I’m Gemma Coupe and the Design Manager for Leapfrog. I’m excited about Leapfrog as a follow on project to PROUD (People, Researchers, Organisations Using Design). For 3 years in PROUD we worked with 5 European partners. Each partner delivered their own regional co-​design challenge all of which explored using a co-​design approach to solve complex societal problems. When we started our Lancaster co-​design challenge Beyond the Castle, we didn’t really know what co-​design was, or how to be a great co-​designer. This and in the public interest in the project made for an intense, exhausting, exciting but ultimately very rewarding experience.

Over 3 years we developed guiding principles for designers or public sector partners who are considering using a co-​design approach for whatever challenge they may face and I like to think we now know what co-​design is, as well as understand the conditions that make for a good co-​design experience with far reaching impact and outcomes. When we reflected on Beyond the Castle with the council, they were thrilled with how it had gone but also realistic that they do not have the resources, time or staff to run such ambitious co-​design projects. What they did find effective and accessible were the creative consultation tools we had developed to attract people over to talk to us or to support a creative exchange of ideas, knowledge and consensus building at consultation events.

In the face of unprecedented public sector cuts where many communities have to run their own friends groups and consultation events, Leapfrog is a very timely, action research project that has the potential to transform consultation processes for the public sector and communities and have a very real impact on peoples lives. It’s great to have a new challenge, which builds on all our learning to date, takes our research in a demand led direction and allows us to work closely with our partners at The Glasgow School of Art and communities in Lancaster and the Highlands and Islands too. Here’s to another 3 years where no 2 days are the same!