Article 4

Why Co-Design?

This article is the fourth in a series to share information, resources, answer questions and offer tips and tools to support you as you work across the Southern NSW Innovation Hub and beyond.

The Hub is implementing Co-design. This is an approach to designing “with” and not “for” or “to” people. These regular articles are designed to challenge, teach, and motivate you to explore and use Co-design in your work (and it will have relevance beyond the work environment too.)

All updates are written by the team of Jo Eady, a human centred facilitator, strategic designer with a keen interest in social change based in Victoria and Dale Stringer, innovation specialist and key knowledge broker with Southern NSW Innovation Hub.

A key question

Another question we’re often asked is “Why Co-design?” It’s a question we’ll never tire of answering because when people ask it, it means they’re truly contemplating its value and considering how it might work in their current role as a facilitator of change/improvement and innovation. Facilitators are amazing. We are yet to meet one who is not genuinely inquisitive about enhancing engagement and improving outcomes. We know Co-design can provide a new take on this and, if you haven’t already, we hope you will join us in this belief!

Role of facilitators

We think it’s important for facilitators to get clear about the value of Co-design so that facilitation will achieve outcomes that result in on the ground improvements, change and innovation. Effective Co-design is about a lot more than holding space where participants have a good day or session. It’s about carefully designing a collaborative process with a diverse range of people who are directly involved in an issue, topic or interest. It’s about creating opportunity for those directly impacted or affected by an issue such as drought/aspects of drought to be a key contributor in the creation of solutions. It’s about drawing people together to work collectively on improvements and innovations to build a product or service that is the best it can be and then to actually adopt and implement it. Effective facilitators are guardians of the Co-design process. This includes ensuring respect for the intent, stages and process as a whole.

Are Co-Design and Collaboration the same thing?

Co-design is about collaboration (in fact that’s what the “Co” stands for!) It’s about opening up opportunity, including and designing WITH people that will engage, deliver and/or use a product or service. Without including ALL people with an interest in the design and development of an issue/opportunity, it’s most unlikely that innovation and/or change will ever result. This is because people will have come together, they will have had their say, even prioritised what’s important on sticky notes BUT unless they actually go beyond this to work collaboratively and design a revised/new solution, process, prototype and or product, it’s highly likely that there will be little ongoing outcome, value or change achieved.

Is this why some people don’t like butcher’s paper and sticky notes?

YES, YES, YES it is! Sadly, many people have been engaged in processes of brainstorming and prioritising needs which haven’t been taken further, or have been, but those involved aren’t aware of this. The result is that those that should benefit are left feeling like their time wasn’t valued, they are workshop tired and fatigued (less likely to come to another in the future) and are left with a feeling that no one (especially government or those employed via government funding) ever listen to them anyway.

Why Co-Design?

We really want you to see the value of Co-design. And to see it from two angles. The first is from the farmer or community members and the second is from an organisation’s perspective. Here’s a summary

Benefits for Farmers and Community Members Benefits for Organisations/ Service Providers
Recognition that they are experts in the use of a specific service/product Increased cooperation within and across organisations
Better services provided due to their input Increased and improved creativity
Higher quality services available Enhanced end/service user and or customer focus and relations
Improved and higher quality of services provided Better outcomes resulting in credibility and brand building
Capacity building of farmers and community members Increase volume and success of innovations
Higher satisfaction levels and commitment

Improved innovation practices, processes and capabilities

Higher staff satisfaction levels and commitment

In most of our reading, the value of Co-design for the end/service user (in our situation, farmers and community members) is emphasised. We think it’s equally as important for organisations such as farming systems groups, universities and government departments to see the value they can achieve by being a supporter of Co-design. With benefits like those listed above, we hope you can see its value to you, your clients and community.

Over to you

We hope this article gives you food for thought, and that it supports you when planning your next Co-design initiative.

Click here for Article 5

Click here to see all Articles in this Series.


We’d love to hear from you. Please email through any comments or questions you have. And if you have topics you’d like to see addressed in future articles, please share them here or call 0419 912 879. Feel free to share this article with those you think might find it of value too. For more information about the Southern NSW Innovation Hub please contact Dale Stringer or call 0428 409 680

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