Building Organisational Co-design Capability

This week was the first Design 4 Social Innovation Conference in Sydney. An amazing two days of indepth discussion and examples of the real-world application of design for social innovation in Australia and overseas (see tweets Storified here). On day two of the conference I gave a Master Class on Building Organisational Co-design capability. The Master Class was based on my work with health, social and education organisations, as well as generous contributions and input from other practitioners and organisations reflecting on their own experiences#.

The session presented a model for thinking about different levels of co-design capability within organisations and how these represent different ‘ways in’ for starting the journey and for building momentum (download the handout here). It also emphasised “organisational readiness”: the role and responsibility of organisations in preparing and resourcing for co-design in order to have the most impact, and to get the most value out of engaging external consultants or coaches.

We explored some of the typical challenges encountered in trying to bring co-design into and organisation, and common points of resistance I have seen organisations experience along the way. We also touched upon the role of external consultants in helping to build capability and their (our!) responsibility to be open and share expertise.

I was fortunate in that many of the ideas core to my session had already been demonstrated in the case studies and stories of previous presenters, and we were able to build on these key points in the session. For example: the power of stories about people’s experiences of “the system” to help move staff, managers and leadership from an organisational view to a user perspective; the importance of building long term relationships to enable engagement and; the need to activate people across the organisation to enable effective co-design.

The only drawback of the session is that we were limited to just an 1 hour. The participants brought a huge amount of experience and insight into the room and it would have been great to have had even more time to share and build on the collective knowledge.

#Special thanks to:

Andrew Old, Auckland District Health Board; Stephen McKernon, Supplejack; Hilary Boyd, Auckland District Health Board; Max Adler, Auckland Council
; Library Staff, Auckland University of Technology; 
Mal Booth, University of Technology; 
Natalie Rowland, redrollers research; 
Ingrid Burkett,; 
Kitty Rahilly & Mim Nicholas,; 
Grant Young, Indigenous Digital Excellence NCIE; 
Mark Buntzen, Distillery, John Hatrick-Smith – BetterbyDesign; 
Chris Jackson – DNA.




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