Tailor Made Project Report

Leapfrog seeks to explore the ways in which engagement practitioners can be enabled to adapt tools if they don’t already, when the circumstances require it, so we aim to design tools to be flexible. We are building a sense of how Leapfrog tools might be influencing tool-​use practice for those involved with the project either through tool-​use or co-​design. However we did not yet have clear understanding of how engagement professionals currently include tools in their engagement practice regardless of whether or not those are Leapfrog tools. To resolve this, our next step was to develop our understanding of what it would take for engagement practitioners to adapt and appropriate creative engagement tools by observing what they do and why, when selecting, using and adapting any of the tools at their disposal. We wanted to do this with as wide a range of engagement professionals as possible including those with no existing connection to Leapfrog.

In Tailor Made, which ran between July and October 2017, we did this by conducting an online community engagement survey followed by five interviews with engagement professionals to discuss tool-​use and tool-​adaptation in their practice. Over 60 people responded to the survey from around the UK working in a broad range of public, voluntary and academic contexts where community consultation is carried out. The interviewees represented public services including youth and library services, community engagement linked to private enterprise in oil and gas drilling, and academic ethnographic research through community participation. The diverse approaches and needs of their work made for highly varied engagement practices. However, they each shared a reliance on tools to undertake creative forms of engagement. 

The report you can download from this page describes the survey and interview design, what we found out and what insights are now emerging from that research. We thank all of the people who have participated through the surveys and interviews for kindly sharing their time and knowledge with us.  The insights we can now draw from these accounts will contribute to better-​informed design implications for flexible creative engagement tools.






Be Included: reflecting on the use of social media for co-designing

For the Be Included project, the Leapfrog team have been exploring the use of the social media application WhatsApp as a forum for co-​design. The main driver for using WhatsApp is that it is one way of enabling a group of people who are geographically dispersed to participate in the project, a challenge that we often come up against. Typically when we co-​design we work in relatively short, yet focused and face-​to-​face bursts of activity, often as individual co-​design workshops. Attempting to stage similar collaborative activities and interactions over WhatsApp has brought about several interesting and unexpected challenges which, as we pass the mid-​point of the project, we are now reflecting on.

At the outset of the project we aimed to maintain an iterative format. Whereby at the start participants explore their current working practices and identify the design problem, then go through an ideation stage where they co-​develop ideas and prototype solutions, and finally through to testing these prototypes in real-​life scenarios so to fine-​tune and refine how they work. For this project, the Leapfrog team staggered these activities over weekly missions, which were posted on the WhatsApp group as were the responses from the participants. This required careful forward planning before the project began, and the creation of individual task information sheets to send out each week.

Having the project literally in the pockets of the participants, and the members of the Leapfrog team has changed the rhythm and tempo of the project from what we would normally expect. Participants may upload a thought, reaction, or idea at any point during the weekly missions. The asynchronous nature of WhatsApp has led to the dialogue being a little disjointed or sporadic at times, as conversations are naturally picked up by different participants at different times. This has not however diluted the quality of contributions. What the Leapfrog team have found is that where we could, in a workshop environment, pick up on key points and encourage participants to expand on ideas, we are doing this by posting questions to the group as and when we pick up the thread. There are some tricks in WhatsApp that we have used to our advantage. For example utilising the app’s hashtag function has been crucial in tracking responses to particular tasks. By requesting participants hashtag each post in accordance to the task (#task4 for example), we can track conversations about individual tasks. We have found that with the natural flow of dialogue we of course jump back and forth in time and from task to task and this has become more manageable with this function. Another of WhatsApp’s functions that we have grown to depend upon so to directly address individual participants in the group conversation is the @ icon followed by their name, which tags a participant in a post. These simple features have greatly helped with managing the co-​design process in, what is essentially, a continuous vertical stream of dialogue (both written and visual) between the participants and the Leapfrog team. And of course everyone loves an emoji 🙂

Being able to respond in real-​time or at a time that suits has allowed for highly flexible participation that fits in with the participants’ lives and does not require them to be geographically brought together and has been a real positive for the project. This has however also been challenging in respect to sustaining consistent engagement with each mission and we are learning we have a much more active role to play in keeping the ball rolling. It’s been a really interesting experience so far and we are really excited to see how the ideas are going to develop in the remainder of the project and what other insights might emerge with using the WhatsApp platform as the stage for co-​designing. Watch this space! 

