co.design

Planning as a collaborative process which involves future audiences or users in the design of an event or a public space is becoming more and more accepted and practiced, but it is still not common practice everywhere. Although the discipline of Participatory Design or Co-Design has gained experiences in that field for some decades now (literature!), it still by far not taught at all design or architecture schools and is also not commonly used as a principle for audience involvement in the cultural sector.

Co.Design emphasizes the need for collaborative, common planning in order to establish a broader awareness of how things could be achieved in collaboration across societal groups. Co.Design aims at involving present and future audiences and users. Through iterative prototyping along the planning process with feedback from future users and audiences, a public place, an urban festival or a collaborative neighborhood service could be developed in a way that does not only take the needs and wishes of the audience or users more into account. These processes of planning, experiencing and deciding together on issues that are relevant to a broader public also are a training ground for Co-Culture in the sense of a general ability of doing or achieving things together. They are also a training ground for democratic principles, of how things could be decided and acted upon within a mixed group of stakeholders.

The organizational quality of this focus area is often based and should be based in a core group which is leading and facilitating and documenting the whole process of co-design, but with the involvement of different, changing groups of participating stakeholders. While the participation in a single co-design workshop could just mean a time commitment of two hours or even just a ew minutes for answering a question or reacting to a proposal, the organization of a whole process of Co.Design in the core team needs a longer commitment.

The challenges of this step is the commitment of a core group to organize such a co-design process. But sometimes there is also a need for the same group of participants to follow through the whole process and give feedback over a longer period which means that there is the need for incentives for that participants to keep up with the whole process. While participating in a cultural activity just takes one evening, the participation in a co-design process could ask much more time and willing from its participants. The reward of that process is not only a more adapted outcome, but also the experience of the people involved that they actually have a say in what is been planned at that their inputs and feedbacks are taken serious. In that sense, it is an even more intense experience of the mechanisms of democracy, still focusing an a concrete outcome but already introducing basic principles and strategies of common governance.