Ms Laura Simpson Reeves
Ms Laura Simpson Reeves

Master students in COMU7102, Communication for Social Change Foundations, were lucky enough to receive a visit from Laura Simpson Reeves, who shared her wealth of knowledge on LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®, and proved that playing isn’t always just fun and games.

The courses’ mix of students, who specialise in both Communication for Social Change and Public Relations & Professional Communication, were surprised at the playful turn of events during one of their class workshops, but were soon able to experience, first-hand, the incredible potential for building three-dimensional models on participatory communication practices.

LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® began its life in the business world as a tool for group-based problem solving and strategy development. More recently, its power for use in other fields of application has been recognised. It was piloted in the field of international development and social change by Dr Lauren Hinthorne, a postdoctoral researcher at the CfCSC in 2011-13, and through her role as a research assistant in this project, Laura Simpson Reeves was introduced to the methodology and has been further experimenting with it ever since in training settings for international groups.

The SERIOUS PLAY® method is a facilitated process for group discussion, social bonding, emotional expression and/or cognitive development that uses a simple four-step process. The facilitator poses a task, participants build a LEGO® model, each participant then has the opportunity to describe their model in their group, and the models are finally discussed in the larger group. The benefits of this process were clearly visible in the students’ responses to it.

Answering abstract and difficult questions like, ‘What does social change look like?’, ‘What is my role in the social change process?’, ‘What is a key challenge I face in this process?’ suddenly became easy. Working with their hands helped the students’ reflective thinking processes, and forced them to think in new and interesting ways. The visual process of model-making also broke down cultural barriers between the students, many of whom are international students.

There was a sense of students coming out of their shell quite easily to discuss their unique models with fellow students, and thinking about their relationship to the CSC field in ways they might not have before.

While LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® is a time consuming process, and the COMU7102 students only had two hours to experience it, the advantages of the tool were felt by all present. The class was a resounding success, with the students unanimously voting for the lesson to be continued in future course offerings.

We’d like to thank Laura for taking the time to teach our Master students about this innovative methodology and look forward to opening the eyes of our future students to the advantages of visual methods in CSC.

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