Value of values and context in co-design

Last week the Leapfrog team travelled to the Elgin Youth Café in the Highlands of Scotland for the third workshop of the short project, Stories of Impact. This final workshop brought a small selection of the participants back together to work on the final development of the two tools co-​designed in this project. During a two-​hour session and a working lunch, the group tried, tested, and developed their two tools, Unwrap Potential and Bunch of Impact, and made some really positive improvements that enhanced the potential of the tools and moved them along to near completion. As the workshop drew to a close, we took the opportunity to gather together for an informal round-​table discussion to talk about their participation in the project, and about tools and engagement in general. The aim was to gather some initial feedback for Leapfrog on the participants’ experiences of the project, our co-​design approach, and to have a conversation about what tools mean for the partners now in their current practice.

Immediately on posing the question about tools the conversation turned to the question of what a tool actually is. This question is something we as a team have constantly come back to and has remained somewhat unresolved in the project as the meaning of the word ‘tool’ often changes from partner to partner. First of all, the partners discussed what ‘tool’ means for them now, and how they use them currently in their work. There was talk of posters and leaflets being tools for promotion; questionnaires and surveys as tools for gathering information; tools for data storage; and also, for one participant, window displays were a tool to engage potential users of their service. This was an interesting starting point as we often enter into projects with a definition of tools in our minds but what often quickly transpires is that our partners have a very different view. This is an important insight for us as a team to remember when we embark on future projects. The terms and definitions we use should be co-​defined at the start of a co-​design journey so we are always clear from the beginning as to the orientation of projects so we don’t hit issues of misunderstanding further down the line.

As the conversation moved on, the group stopped talking so much about the definition of a tool and what a physical tool might be, and started to speak about the driving force behind tools and their use. In this discussion, the group talked more about ethos, approaches, principles and values. Some of the participants talked about a set of values as being a tool that they often use when it comes to making decisions about engagement activity they are designing. This might lead to the design of some physical tools that support the engagement, but it is the approach they take and the value they attribute to what they do that shapes the way they engage and, for them, is the most important tool. 

As the group reflected on this they spoke about tools for engagement that are rooted in a way of thinking about engagement. It’s about context and making things appropriate. Knowing who you want to engage and understanding their situations. The co-​design group aspired for their tools to have values, an ethos that drives decisions, but they also recognise context and the need to understand the environment and the users of the tools. As part of the discussion the group talked about the virtues of digital tools over analogue tools, but only if digital tools are right for the audience. Or the value in face-​to-​face engagement versus something remote but only if that is a viable possibility for the people being engaged and for the people doing the engagement. This seemed to shift the thinking about tools –from something that is only concerned with the engaged, to something that must work for both sides. It was at this point that one participant suggested that tools need to be mutual. There are two sides to engagement, and whatever methods of engagement are used, they must be of benefit to both sides in order for them to work successfully.

What the Leapfrog team took away from this discussion was that tools to engage – whether they be a physical resource to download and use, or an event, or some advice and guidance – are driven by a set of values that are personally held or that are inherited (for example, tools that are aligned with an organisation’s ethos). Also, tools are driven by context, the people who use the tools, and the situations the tools will operate in. Values and context become an imperative part of the co-​design process. They set the boundaries within which to be creative, whether those boundaries are respected or not, and help to guide design decisions. Getting to know the value and the context is the challenge when approaching a new design. For the partners we worked with, the values and context they operate with are generally well known. They are instinctive, and it is important part of the co-​design process to bring these out in a creative forum so the outcomes can make sense for more than just the individuals in the room.

