The final meeting of the Leapfrog Advisory Board meeting took place at the Glasgow School of Art on the 6th February 2018. From its inception in early 2015 the role of the board was not to oversee the management and finances of Leapfrog, but to support the Leapfrog team by acting as a group of critical friends and expert users of Leapfrog tools. The board was invited to ask challenging questions about Leapfrog’s research and engagement activities, engage in dialogue about the research findings and learn from one another’s experience. To enable the board to have a genuine input into the project, the Leapfrog team was encouraged to be open about challenges the project was facing, when projects or events hadn’t gone to plan, as well as share success stories. Board members were chosen for their wide range of expertise and experience and come from a range of public sector, community and research backgrounds from across the UK and the Netherlands.
Topics covered in the meetings ranged from: discussing potential research proposals and partners, the areas Leapfrog could have the most impact, the importance of embedding evaluation into the Leapfrog project to evidence long term impact, and ethical considerations when engaging with potentially vulnerable groups. Several discussions focused on how we could empower the users of Leapfrog tools to share tools within their peer-to-peer networks, the accessibility of the language Leapfrog use to communicate, and who the different audiences were that Leapfrog sought to engage with and influence. We also explored the legacy of Leapfrog beyond the initial 3 year Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project.
The idea to hold a co-design residential for young people who were experienced in the care system came from a discussion with board member Emma Barrett Palmer. Emma recommended we aim to give the young people a potentially transformative experience by bringing the group to the university. The board gave the team invaluable advice about the importance of giving immediate feedback to young people in formats (short videos) they would enjoy. They felt it was really important the Leapfrog team fed back to the young co-designers the impact that the tools they designed had on helping other young people in similar situations.
In one memorable meeting the term ‘Meringueification’ was coined after a lengthy discussion on the need from public sector partners who do creative engagement to be able to take soft stories of peoples lives and turn these into hard qualitative evidence that can be used to make evidence based policy decisions.
Aligning stakeholder agendas and priorities to the aims and objectives of Leapfrog research projects was a delicate balancing act. Leapfrog came about in times of austerity and public sector partners could understandably sometimes see Leapfrog as an extra resource. While this was welcomed, Leapfrog had to ensure that agendas were ethically aligned with partners, and that research projects always resulted in real benefits to communities. One intense debate was around whether by working with councils in times of crisis Leapfrog was assisting in austerity, something that made the team a little uncomfortable. The consensus was that the cuts to the public sector were a reality and that Leapfrog should focus on working with public sector partners to design positive future scenarios and tools. Through the use of a co-design approach Leapfrog could re-energise both public sector employees and communities we worked with and bring benefits to all.
The board meetings always left the Leapfrog team reenergised and refocused. We would like to express our appreciation for the time and expert contributions made by all the board members. Below is a full list of all the board members who attended the meetings in Lancaster and Glasgow over three years:
Prof Jon Dovey, Professor of Screen Media, Director of Digital Cultures Research Centre, University of West of England, Bristol (Chair)
Ingrid van der Wacht, Dutch Design Foundation, Eindhoven
Emma Barrett, HumanKinder (previously Social Innovation Lab Kent)
Dr Garrath Williams, Senior Lecturer Applied Ethics, Lancaster University
Kenneth Barnsley, Public Health Specialist, Blackburn with Darwen Council
Dr Theodore Zamenopoulos, Senior Lecturer in Design, The Open University
David Lawson, Regeneration Manager, Lancaster City Council
Maurice Brophy, Planning and Housing Policy Manager, Lancaster City Council
Harriet Hunter, Head of Organisational Development, Scottish Government
Rachel McCormack, Strengthening Communities Director, Highlands & Islands Enterprise
Colin Marr, CEO, Eden Court, Inverness
Ruth Haigh, local Community member, Lancaster