Article 5

What is a Co-Design team?

This article is the fifth 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.

What’s the value of a team?

“When groups of people work well together, what we can do together far exceeds what we can do alone.” (Svendsen and Laberge, 2005) We think this sounds great in theory but in practice, there’s a real skill in being able to gather, form, support, sustain and then transition a group. One important function is to care for the members of the group as individuals and to care for them as a group. We are 100% sure you will have experienced groups that work like clockwork and also groups where conversations don’t progress and people fall away from the group and become critical of what the group didn’t do etc. Co-design supports and sustains effective group work.

Who should be in a Co-Design team?

“Co-design offers a way to engage consumers and a range of other stakeholders not only in the exploration of issues, but across the process of designing and implementing programs. It is not just about consulting people at the early stages, but engaging people in the learning process about what works and how we can innovate to ensure that services designed to support people are able to assist everyone reach their full potential.” Ingrid Burkett

We think Co-design teams work best when they have people with differences in experiences, styles and perspectives. As a checklist (and according to Co-design specialist KA McKercher), a Co-design team should consist of;

  • Professionals working with or for people with lived experience.
  • People with lived experience
  • Provocateurs

Is there a perfect size for a Co-Design team?

We think small teams work best.

What are the key functions of Co-Design team members?

We want to say from the outset that it’s highly unlikely that one person alone can be the Co-designer. This is why we suggest Co-design teams. A team, no matter how small is needed to effectively plan sessions, debrief after sessions and talk through challenges and reset when required.

An overview of who we think should be considered for inclusion in a Co-design team and their key functions is a s follows.

Our Knowledge Broker Convenor – holds the overall group together. They are responsible for creating a shared purpose, connecting people, connecting systems/resources and they oversee and care for inclusion.

Design coach – supports the team and any others involved in the Co-design group/process to maintain an open mindset and to think and work differently.

Coordinator/Carer – takes care of and looks after the practical requirements of the group meetings and the individuals involved. Helps out with interviews and offers feedback to the Convenor and Design Coach as required/relevant.

Connector – provides the link between the Co-design team and the community and individuals involved. Helps the Co-design team understand community contexts, strengths, relationships, barriers and intricacies.

What’s the role of a Co-Design team?

Once the need for Co-design is identified and a small team is established, it’s time to facilitate the Co-design group! The Team includes the people who have responsibility for the design of thegroupandprocess. Thegroupincludestheparticipants. Here’s an overview of things to consider when forming and coordinating a group with corresponding tools required.

Consideration Tools
Define, implement and maintain boundaries An agreement of what the boundaries are. This could include where and how the group gathers
Establish the Co-design process A Co-design model/process
Facilitate courageous conversions A guide for how these are facilitated. Consider a list of questions that could be asked
Seek feedback as you go Use an anonymous form/set of question at each meeting/session
Care for each other A model of care, eg who to call in-between meetings/activities and how to express when things are going/aren’t going well
Ongoing support A request sheet/process for support so that members of the group can make a request anytime
Provide feedback Process for providing support, feedback, meeting summaries and information etc

How can the Co-Design team achieve the best outcomes?

Trust and open, transparent and ongoing communication is vital for a Co-design team to achieve the best outcomes for the groups and communities they work with.

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 6

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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