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Empowered Co-Design: The Key to Shaping Connections

Updated: Jan 21

Co-design is a process where designers, end-users, and stakeholders collaborate in creating a product or service that meets everyone's needs.

People working together

Co-design is an approach that involves actively engaging end-users and stakeholders throughout the entire design process. This approach encourages collaboration, feedback, and the sharing of ideas and experiences. There is an equal power in decision-making, and the focus is on creating solutions that respond to both user needs and organisational goals.

The co-design process often involves workshops, focus groups, and other participatory methods that help designers and stakeholders work together throughout every stage of the design process to create solutions that meet everyone's needs.

Benefits of Co-Design

Co-design is a highly effective way to create solutions that meet people's needs and connect them to the world around them. By working with a broad base of stakeholders and end-users such as beneficiaries and those experiencing vulnerability, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities that exist in different communities.

This not only leads to more effective solutions, but also to greater community engagement and buy-in for final outcomes. Co-design helps to foster a sense of ownership, trust, and community cohesion around the solutions being developed with increased speed to market, better quality of product and higher satisfaction.

Co-Design Workshop in action with Prof Mike Reid
Professor Mike Reid taking part in a Co-Design Workshop with seniors

Challenges in Co-Design

While co-design has many benefits, it also presents some challenges. Co-design requires a significant investment of time, resources, and expertise. It requires designers to let go of their own assumptions and accept feedback, and end-users and stakeholders to be willing to engage in the design process in a meaningful way.

Tokenistic participation, stigmatisation from researchers, and power and knowledge imbalances can impact results and best practice.

In addition, co-design can often require significant organisational change, especially when it comes to power dynamics and traditional problem-solving processes. However, these challenges can be overcome with an open mind, clear communication, and a commitment to a common goal.

The Shaping Connections team take it one step further and use a set of easy-to-remember guidelines to ensure that codesign is conducted using a strength-based approach. The EMPOWER framework focuses on the interests of the codesigning participants at every step of the process.

Co-design is an essential approach for creating solutions that connect people and meet their needs. It offers many benefits, such as increased community engagement, improved outcomes, and greater trust and cohesion. However, co-design requires a significant investment of time, resources, and expertise, and it can also present some challenges, such as organisational change and power dynamics. Nonetheless, the benefits far outweigh the challenges, and co-design is quickly becoming a standard approach for solution design worldwide. By embracing co-design, organisations can create solutions that genuinely connect people and improve their lives.

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