Scaling Up Leapfrog: improving a million creative conversations

Lead Research Organisation: Lancaster University
Department Name: Lancaster Inst for the Contemporary Arts


We want 1 million people to directly benefit from new adaptations of Leapfrog tools by unlocking the potential for practitioners across the UK and beyond to work at new scales. We will build on the success of the Leapfrog project by working with new public and third sector partners to help them engage with large groups. This will range from community meetings with hundreds of people through to some interactions that will have over 100,000 people using an adapted Leapfrog tool in a Design Week. To do this we will use co-design to collaboratively create and adapt Leapfrog tools with our partners, giving them tailored resources to support their work, and producing shareable tools available freely worldwide.

Amongst the many challenges faced by the public sector at this time, there is a growing need to meaningfully involve more and more citizens, service users and communities in the difficult decisions that affect them. Scaling Up Leapfrog responds to this need by enabling our partners to directly take on the challenges that surround engaging hundreds of thousands of people in meaningful, creative dialogue. With our partners we will co-design Leapfrog tools to support engagement with 80-100 people at a time, a significant shift in scale from common engagement practice that generally engages ten or twenty people at a time. We will also collaborate with our partners to unlock new scales for parallel engagement, producing Leapfrog tools that help form connections between multiple events in a single initiative.

Our partners range from those in public health (Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group), to national charity networks (Food Power), international design networks (World Design Weeks Network) and museums (Victoria and Albert Museum). These partners each seek to enable their staff to perform effective, creative engagement with an increasing number of participants. For some of our partners this is driven by a desire to make a population more health aware and to develop a social movement to that end, engaging with the most disadvantaged people and helping their voices have an effect in decision-making or to help eradicate food poverty by drawing on the expertise of people living in food poverty. We also have 'reach partners' who are working with very large numbers of people (e.g. Milan Design Week had over 400,000 attendees in 2018), we will work with the heads of 10 design weeks to develop new tools to help them engage with their audiences en-mass. We will use co-design to collaboratively design and test ways of enabling these new scales of engagement for our partners, giving them direct value during the project, and on-going value as new practices and resources becoming part of their organisational vocabulary.

Our approach to the co-design of tools is exemplified in a stream of work from the current Leapfrog project (2015-2018) We co-designed with 20 librarians to help make this transition to mixed-service teams and spaces a more positive experience. Being led by them, together we developed a range of tools to help new teams form and function effectively. In Scaling up Leapfrog, one could imagine a tool being adapted from the Librarians 'New team tools' to help people explore the contents of a design week collaboratively; this could be incorporated into the tickets created for the design week. Its very important to note though, our experience is that the real insights come from actually co-designing with partners, the real outcomes of the co-design process are likely to be unexpected and all the more innovative for that.

The new practices, tools and resources that are produced through co-design with our project partners will also have relevance across a diverse range of organisations, sectors and contexts. All the tools produced by the project will be shared freely through the Leapfrog website (, building on a library of free, resources available (and used) worldwide.

Planned Impact

Every element of this project seeks real-world impact that enhances public sector engagement practice. The proposed work with Morecambe Bay Clinical Commissioning Group (MBCCG) and Food Power will lead to new tools and resources, tested, improved and embedded within these organisations, aligning directly with their organisational priorities and ambitions. This will enable the voice of some of the most disadvantaged groups to contribute actively to developing policy and interventions that will affect them directly.

Work with the Victoria and Albert Museum and World Design Weeks Network (WDWN) will produce tools and resources for use by practitioners in national and international networks, reaching hundreds of thousands of people in use (over 800,000 through work with the V&A, over 1,000,000 through work with WDWN). This will have a significant cumulative impact for example helping young people have a more inspirational experience in an engagement programme at a museum. For the WDWN we will help organisations bring design alive for a multitude of people, this could be something that helps attendees for the large design weeks get to grips with the huge scale of design weeks in Milan or Eindhoven but also it could include resources to help emerging design weeks such as Detroit to find their own voice with their attendees and introduce them to design. These four central organisational collaborations form the proposed project and are the product of highly active, engaged involvement of these partners in the development of this proposal.

The existing Leapfrog project has demonstrated the transformative potential of tool co-design for public and third sector engagement practice. Our evaluation of the current Leapfrog project (2015-2018) revealed persistent changes in practice for individuals engaged in co-design work, and for organisations collaborating with the project. For example, Lancashire County Council staff co-designed tools to support new team formation which have now become embedded in the organisation, available to all staff though internal procurement systems, integrated into training processes and an everyday element of practice within the Council. We anticipate similar benefits from the proposed activities for our partners, and have integrated activities to embed outcomes into all elements of project.

Each stream of activity within this project will produce collections (toolboxes) of adaptable tools, available freely through the Leapfrog website ( for at least 10 years from the end of project funding. The tools will be promoted by events run by both Leapfrog project staff and independently our project partners. These tools will be downloaded and used by practitioners directly touched by project activities, by practitioners within the existing Leapfrog network, and by practitioners around the world unknown to the project today. We anticipate continued demand for the new tools the project will produce, adding to those who have visited the Leapfrog website to date (over 60,000) and downloaded tools (over 2,000). Each download and subsequent use of a Leapfrog tool has the potential to touch hundreds of people, amplifying the impact and reach of the project and the research that underpins it.

The tools and resources will enable effective engagement practice with groups of 80-100 people in a single event, or helping practitioners link together multiple engagement events or activities, in a few cases at the scale of 100,000 people. This aligns with our partners' needs (exemplified by the intent of our project partner MBCCG to run preventative healthcare workshops with 300 teachers at a time), and represents a step change from the existing Leapfrog tools (generally suited to work with groups of 2-20 people). Based on extensive scoping work with partners, we and our partners have chosen the goal of seeing more than 1 million people benefit from the outcomes of this follow-on project by 2021.


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