Leaving A Project Legacy

17 April 2015

We’ve been thinking a lot recently about how we measure the impact of our work. Do we make a difference? Is it significant? And how long do you need to wait before you can tell if it has been a success?

With all this on our minds, it was a joy to get an update for a client nearly three years after we finished our involvement with the project. At the beginning of 2011 we spent four months at Belvue SEN School thinking, playing and exploring how their outdoor spaces could be used and programmed differently. When we finished the project we had worked with every member of staff and pupil in the school (yep – every single one!) and taken them outside to plan and participate in outdoor play and learning.  The school had a brief for a new outdoor environment which had a consensus built around it so that from the most eager outdoor type to eternal fans of central heating, everybody could imagine being outside more than they ever had before. You can see the findings of our work here.

Finally, this brief has come into fruition with the first phase of the building works drawing to completion; in the words of one of Belvue School staff Mike Baldwin, ‘make:good began a process of empowerment which has resulted in both students and staff thinking more creatively about how they learn and play, and our playground, the design of which was heavily influenced by the outcomes of their research, is close to completion.’

Not only is this a story of a good brief creating an environment where people love the outdoors but we seem to have fostered a sense of empowerment in staff and students to be ambitious about how they can use their outside spaces for learning through play. This project was about collaborating with staff and students and in our time at the school we tried to listen to as many ideas as possible and support people to try them out; from an outdoor cafe to themed lunchtime games and an outdoor disco, to dens and adventures in a neighbouring woodland. We tried many things, learnt lots and left a detailed report with drawings and ‘recipes’ for outdoor learning that the whole school had collaborated on.

Leaving these reports behind can feel odd when you don’t know how much traction they will have. One measure of success is knowing that our work has left a legacy of a confident ‘can do’ approach of developing and using outdoor space, which makes us extremely happy. This reaffirms our belief that it is about the behaviour and attitudes we leave behind that create the greatest change – not just the physical change we design.

-CG