This week members of the Leapfrog team took some time at The Glasgow School of Art’s Creative Campus in the Highlands of Scotland to consolidate learnings from one of our major projects, and organise the next phase of co-design workshops with our community partners. Leapfrog has been working on the Hebridean island of Mull as part of the major project Peer-to-peer Community Engagement, and in December the team will again take the ferry to Craignure to co-design engagement tools.
Reflecting on the project so far and revisiting some of our initial findings, we spotted a great opportunity to create some new tools to support communities to conceive, plan, manage, and deliver public events. So, armed with our insights from earlier work, we set about developing two more co-design workshops to address this opportunity.
On the train from Glasgow to Forres we began to consider how best to maximise our time in Mull. We came to the conclusion that for the co-design of tools to be successful, we must ground our concepts in real contexts and concrete experiences. Our aim is that the tools we co-design will be adaptable enough to be used by diverse groups of people for a range of different purposes. We have found that without first having an explicit, relatable problem to address, designing solutions can be too abstract and as such, the focus of the resulting tools may be unclear. By reflecting on our own personal experiences of planning public events, we highlighted the phases we go through, the touch points where tools might be able to help, and crucially the problems that these could address. In our experiences, planning is rarely a linear process, where one activity neatly leads into the next. Planning is much more modular than that: it operates through cycles with new tasks emerging whilst plans progress. We ended the day considering how we could integrate these experiences into the co-design sessions to inspire the format and content of new event planning tools.
The following day we regrouped to create a detailed version of the map we began on the train. This involved us proposing ways that we could apply our reflections to provoke our community partners to think about their own experiences of event planning and develop personal scenarios as starting points for new tool designs. After much animated discussion we agreed that a key aim to shape what we would ‘do’ in the workshop is to get to the heart of the problems we identify together, rather than focus on the actions that occur in the planning process. Often in co-design the temptation is to jump too quickly to solutions: we can identify a situation where a design, like a tool, could be useful and immediately we start to think about what that design might be. In practice, this can limit the potential and scope for innovative ideas. By visualising and sharing our experiences of event planning as an underlay, we seek to collectively unpick problems that resonate and identify where our experiences diverge. Creatively capturing these rich descriptions will help us build up to solutions that are both appropriate to the specific challenges encountered by our community partners on Mull, and be useful planning resources for other community groups across the Highlands and Islands and beyond.