We held our first session of the Duct Tape Uni co-design process at Community Arts North West (CAN) in Manchester. CAN is an arts development organisation that works to facilitate cultural expression and visibility for the many diverse and complex communities living across Greater Manchester. The Do I.T course held in 2013 and due to be held again shortly in 2014 supports artists from these communities to gain skills in digital storytelling and to develop their online presence. The staff and participants for the course are the focus for the co-design process with the aim being to create a tool that will support trainers and artist participants to access and share Open Educational Resources (OER) on digital storytelling. The plan is to work on the first two sessions with a small group made up of CAN employees and volunteers and to then broaden this out to include other people from the CAN network and beyond.
The key aims for session 1 were to introduce the the group to the project, think about the needs of the different stakeholders involved in the project (CAN, Jisc, MMU, Do IT participants), and to begin to gather the groups requirements and to think about what the tool should look like and how it could meet our needs. In addition, we also wanted to start documenting the co-design process and to engage the group in discussion about how to evaluate it. We used a range of participatory activities in the session, of the kind that as trainers we are all familiar with. This gave us the opportunity to share our skills and experiences in using participatory tools and activities in our own work.
This post seeks to highlight some of the interesting discussions and learning that came out of the first session. We will do this for all the sessions that we run at CAN as part of the documentation and evaluation process. In the spirit of the cyclical learning and design process, these posts will continue to develop and be refined over the course of the project.
The importance of games
After introducing the project to the group, we launched straight into a drama game which was taken from Augusto Boal’s ‘Games for Actors and Non Actors’. We worked with partners. One person placed their palm six inches from the other persons face and then moved their palm up, down and around whilst the other person tried to keep their face 6 inches from the other persons palm. This was a great game to get people moving and afterwards we reflected that it was fun, creative and helped us to focus.
So why are games important in tech courses? Mick interviewed Sara who coordinates the Do IT course who shared her thoughts in response to this question. Check out the video here:
Intro to Co-design
Moving on, Mick facilitated a discussion on Co-design. The group came up with three questions to guide the evaluation process. These are:
1. What difference does the co-design process make to the final outcome, Does it meet user needs?
2. What impact does the co-design process have on the community of practice and the individuals within that community with regards to their professional development/learning, sense of ownership over the tool and its sustainability?
3. What are the barriers to participation?
These are questions we will keep coming back to throughout the co-design process.
What’s in the bag?
In this session, the group started to think about what they want the tool to do and what it should include. At this stage in the process, out thoughts were still pretty jumbled, just like the contents of a large bag with no pockets! So we just chucked our thoughts on paper. This ultimately helped us to order them but also helped to reinforce our understanding of the project thus far.
The following activity ‘Buzzwords’ in which we spent a few minutes brainstorming words to describe the project further helped to conceptualise the project.
The process of throwing ideas out there, putting them down on paper and then refining them also has the more technical name of ‘prototyping’ and is integral to the co-design process at Duct Tape Uni. It follows the cyclical process of ‘thinking, planning, doing, and reflecting;’ before beginning the process all over again in order to refine what has been created.
Duck Tape Uni Street Art
The final activity of session 1 reflected this process of creating and refining a prototype and was an interesting and engaging way of continuing to discuss what the tool looked like as well as bring together all that we had come up within the morning. Armed with brightly coloured Duct tape, paper and some styrofoam bowls we headed off into the Northern Quarter, Manchester’s creative district to construct a prototype in the form of temporary street art!
Again, we quickly put our ideas up, discussed refined and then did it again – it was a fast paced, creative process…
What did we learn from session 1?
Creating a visual representation as the final activity was fun and helped us to pin down what we were doing and why. This is an important first a stage in creating a tool that meets the needs of the community. It was also effective in encouraging communication and creating rapport between group members.The process of thinking planning doing and reflecting is a really useful way of getting ideas flowing freely and for supporting a collaborative creative process. Knowing that there is plenty of time to discuss and refine meant that the group wasn’t bogged down in trying to get it right first time.
All of the tools used in the first session had been or could be used by the group of trainers in their own work. Using them and then reflecting on them facilitated a sharing of ideas and of good practice.
The session packed a lot in and we had to move fast. This was fine for the group because we were familiar with the concepts. In a group of mixed experience, it could be beneficial to go more slowly.