In February the GSA Leapfrog team attended the Tool Sharing Event organised by Imagination Lancaster to commemorate the end of the Leapfrog first major project, ‘Working with Young People’. As well as supporting the Lancaster team in the delivery of the event the day was a great opportunity for us to experience the tools in action, and to reflect on how a range of organisations and councils with specific aims and objectives might adapt these engagement approaches in bespoke ways.

As part of the event we discussed the potential for the ‘Right Ideas’ tool to be used by researchers and engagement professionals alike to co-​develop and promote projects and initiatives that respond to local issues, and to invite people from surrounding communities to collaborate as partners. We also considered how different people could be involved in each phase of this tool activity, and how the tear-​off tabs could provide a contact number for people to further connect with the ideas that were generated. As an approach to breaking down barriers to engagement and an artefact to stimulate discussion over stigma and power, the ‘Badge’ tool revealed insights around the judgements that are made based on a person’s physical appearance, how we talk about our own personal and professional identities, and how clothing and accessories can be used to build trust and designate responsibility. Connecting with GSA’s work around equality, this tool resonated with our experiences of using symbolic images and objects to kick-​start conversations in the exploratory stages of our research. An alternative to many of the tools’ paper-​based formats, the ‘Sound Advice’ tool, featuring a piece of music and short excerpts of speech, offered a way for young people to document their own coping strategies and reflections, and for others to learn from their experiences. The groups we spoke with were particularly inspired by the accessibility and authenticity of this tool when working with hard-​to-​reach communities, and considered how it could be used to share advice around areas including care, relationships, education, and employment. With links to our current research into creative approaches to capturing feedback for evaluation, the ‘Everybody’ tool was also highlighted as an inclusive, open, and playful way for building dialogue and encouraging people to express their experiences of services.

The event itself was a valuable way for Leapfrog to present back the co-​designed tools as the outcomes of the first major project and to open up conversations around how these could be modified and personalised. At the same time, by bringing together a range of organisations, the Tool Sharing Event provided an opportunity to form a new network of peers, united by their motivation to engage with people and communities in responsive, authentic, and meaningful ways.

At GSA, we are in the process of working on our major project, ‘Peer to Peer Engagement’, and gained a critical insight into the value of sharing our co-​design processes and tools with broad audiences. Reflecting on the Lancaster team’s collection of the tools and accompanying stories and experiences presented through ‘The Inspirer’ newspaper, we are currently exploring different ways to present, package, and promote our tools to enable portable and sustainable tool sharing in our future Leapfrog projects. We are also considering how we can develop our relationships with our co-​design partners as advocates of the tools, and how being part of a co-​design process can embed creative approaches to engage in different organisations to have a tangible impact on community participation.