Participatory development communication - it's child's play
Your hands are connected to approximately 70 to 80 percent of your brain cells.
LEGO® and DUPLO® bricks fit together.
Nearly a month after completing training in the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® methodology, those are the two points that continue to stand out in my mind. They are also fundamental to how the methodology works.
To start back at the beginning, in mid-February I flew to London to learn how to play seriously with LEGO bricks. I had encountered the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology about six months previously when reading an interview with Professor David Gauntlett about visual research methods. While the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology is used almost exclusively in the world of business, Professor Gauntlett adapted it in order to explore how people construct and understand their own identities. (You can read more about this research in his excellent book Creative Explorations).
I started to wonder how the process of building 3D models to explore complex and sensitive problems could be adapted to a development context. The only way to find out was to become a trained LEGO SERIOUS PLAY facilitator myself.
You’d be surprised how exhausting it is to build with LEGO for 10 hours a day. One rule of the training was that we were supposed to fiddle with the extensive selection of bricks on the table while the instructor was teaching. ‘Learning with your hands’ is a central pillar of the LEGO SERIOUS PLAY methodology. You can only be consciously aware of a finite amount of information at one time, but by using the neural connections in your hands you can actually know much more than you realize. Moreover, ideas built with your hands are generally expressed in more detail and are more easily remembered.
LEGO bricks are also an incredibly democratic building material. All of the pieces – including DUPLO – fit together. But, no matter how skilled a builder you are, any LEGO construction will always look like LEGO. Unlike other modes of creation that can prompt anxiety about artistic aptitude and realism (e.g. drawing, painting, modeling with clay), building with LEGO automatically invokes a degree of abstraction and metaphor. The building process allows time to explore what you think (imaginatively), and the model you create represents whatever you say it does.
You may be wondering what this could possibly have to do with the Centre. Having completed the training, I am convinced that the process (if not necessarily LEGO) is readily adaptable to the multifaceted challenges posed by international development.
The methodology itself is progressive, starting with small building challenges that gradually expand in both scale and complexity. In other words, participants begin by building and discussing something quite safe and simple but, by the end of the process, are able to articulate complex relationships and examine possible future scenarios.
Moreover, 3D models can easily be examined from multiple perspectives, something difficult to achieve in two-dimensional representations or words alone. The methodology’s potential for enabling participatory development communication is something that I look forward to developing.
Lauren Leigh will be holding a free workshop on visual methodology and LEGO SERIOUS PLAY on April 19. Details to come in the next newsletter.