Why is this partnership so important?
Both literature and real-world evidence show that investing time in co-design pays dividends. When members of a community are given responsibility in a changemaking process, they not only embrace the change, but become its advocates3. This attitude is abundant in Indigenous styles of co-design. It appreciates and mobilises the power of community. This has even saved lives; when Firesticks co-designed fire plans with local Aboriginal communities, it resulted in better protection of lives and land for all residents.4
So how can we encourage more effective co-design processes?
1. Commit to true representation
Ensure that your own process is committed to capturing the authentic identity of voices from wildly diverse groups in the community and embedding them into your design. This is where Indigenous-led co-design achieves more true representation than any other approach.
The road to forming the Uluru Statement from the Heart was one of the most important examples of co-design led by Indigenous people in recent times. The process distilled thousands of voices from around the country, the essence of which were then brought to Uluru by their delegates and interwoven within the Uluru Statement.5
2. Invest time up front in forming relationships
Deep relationships can mean the difference between leaving with cursory findings and uncovering key revelations. The transactional relationships of corporate co-design are based on the here and now. The relationships built through Indigenous-led co-design are ongoing and meaningful. There’s no doubt which relationships yield the more precious insights.
3. You’re not the interviewer; you’re part of a team
Any form of co-design is based on the assumption that the people you’re researching have more insight into their problems and opportunities than you do. After all, they’re the ones that live them every day.
So why do we try to extract this information like it’s a surgical manoeuvre? Playing the role of team member rather than interviewer recognises the value that each participant brings to the table. It gives weight to the voices of the community, offers them an opportunity to contribute meaningfully according to their strengths, and allows them to play an active role in designing a solution that will best serve their needs.