allowing lots of time to let the group collaborate together. On Leapfrog, we are currently trying a similar approach on our Neighbourhood Centre’s project, in contrast to a previously fast paced approach, where we are allowing a month between each co-​design workshop to allow smaller groups to work together.  Overall, Gayle and Josie’s presentation made me wish to spend some more time reading and looking at Iriss’ website and tools because there were many links I could draw between them and Leapfrog. 

After this these thought-​provoking presentations, the Summer School delegates were taken out for a trip to the Altyre Estate to see the work GSA are doing to transform it into a creative campus and Findhorn beach for a picnic and a lightning talk from Cara Broadley and Paul Smith on Crafting Contextual Relationships in Research, which helped clarify many ideas around action research that had been discussed during the course of the Summer School. For more information on these elements of the day, please see Gemma Coupe’s blog post.