The ‘co’ in co-design stands for collaborative or community. Co-design is about ‘designers’ working with people in communities to developing solutions for them. The big assumption is that by better understanding people’s needs and challenges and trying out new solutions with them, in context, will more likely lead to solutions that are successful.
Success for us at TACSI is about developing solutions that create meaningful change for people. We want more people in Australia to thrive. We want to create a social impact and we use co-design to develop solutions to achieve this.
Solutions like Family by Family and Weavers used a kind of co-design approach we call Radical Redesign. But we also use a less radical co-design approach to tackle more day to day challenges - like how to run a meeting or to improve a particular aspect of a solution. We think of co-design as an approach that can be tailored to:
Co-design at TACSI is a blend of best part of four disciplines - design, social science, business and community development. Design methods help us work out what’s attractive to people and provides the overarching framework for projects, social science helps us determine what creates change and how to measure that, business methods help us develop sustainable solutions, and community development methods help us engage people in the first place.
There are 1000's of methods (and we are making new ones up all the time) - but underpinning all them are a set of principles:
Everything around us is designed: our shoes, our homes, public transport, the hierarchy in our workplace. The question is how intentional is that design and what it designed to achieve. We believe anything can be co-designed - systems, services and the websites, brochures, roles, conversations and everything else that are part of them. Because we're about social outcomes two types of things get most of the design attention: the elements of system that create change for people and the elements that allow the system to grow and spread.
Co-design projects are about co-developing solutions with the community they are for. Starting with a question avoids pre-supposing a solution before you fully understand the context. As you learn more from people, and from testing, your question will be refined. Radical solutions start with big questions, more incremental improvements with more tightly defined questions.
People are the experts in their own lives. Methods like contextual interviews and ethnography can provide surprising insights into problems that can serve as the launch pad for new solutions.
Learning from people in context gives us hunches of what will work. Testing out, those hunches in context (also known as prototyping) helps us refine or reject those hunches. Prototyping is about failing early and on a small scale in order to advance ideas and avoid spreading solutions that don't work. Prototyping can also help refine what people are attracted to, what creates change and what things cost.
In a co-design project we’re continually applying these principles but the projects themselves are planned as a series of four stages.
Our projects always start with a question that sets out what we are trying to improve and for whom. Projects to develop radical new solutions start with broad questions. In projects to improve existing solution, the question is more focused.
Spending time with people experiencing challenges, and with people who've got through them, helps us to determine good outcomes and also what enables them.
Working with people in context and drawing on international research enables us to develop ideas for solutions that are both attractive and have the potential to create change.
Trying out solutions on a small scale helps us to test what works, what doesn't and how to create change in context - before investing in implementing a solution.
Building co-design capacity and feedback loops into live solutions enables us to keep adapting and improving them, and helps to identify new questions that will initiate new co-design projects.
‘Co-design’ was first used as a term in the 1970’s and its still an emerging field. At TACSI we see ourselves as part of a growing co-design community that includes not-for-profits, governments and businesses all using co-design to develop solutions that have a social impact .
At TACSI we want to do our own little bit to grow that community, and due to popular demand in 2013 we’re launching a new stream of work to build other organisations’ co-design capability, through resources, workshops and mentoring and a monthly series of co-design drinks. If you're interested contact Chris Vanstone on 0425 363 285.
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