Co-design 01: Discover

Welcome to co-design component of the TnT toolkit. You have engaged with your community and connected with some peers. Now the process of co-design can begin.

To help you understand each element of the co-design framework and how it worked for us in the TnT project, we have made short videos for each element.

Co-design in action

In this short video, our TnT Toolkit guides Suzy and Dave introduce co-design:

Check out Hayley, Chrissy and Andrew talking about what is was like when they were asked to participate in a workshop to co-design video resources on Consumer Law for the Deaf community. You will also meet Genevieve, our Deaf community liaison. She was there to make sure that October 2019 19 the film makers were aware of and did not miss critical Deaf culture and language issues.

From the video, right from the start you get a few things that are really important to understand about co-design:

1. For co-design to work we have to connect more deeply and listen carefully to the nuances.

Listen carefully to what Andrew has to say:

"I think Deaf people miss out on all that contextual information. Like, going to the shop and if a person from the general society makes a complaint …. You can overhear that information and learn how to negotiate.. . [As a Deaf person] you don’t learn that stuff."

2. You have to let go of your assumptions and preconceived ideas.

Genevieve says:

"The barriers are not just physical. They’re not just like, 'I can’t access that information.' I actually think differently. My world view is different."

3. Creating a sense of people being equal, having expertise and being able to contribute is critical.

Hayley signs:

"I felt like it mattered. I felt I contributed, I felt I could share. Like equals."

4. Keeping it real and authentic is also critical.

Chrissie reminds us:

"It was fantastic to be able to talk about those real life things."

Learn more:

  • If you are interested in watching the results of this co-design workshop, check out the TnT Auslan videos.

Speech bubbles showing participant comments: "I was quite unsure what it was going to involve," - Peer facilitator. "Co-design is working together and making something and talking about it..." - Peer facilitator. "People and groups with different bodies of knowledge coming together and using this as a basis for developing something new," - Partner organisation.

What is co-design?

In the video you hear people talking about, not so much a definition, but about ways of being that reflect co-design. There are three key themes:

  • people being equal
  • people being on the same page, and
  • people learning together.

For a more ‘academic’ definition of co-design:

'Co-design is about engaging consumers and users of products and services in the design process, with the idea that this will ultimately lead to improvements and innovation.'

This definition is from An Introduction to Co-design by Dr Ingrid Burkett. We think it's a great resource for anyone who is thinking about co-design.

When we talk about co-design we are not just talking about a one-off event, we are talking about a process, as well as a set of principles. This means being:

InclusiveRepresentatives from critical stakeholder groups are involved in the co-design project, from framing the issue to developing and testing solutions.
RespectfulAll participants are seen as experts and their input is valued and has equal standing. Co-design requires everyone to negotiate personal and practical understandings at the expense of differences.
ParticipativeThe process itself is open, empathetic and responsive. All participants are responsible for the effectiveness of the process.
IterativeIdeas and solutions are continually tested and evaluated with the participants.
Outcome-focusedThe process can be used to create, redesign or evaluate services, systems or products.

(Modified from NSW Council of Social Service. (2016.) Fair Deal Forum)

Lean more:

  • If that is a bit too dry for you, why not have a look at this short video from the UK? The story of co-design by thinkpublic.

Creating a framework

Thinking about the co-design part of our work, we found that we needed a framework to help us to see the process and guide others to do the same. This is what we came up with:

Talkin' Together stages of co-design poster

Download a PDF of this poster.

We found the framework quite useful in understanding the different steps involved in co-designing and making sure we covered everything we needed to.

Learn more:

  • If you are interested in different frameworks and ways of looking at co-design, there are plenty of resources (just type 'co-design' in your search engine).
  • You might like to check out this co-design toolkit developed by the Government of Western Australia. It is based on other toolkits and co-design resources and focuses specifically on people with disability.

Rethinking expertise

One of the themes that has already been discussed is the importance of working with people who have lived experience. People are the experts because of their lived experience and great co-design means people bring that expertise to the table.

Kellie says:

"I do think my expertise contributed. Because, I have life skills. Life skills of somebody who has mental health issues, life skills of somebody who lives in a small community."

For co-design to work, the people with lived experiences from the communities are critical.

In our project, the people with disability from different communities brought their expertise, not only as people with disability, but also as Aboriginal people, as women, as people living in rural and remote communities, as men, people with mental health issues and people with varying sexualities. This of course also applied to the NSW Fair Trading staff, who also brought their expertise in Australian Consumer Law.

Everyone valuing and bringing to the table their different expertise made this project stronger, more authentic and much more impactful than it would have been otherwise.

Learn more:

The importance of culture

In the video, Kellie talked about the culture in Broken Hill and how the TnT project brought in ‘away people’ by working alongside locals. Suzy and Tania talked about ways of connecting with Aboriginal people, where trust in government is a particular issue, and Liam was mindful of working cross-culturally with communities that do not speak his language.

Culture in its broadest definition, is:

'a fuzzy set of basic assumptions and values, orientations to life, beliefs, policies, procedures and behavioural conventions that are shared by a group of people, and that influence (but do not determine) each member’s behaviour and his/her interpretations of the "meaning" of other people’s behaviour.'

(H. Spencer-Oatey (2008.) Culturally Speaking: Culture, Communication and Politeness Theory. 2nd edition. London: Continuum.)

Reflecting that broad understanding of culture in the co-design process is critical. Acknowledging and bringing in cultural differences means better outcomes for diverse communities.

Another useful way to think about this is to consider the concept of intersectionality, which is a way of understanding multiple, overlapping social identities and forms of inequality.

Seeing the TnT project through the lens of intersectionality might be useful in your co-design work. It is about understanding that the people who are co-designing together have experiences that are different from one another because of the overlap of disability, genders, race, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, geography and so on. Rather than denying those different experiences, great co-design values and builds on them.

Learn more:

The power of co-design

In the video Dave says it all:

"Co-design is a really important feature of this program. I think it should be something that should be fostered when government and disability organisations, are working together. You just get better results."


This brings us to the end of the Discovery phase of the co-design framework.