Guest post

by Marianne McAra, Glasgow School of Art

The 2017 Leapfrog Summer School brought together a diverse range of delegates whose research interests all centred around community engagement. Over the three days, it was great to hear from many different perspectives, share our experiences, and develop a more collective understanding of what community engagement is, how it can be done, and how it can be effective. 

This diversity was also reflected in the choice of key note and lighting talk speakers, which included Dr Tom Wakeford discussing participatory action research; Stéphane Vincent and Lilas Ozanne presenting their approaches to public sector engagement; Lady Rachael Cooper shared her insights around engagement through making; Professor Leon Cruickshank presenting Leapfrog’s approach to co-​design; and Sue Flowers introducing her community engagement arts-​based practice.

The Summer School delegates also participated in a range of workshops, which provided opportunities to collaborate and get to know each other. Dr Cath Larkins invited the delegates to reflect upon their current work and share visually, through the analogy of belts, braces and wings, the key attributes and principles of our engagement practices. In another workshop, Dr Roger Whitham challenged the delegates to hack tools. In groups, time was spent discussing familiar tools and how these could be re-​appropriated, adapted and improved. After a speedy process of prototyping, each group presented their newly hacked tool to rest of the delegates.

Diversity in experience and practice seemed to be the key quality which made this year’s Summer School such a success. Not only did this enable rich discussions and debate, but it also sparked inspiration, new networks and future collaborations.