Final reflections

Last week the Leapfrog team were joined by many of the participants who had contributed so much over the past two months to the Tackling Loneliness and Isolation project. We had gathered together for the last time as the project team to celebrate the achievement, reflect on the process, and to deliver an Advice Swatch, a collation of all the great insights gathered by our partners about approaches to tackle the issues of loneliness and isolation in later life.

After a short walk around the grounds of the GSA Highland campus on the Altyre estate, we gathered in the studio for a quick recap on the journey of the project before we broke away into the kitchen for an informal chat about their experiences of working with us on this co-​design project. While we have a formal process for evaluating the Leapfrog project, we felt that this was a great opportunity for us to gather as a group and together talk and reflect on the collective and individual experiences of the co-​design process.

First on our list of questions was what motivated the participants to get involved in the project in the first place. Collective the group all agreed that they wanted to be involved in the project at the start, so that they could have some influence on the outcome so that it would be something that will work for them. The desire to have a say throughout the process and shape the outcome was high on the priority list. We talked about being able to get give some of the ‘realities’ so the outcomes made sense in the real world. The participants felt it was about having the right people involved who are able to be honest, that there was space to be honest, and a freedom to say if things don’t work in the real world. 

When we moved the conversation on to the benefits of involvement in the project for the participants it very much focused on time, space, creativity and fun. They liked the fact that there was always something fun to engage with, the overarching ethos of the process. Participants talked about being inspired to be creative, by the process and by the physical space.

What was lovely for us to hear was that participants really value the opportunity to get out of the office and think differently. For them it’s about being in a new place and thinking differently, acting differently, using creativity, pens, drawing, being playful, it helps shift a mindset which was really important to the participants. 

It was great to hear lots of positive feedback about the project. Especially how going through the process helped participants get the time and space to think differently. We thank everyone for their effort and support for the project and for making it such a success.

Co-​designing tool ideas

This week the Leapfrog team returned to the Youth Café in Elgin for the second of our workshops in the Stories of Impact project. Following an intensive first workshop where we dug down into the current processes involved in recruiting volunteers, and the current modes of evaluation, the group came back together to reflect on our previous work and start thinking about tools to support their work. Since the last workshop (only five days earlier) the Leapfrog team had collated and analysed the information we gleaned and turned it into three potential design challenges for the group to tackle, each with its own question to answer.


  1. Challenge one — focussed on the recruitment of volunteers and how we can move toward a more person centred approach that takes account of people’s skills and motivations at the start rather than only looking for the skills required by a particular role.
  2. Challenge two — looked at how to create ways of capturing and telling the stories of impact that volunteering generates.
  3. Challenge three — was aimed at finding ways for volunteer coordinators to keep new volunteers engaged through long periods where the new recruits aren’t volunteering or the volunteer opportunity for them is in the future.


With the three challenges written up on boards and displayed on easels, we split the group into two and asked each team (with a little encouragement from the Leapfrog team) to select a challenge they would most like to address. One team picked challenge one, volunteer recruitment, and the other team chose challenge two, capturing and telling stories of impact. Each team took their challenge board back to their desks to discuss and refine the challenge before embarking on a rapid session of ideation before lunch. The first half of the workshop passed quickly with lots of great and creative ideas flying out, so much so we had to be prompted to stop for lunch so that we could reflect and discuss the mornings work together. After a speedy refuel our teams reformed for an afternoon session where each team would whittle down all their ideas into one favourite idea that they would take forward and develop. After some difficult decision making the teams got extra creative and pushed their concepts forward into a more rounded tool idea. At the end of the session, and using their ‘Pitch Boards’ as a guide, each team presented their ideas back to the group. Both groups were asked to come up with a tool name, think about the expected and potential users, the function of the tool and how it might look.


