Inclusive Playful Engagement Strategy development – Workshop at Playful Learning Conference 2019

I’ve been so lucky to attend the Playful Learning conference for four years now. It is absolutely one of the highlights of the academic year for me and I was incredibly chuffed to present there again this year.

I’ve been doing a lot of research and work in playful engagement around strategy and workplace engagement this year for the University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group (ISG). This has been towards the development of a Playful Engagement strategy to foster an environment and culture where innovation, playful learning, and creative engagement are embedded in our practices (in line with the University aim to offer an educational experience that is inspiring, challenging, and transformational).

The strategy in practice aims to include the voices, concerns, and input from staff across ISG, with a focus on equality, accessibility, and diversity in ensuring that playful activities and creative opportunities are available to all levels and abilities of staff while being inclusive of our diverse workforce and student body.

The workshop had gathered a lot of attention and we ended up with a crowded room and extra chairs pulled in and some folks were incredibly lovely and happy to work using floorspace in the very back!

After providing background on the strategy’s aims and development, the workshop element was designed to engage thought around how playful strategy might be incorporated and planed for accessibility and equality in attendees institutions.

To do this I used a combination of the Ketso method (read here on how it Ketso was used to gather data for the ISG Playful Engagement Strategy), combined with postcard images from our University collections. The images acted as archetypes and symbols which could be used to tell a story, explain a concept, or experience, from an external position, outside and away from the self with the focus being on what is read and told from the image.

I wasn’t able to bring our Ketso kit with me to the conference (it’s big!). So I made my own quick and cheap version by cutting leaf shaped post-it notes and handing out butcher paper so folks could draw out their own branches for their community trees.

©Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, 2019

First attendees were asked what it means for them to be playful in their profession. They were provided with the postcard images to use as archetypes and then asked to share and discuss in their groups to identify three to four key areas important to playfulness in a professional setting.

Those four areas were then drawn onto the large sheets of paper as branches on their tree.

Then the following leaves were discussed by each group and added to their tree branches:

  1. Green: activities, tools, services, or approaches towards being playful, creative, and innovative in a professional space
  2. Orange: barriers that might prevent engaging in playfulness, creativity, and innovation in a professional space
  3. Pink: solutions to enable participation and overcome those barriers.


At intervals groups were given coloured dot stickers and asked to identify areas/leaves that they considered to be difficult or in most need of being addressed (Red dots), and areas/leaves that they considered most important in providing solutions.

©Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, 2019

After the trees had been thoroughly covered in leaves each group then identified their top three actions to encourage playfulness in a professional setting and then presented this as a storyboard to the entire room using the archetype postcard images.

©Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, 2019

I found it really interesting to note that a lot of the aims, hurdles, and solutions that were raised in this workshop echoed the same ones that came up as part of the data collection to create our own strategy and approach here at Edinburgh. Key to success was the need for buy-in and support from senior management and clearly defined strategy.

So here’s  a big cheer to our management at UoE ISG in providing both support and strategy!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s