Article 8

How to facilitate purposeful and participatory Co-Design activities

This article is the eighth 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.

Lets get creative

Co-design is all about facilitating in a way that ensures respectful high- level participation by all. It’s about more than the Co-design team / group showing up and having their say and leaving never to return. It’s about allowing them to review and think about their current situation / issue (ie the reason they have come together in the first place) and then being supported via activities, process and discussion to look at ways of improving / solving this.

In Co-design this means that all, including the farmers and community members, are key to the development of a prototype which is a draft version of the change they wish to see. And by doing this, the prototype will have the best chance of gaining buy in, actually being implemented and meeting needs. You are facilitating the development of resilience for individuals, teams, enterprises and communities. We encourage you to always keep this in focus.

We want you to facilitate in a way that leads to innovative solutions with higher buy in from all, and especially so from farmers and community members.

Suggested Co-Design activities

Based on our experience there are many Co-design activities that work well. These are activities that are purposeful and are facilitated to gain the most from everyone in the team or at the table. It’s actually possible to plan and facilitate activities that go across a number of stages and to facilitate these in one workshop through to many!

As you become mindful around the purpose of the activities you will see how you can string a number of activities together to facilitate across a workshop / field trip etc. We have selected activities for you here that we’ve found have worked well. There are many that you can use.

We have aligned these to each of the six stages (although they may fit across more than one stage) of the suggested Co-design process. Here they are;.

Purpose Sample Activity

1 Engage
To identify end users and problems / sparks etc

Identify the topic / issue of interest. Draft a knowledge network map. Include the knowledge and skills you are looking for to assist in stimulating change / solving a problem. Ensure you have farmers / community members listed. Ask trusted others who they would include and then list names against the knowledge and skills columns.

2 Frame
To frame up or define a key issue/s based on the experience of users

Identify the theme of the session, no need to develop an agenda. Facilitate Open Space Technology. Ask each person to write down what they think are the key issues about this theme that need to be addressed. Participants write these on small pieces of paper (in large writing) and pin them to the wall. Group discusses how some can be grouped as “like” under a theme. Vote on which themes are important to address today. Ask for hosts for each of the prioritised themes. These will be those most keen to see something get done about these. People choose which they’d like to discuss. Host facilitates and captures important ideas, discussion sand recommendations as well as next steps.

3 Explore
To challenge, encourage and inspire long – term vision

Introduce the group to people and innovation around an identified theme that they have likely not met or experienced before. This could be via exposure to indigenous ways of thinking and working / guest speakers / field trips etc. Create meaningful involvement of others. Support them to see and gain different perspectives in order to be able to build something together. This could be something new or it could be something that builds on existing knowledge.

4  Visualise
To visualise ideas and prototype development

Work in groups. Ask participants to discuss and create a timeline of how they would like to see the issue / spark addressed and what could be achieved at each step of the timeline. Timelines can be any length, it should include a long term time marker to ensure ‘stretched’ future thinking.

5 Action
Support development and on ground application

Facilitate the design of a prototype product, service or process to address the identified issue / spark. This could be achieved via a group drawing, development of a model or the creation of a design or flow chart etc. How the prototype is developed is likely to depend on what issue / spark is being addressed. Support the application of the prototype, this could include engaging experts and or seeking funds to progress trials and implementation.

6 Decide
Discuss how best to take the prototype forward and or whether the Co-design team stays together or disbands.

Once the prototype has been actioned / trialled, gather the Co-design team together and document and discuss outcomes. Identify common themes / actions to take the prototype forward. Brainstorm the need and value of the team to stay together or disband. Make a decision.

A portfolio of activities

We encourage you to develop a portfolio of activities that you can use when you facilitate people centred / highly participative and or Co-design activities. And we encourage you to design your own activities and share these with others in similar roles to you.

In true Co-design, you will find you will naturally develop activities as you are guided by the work of your Co-design team / group too. This is really important as one size doesn’t fit all.

It’s clear that to identify and solve issues resulting in farmer and community member buy in you will be called upon to facilitate in new ways through new activities.

We encourage you to accept this challenge.

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 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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