In a relatively short space of time both teams came up with really great creative ideas. The challenge one team came up with the ‘Unwrap Potential’ tool, which helps get to the core of a new volunteer’s skills and motivations quickly and efficiently. Challenge two team’s tool had two names (a favourite yet to be decided) — ‘Bunch of Impact’ and ‘Seeds of Change’. This tool aimed to present impact in a more creative way than a report using origami flowers. It respected that stories of impact are collected differently by different people but they can be presented the same in a more thoughtful way.


It was a really great second workshop with some impressive ideas for tools generated in rapid time. The next steps for the Leapfrog team is to take the tool ideas to a prototype stage so we can begin some user testing and feedback before a final session in a few weeks’ time.


The stories of impact project is working with volunteers and volunteer organisations across the Moray region of the Highlands of Scotland to develop tools to support volunteers into new roles and capture the impact of their work. To read more about the Stories of Impact project, visit our project page.

Stories of Impact: what impact feels like

In the first of our workshops for the Stories of Impact short project, we gathered in the Elgin Youth Café in the Highlands of Scotland to kick off our journey towards the creation of tools to support volunteers and volunteer coordinators to capture and show their impact. In this first workshop we were joined by a variety of coordinators and volunteer managers from various organisations from across the Moray region.  The aim of this first session together was to get to the core of what the impact of volunteering and volunteer services feels like for our participants, and to understand the current processes and approaches already in place for evaluating and reporting what our participants and their organisations do on a daily basis.


As this was a creative session, and in an attempt to dig deeper into the motivations of our participants to do what they do, we started the session with a playful exercise aimed at allowing participants to really express their feelings about volunteers and volunteer services and why they are so important. We gave the participants bits of modelling clay, Lego, paper, pens and other craft materials and asked them to firstly make something that represented what impact felt like for them, and second to model something that showed us what impact was actually like. We hoped by making the distinction we could get an insight into what, in our participants views, was the most important aspect of volunteers and services.


Participants really took to this task and they quickly began clicking and sticking bits together to show us what the real impact was for them. Once the models were complete we went around the group and each person presented their models and explained what they meant. The insights about impact we gained from this task ranged from: impact is like breaking through barriers and breaking off shackles: it is about step by step change, its about travel and the distance travelled for someone based on where they start their journey; sometimes there barriers to even getting onto the first step and moving beyond that can often be the biggest impact; for volunteers and service user the impact is personal and starts with ‘me’, then the impact ripples out, then it is about the effect on the family, on the community, and further still to society; it is about dignity, respect and happiness; it’s about people helping people, and making valuable connections; impact is about starting on the road to change and that can be for the individual using volunteer services and the volunteers themselves.


After the great morning’s work, we all stopped for a well-​earned lunch, before coming back together to start a second task. This task asked participants to again work individually and to map out the current processes and approaches to reporting the impact of their work. Using a prompt sheet to guide them each participant sketch out the people they report to, the information they report and the methods they use to so. Once participants had completed their maps we again went around the room so that everyone had a chance to feedback their map. There were many interesting shared insights from the group, the techniques used for gathering data varied from forms, to informal chats to email and blogs. Overwhelmingly the shared feeling from the group was that evaluation and reporting is all about numbers which misses the really important aspects of what they do. Reporting qualitative impact along the chain has no real formal structure and so experiences will vary depending on the person who is doing the reporting. From recruiting new volunteers through to the experiences of service users there are transition points and tension points, and the opportunity to capture data at these points of passage but it is not currently done effectively. It is at these points where we could be doing more to record stories of change both for volunteers and service users. Finally, it is often the little things that make the big difference, anecdotal evidence of change and impact is hard to catch and illustrate, but is a vital part of the process.


The insights we garnered from this workshop went on to help us shape the next steps in the Stories of Impact project when we met a second time to start thinking about tools and approaches we could develop that could support our participants and their volunteer organisations.