In this Featured People series we talk to Alison Harvey of the University of Leicester, where she is programme director, deputy research director and lecturer. Besides her academic profile she was a participant in the 'Moving Communities' Idea Camp 2017. We asked her our fixed set of questions:
1. What is your idea about?
My idea was to develop a toolkit to support the use of games for creative expression in community groups focused on issues of belonging and social cohesion, especially migrant and refugee groups. I worked with a user researcher and experience designer to create this toolkit, and we are using our funding to test the toolkit out with community groups in the UK and Europe, including with fellow Idea Makers Adam Carter and Sara Larsdotter.
2. How did your participation in the Idea Camp help you transform your idea into an effective project?
In addition to providing incredible feedback on and a roadmap for refining the initial idea, participation in the Idea Camp was essential for networking me with community leaders like Adam and Sara to research and develop the toolkit. I often refer back to the roadmap for guidance on thinking about stakeholders and audiences, and I recently used the section of the future of the idea to help write a press release about the project. Finally, I find checking in on what my fellow Idea Makers are doing to be tremendously inspiring as I develop and refine the toolkit.
3. What difficulties do you face in implementing your project? What do you see as the main obstacles?
One of the major challenges is that many of the community groups working with migrant and refugee populations in Europe are extremely time-poor, and therefore participating in our research and development can be too resource-intensive for some we had hoped to engage with. We have been lucky to have a diverse range of community groups participate in the testing, including Favela Painting with Adam Carter and Teater Interakt with Sara Larsdotter, and the feedback we have received has challenged our perceptions but also broadened our understanding of the role of arts and culture, including games and play, in community work.
4. How did you experience the workshops in December, and how did this fit your expectations of peer-to-peer knowledge-sharing which is one of the themes of the Idea Camp?
In December, my research partner and I had the opportunity to work with Teater Interakt over a whole weekend, which we found to be extremely rewarding. The group was endlessly generous in sharing their space and time with us, engaging with the toolkit collaboratively and individually, and brainstorming potential ways of integrating games and play into their practices. Sara as a facilitator and champion of the collaboration was inspiring, and the conversation about the intersections between theatre and games has been the spark for new activity development for the toolkit. This encounter exceeded my expectations in terms of the power of knowledge sharing, and reignited my passion for the project.
5. How do you see the further development of your idea in the future?
In addition to continuing to develop the toolkit considering the feedback we have received already, we have organized a number of further tests with community groups and leaders. Based on these diverse workshops and tests, we hope to be able to share a refined, more usable toolkit widely by the end of the research and development phase. We have also made some unexpected connections with activists, artists, educators, festival organizers, and academics that have opened up exciting new potential applications - stay tuned!