How can play and the imagination in adulthood affect systemic transitions in policymaking and spaces that house institutional power?

See the project website—> https://www.canwejustplay.com/

We are in an era of systemic transition – where it is conceivable that new leaders, new leadership and new networks might emerge and older systems could fall. Imwen’s research shows that play in adulthood could be used to prompt change and to allow for the imagination of a better future. In a time when so many of existing institutions are struggling to change, Imwen Eke believes that change can happen by stimulating collective imagination through playful intervention to better inspire the minds of the change-makers.

Imwen’s research confirms what we already know adults don’t play enough and there is an inequity in who gets to play and who designs what we play. As a Black British female experience designer and social games maker, Imwen often stands at the intersection of play, digital technology, business and entertainment in environments that house institutional power and narratives that do not include people that look like her in their creation, design or delivery. Her research finds that the pedagogies behind the foundations of play and imagination are colonial in their origins and have been created by people who do not represent everyday citizens and have not historically experienced the long-standing structural inequities in play. As a result, Imwen asks: How can we manifest a plurality of perspectives and new culturally relevant interpretations of play pedagogy to include Black and Brown led reimagining? How does one bring more voices into the conversation to make new equitable play methods with a modern context that can stimulate and inspire the minds of leaders to think differently?

Imwen held and attended exploratory virtual workshops and discussions led by a variety of artists, creative technicians and policymakers including Hackney council, Black outdoors groups and other individuals. Her first activity was to play with these groups resulting in the development of a conversational game that explores social dilemmas and etiquette. Other activities to result from her research were: a series of interviews investigating our collective understanding of play in today’s world which led to a taster podcast ‘The Future of Play’ and in response a series of Instagram visuals generating new quotes around play, a series of workshops exploring play and what is possible with technology resulting in the creation of experiential play activities that have a low barrier to access, a series of Black-led creative workshops that re-imagined existing play methodologies. Through these activities, Imwen has developed a method that utilises the potential of play in adulthood as an experiential process, designed to incubate a new, shared way of co-constructed thinking. This method which she proposes to bring to councils is an investment in the growth, connectivity and experimental development of collective cultural power.

Moving forward, Imwen aims to deliver further series of live workshops where play, technology art and social justice meet to transform how change is instigated. As multiple voices are needed to address the complexities of change, these workshops are designed to bring together leaders at the management, policy and board levels with underrepresented groups, cultural organisers, everyday citizens to embed varied perspectives and outcomes. Another output of this research is a game concept The Play Pill created in response to a series of play interviews interrogating our collective understanding of play and equity.. Imwen is now working on a new augmented reality experience for the outdoors to encourage more black bodies to play and be visible. Co constructed with black outdoor groups imwen hopes this intercultural experience will get more adults playing.