A few weeks ago I blogged In Praise of Lego Serious Play about how we use this methodology in our community workshops as a visioning and co-design tool.
We wanted now to also share a little about the Social Spaces Skills Game that we developed originally for the Travelling Pantry workshops, but now that it is tested and fully developed, wish to give away for communities to use.
What it is
The Social Spaces Skills Game is a very simple game indeed. I collection of skills are printed on 100 cards, which are read out by a workshop participant, and with the help of the group are sorted into:
- skills that the group can do
- skills that their friends can do
- skills that to their knowledge neither they nor their friends can do
How and why we designed the game
When the initial Travelling Pantry workshops were designed, they specifically wanted to avoid traditional problem-solving methodologies. Instead, the intention of the workshops was to test the idea of shifting mindsets in the following ways:
- direct problem solving --> secondary effects
- single projects --> strategic transforming vision for the community
- needs --> assets
- first step funding --> first step revealing and connecting ideas, resources etc
On the day before the first workshop I wrote:
"There are a number of really very inspiring community projects which focus on maintaining (or even better refurbishing) the community - and making your environment beautiful for the community is a wonderful and creative thing in itself. The difficulty with the problem-solving format in a workshop situation in my experience, particularly if you start with grass cutting, is that typically, at community level at least, all these roads lead to ‘maintenance thinking’. Once you have started, it becomes a list of pot-holes and dog mess, road works and graffiti and litter … and half an hour later you are talking about ‘hoodies’ being loud and rude and how lonely elderly people are and how bad the NHS is, and why aren’t trains on time, or the leaves collected quicker … and before you know it you are a sad heap of exhaustion and frustration just thinking about the terribleness of it all.
So we didn’t think we would do that."
The other activities that we designed for the workshops were all included to create a sense of possibility – for people to leave the workshops feeling excited and capable. All the activities were also designed specifically to ‘reveal’ aspects that are often invisible, such as ideas (via the LEGO), resources and talents. We were also aware that many projects never get off the ground because ‘projects’ are seen to require difficult skills such as writing constitutions, opening bank accounts or writing funding bids and we knew that in most new-style community projects that these particular items that put people off getting involved, represent a fraction of what is needed.
Like all simple and successful things, the thinking and inspiration behind the game came from multiple sources. We were at the time immersed in design thinking, prototyping … particularly trying to make visible and tangible concepts and ideas as well as inspired by the work of Albert Bandura on self-efficacy and beliefs. Having worked with Lauren Currie on Mindapples ideas, I was very inspired by her awesome ability to make things physically real. Crystal Campell and Saskia Van Oosterhout had described how they incorporated cards into their Narrative Ecology and this had worked well. David Gauntlett and I could see how all this added together could help workshop participants ‘reveal’ their talents and skills in a light and enjoyable way, which did not embarrass them by making them feel boastful.
We were also very inspired by the work of John McKnight and John Kretmann at the ABCD Institute, who had in 1993 developed a Capacity Inventory that community development workers make use of in interviews with residents in the community to create a database of skills in the community. Although we were not using this idea in the same way, but rather trying to increase a sense of resourcefulness in a workshop setting, we found this inventory very inspiring. We borrowed about 50 of the Inventory’s 200 skills, added 50 new ones of our own, including some humorous ones such as ‘sit in the lotus position’, ‘chatting over coffee’… and ‘making people laugh’.
We printed them up through marvelous Moo… and took them on the road…
What we discovered
Through workshopping with over 1800 people in the last 14 months we have discovered that this activity, but some miracle, did exactly what we hoped it would.
- Without exception everyone enjoys this game – people always laugh and joke their way through the game which takes about 10-15 minutes – we have even had frequent demonstrations of ‘sitting in the lotus’ position.
- It is informal and people interact in light ways that help them get to know one another better.
- Of the 100 activities a group of 4 or more will be able to do, or have a friend do, over 90% of the skills. The percentage between how much an individual group can do themselves varies on size of group, but generally speaking most skills can be done in the community.
- It does make people feel capable – we have frequently had groups spontaneously applaud themselves at their collective cleverness.
- It genuinely surprises them how much can be done around the table – and through this are also blown away considering how much skill is lying dormant in the community.
We have found that the Skills Game is great to end a workshop - but others who have experienced it, including Nick Bird, have thought it would work well also at the beginning as an ice breaker and to set the tone of the workshop right from the beginning.
If you think you might like to try the skills game you can buy a set on the Social Spaces Shop – BUT before you do, please be aware that you will be able to request a free PDF of the Social Spaces Skills Game in the new year, which we are making available free for community's use via a Creative Commons [Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs] licence.
Pic above from the workshop held in Torwood on the 22 October 2010