Programme Session Details 2024

Playful Strategies: Opportunities and barriers to playfulness in HE professional services

Corresponding Author: Stephanie Charlie Farley

All authors: Ayaan Ahmed

Length: 90 minutes


In 2019 The University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group (ISG) implemented a Playful Engagement strategy to formalise and foster a workplace environment and culture where innovation, playful learning, and creative engagement are embedded in our practices.

The strategy encompassed the way that services, tools, technologies, practice, communication, and community are undertaken across the Group and provided outwith to- the University and broader local, national, and global interests across four focused goals:

1. Facilitate the development of playful innovators, researchers, and creators.
2. Promote creative, playful, and innovative use of technologies and tools in ISG services.
3. Utilise our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and engaging ways to enrich our services.
4. Support a healthy work life balance, and a positive and engaging work environment.

Since 2020 there have been many changes to how we work and provide services both in person and with a greater shift online and into digital. We hired a Playful Engagement intern to work alongside us to review and update our ISG Playful Engagement strategy to reflect these changes. This review focused on managerial level uptake and implementation, particularly how the strategy provided opportunities for managers across the Group to use playful approaches within their teams’ work practices and communities or the provision of their services, and to identify what barriers to playfulness are perceived by those same managers.

In this session we will present the history and background of playful engagement within The University of Edinburgh’s Information Services Group (ISG), the implementation of a Playful Engagement strategy, and its review undertaken in 2023/24 to reflect changes to workspaces and practice post 2020. Attendees will be led through a short run of the practices used in our focus groups to identify perceived opportunities and barriers to playfulness in the workplace. These will include undertaking a participatory research method used in Empathy mapping called “cultural probing” (Liebutė, L., & Cerneviciute, J., 2022). Then as a whole we will round the activity out gathering participants output using Ketso methodology (Bates, J. S., 2016). Session attendees’ output will then be compared with those from our playful engagement review.

References, web links and other resources:

Home Page

Bates, J. S. (2016). What’s Ketso? A Tool for Researchers, Educators, and Practitioners. Journal of Human Sciences and Extension, 4(2), 12. DOI:

Liebutė, L., & Cerneviciute, J. (2022). CULTURAL PROBES METHOD IN DESIGN RESEARCH: CREATIVITY IN SKETCHES. Creativity Studies, 15(1), 169–181.