Tom Inns is the Director of the Glasgow School of Art. He studied Engineering at the University of Bristol and Design at the Royal College of Art. In 1990 he cofounded the Design Research Centre at Brunel University. His PhD explored the impact of design on innovation in small companies. In 2000 he moved to the University of Dundee becoming Head of Design and then Dean at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design. Between 2005–2010 he was Programme Director for the AHRC/​EPSRC funded Designing for the 21st Century Initiative. Tom has an active interest in how strategic design can apply principles of traditional design to society’s systemic challenges. Over the last 10 years he has facilitated workshops and sandpit style events with organisations across Europe and in the Far East.

I have spent the last two days at Lancaster University working with a team of researchers from Imagination at Lancaster and the Institute of Design Innovation at GSA on the launch of the AHRC funded Leapfrog project. This timely project will be looking at the strategies that can be developed for creative facilitation within community groups, and in particular the role of co-​design approaches. The launch workshop provided the opportunity to reflect on the project ambitions and plans. Part of this process involved exploring how the Leapfrog programme will contribute to the needs of different stakeholders. Outlined below is a brief summary of where this projects fits; an interesting checklist that connects a research project like Leapfrog to the needs of many audiences.

Government: The Leapfrog team will be exploring how creative facilitation approaches can be used to enhance consultation with a wide range of community groups, some of this work will take place in England, some in Scotland, in particular in the Highlands, through GSA’s base in Forres. There is considerable interest in all governments into how innovation in public services can be encouraged, consultation and co-​design with service users is clearly critical in any innovation. The Leapfrog project will provide timely insights into how this might work with different communities.

Arts & Humanities Research Council AHRC: The Leapfrog project is funded by the AHRC, as a Research Council the AHRC is very interested in the impact that academic research can have on contemporary life, something that will be directly addressed by the Leapfrog team. The AHRC supports research in all of the Arts & Humanities disciplines, the role and nature of  these disciplines is changing. This is particulalry true for design where there is considerable interest in how the processes, perspectives and methods of design can be used to develop more effective services, systems and experiences rather than physical objects. This is an area where Leapfrog will make a very considerble contribution through the development of case studies describing new roles for design.

The Leapfrog Partners: The team will be working with many organisations and communities over the next 3 years, the work of the researchers will have a direct impact on the voice that these groups have in the complex decision making processes that effect so much of people’s lives. Lessons learnt from these interactions will inform the development of tools and techniques for other communities and groups who wish to work in similar ways.

The academic community: Research into the new roles for design is being undertaken by different groups across the world. The Leapfrog team will make a valauble contribution into this global knowledge base, particularly in the field of co-​design with community groups. This is incredibly important knowledge that will be of use to practising design professionals working in the field of co-​design but will also inform the future design curriculum, as design shifts academia needs to think very carefully about the new skills needed by tomorrow’s designers.