Developing a playful strategy for ISG

[This blog post is part of a series written for the Edinburgh Teaching Award (EdTA) to achieve accreditation as a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. ]

Due to my activities around using games and playful engagements in workshops, training, and courses at the University, in 2017 I was approached by Melissa Highton, our Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services and the Assistant Principal of Online Learning, and tasked with developing a Playful Engagement Strategy for our Information Services Group (ISG).  I’d had no prior experience of strategy development, so after researching existing strategies, policies, and plans at the University, I decided to structure the creation of this new strategy around that of the Learning and Teaching Strategy, building it up from the Information Services Plan 2016- 2019.

By incorporating playful approaches and spaces – open, dynamic, and creative – it’s suggested that organisations will be able to ‘think creatively, question old assumptions, respond effectively to the unexpected, and engage all participants’ talents in collaboration’ (Meyer, 2010). The creation of this playful engagement strategy is one of the ways that ISG is seeking to meet the University’s vision towards 2025 in which [we] “will ensure we make a sustained and enhanced global impact through an approach shaped by innovations and excellence” by encouraging creativity among staff and students and embedding playfulness into the working culture, teaching, and services.

I wanted to ensure that the policy included the voice, concerns, and input from staff across ISG, and that it placed a strong focus on equality, accessibility, and diversity through seeking to provide activities and opportunities to all levels and abilities of staff while being inclusive of our diverse workforce and student body.  Towards this purpose, I ran a workshop event around the project and specifically invited a range of staff across all ISG divisions, grades, and responsibilities to participate. It was received incredibly positively and allowed our CIO Gavin McLachlan to sit at a table, using Lego Serious Play to shape and communicate ideas, and talk freely with interns, administrative, and technical staff who didn’t normally have the opportunity to share their experiences and concerns at such a high level.

The Ketso kit approach I took to the workshop allowed all participants to write down and contribute their voices and experiences, and it was fantastic to see senior management taking all of those comments on board. This was my first time using the Ketso kit and it was incredibly effective in engaging active participation. I’d like to see more use of it across ISG and into the Schools, and am going to provide information on where to find, gain access to, and how to use it on the Playful Engagement webpages also being created as part of this project.

One of the Ketso trees created by participants at the Playful Engagement Strategy workshop. Ketso kits allow all participants, even those who prefer to be less vocal, to write down and contribute their voices, experiences, and ideas, to the group.


Once the drafts of the action plan and the outward facing strategy are complete I’ll be sharing them with participants from my playful engagement workshop for further feedback and comment. They’ll then be taken to the Senior Management Team for review, and once approved the action plan will be put into practice and also used to inform future policy development across ISG. The outward facing document is to be shared on a Playful Engagement webpage that I’m developing with help from our Interactive Content team (see images below), which will also link together and provide information and access to the wide range of playful services and technologies being provided by ISG.


Gender neutral character created for the Playful Engagement webpages. Additional characters are also being created to reflect diversity.

This entire process has been a steep learning curve. At first I had no idea how to even begin this type of process, but the faith placed in my ability to handle the project, and support from my managers when I have sought their help has been inspirational. What I’ve really taken from this, and am going to embed in my own approach, is the trust and opportunity to stretch my experience and development that my senior management, in this case Melissa Highton, has afforded in handing this responsibility to me. That leadership means placing trust and providing others with the opportunity to discover and then reach their full potential.




Learning & Teaching Strategy, The University of Edinburgh, 

Information Services Plan 2016- 2019, The University of Edinburgh, 

Meyer, P., (2010). From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, USA


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