What is Co-design?

Co-design is

  • a group of diverse people with different background, knowledge and skills
  • cooperatively and creatively working together.

It works by having people

  • jointly explore and envision ideas
  • make and discuss stories (past, present, future)
  • tinker with mock-ups or prototypes.

Co-design is flexible. It can be used for just about anything at any time. However, due to the time and effort needed to do it well, use it wisely. As the bullet list above implies, co-design has many elements you could spend days exploring and unpacking. Fundamentally, for co-designing to be inclusive and productive, many elements need to come together.

Word of warning: Faux-design is flavour of the month in social innovation circles, meaning everyone who can run a workshop is pretending it is co-design. Just because you call something co-designed, doesn’t make it so. There’s nothing wrong with just hosting a great workshop… It doesn’t need to be co-design all of the time.

Co-design is just working together. Unfortunately most of the time just working together already has challenges. Communication, bias, inequity, power dynamics, accessibility and politics to name a few. So just like any other skill or activity you might want to succeed in, becoming an expert in co-design is iterative and experience-driven.

A great video to explain the big idea. by PROUD Europe.

What to learn more?