A small but diverse group from 12 countries and many fields of practice came together recently to explore the concept of co-creation at the Learn Share Lab.  The event modeled a co-creative approach itself, featuring 14 case studies of co-creative initiatives, discussed both in facilitated and open space sessions, which were guided by a number of the workshop’s participants.

In two days of animated large and small group discussions, some themes about co-creation that surfaced included:

Co-creation can be a challenge to define but some core concepts (patterns in organization and methodology) may be identifiable.  Some discussed by the workshop’s participants (in a exploratory, not definitive list) included:

* Emergence is a key value/concept – the cases studied found that the groups needed to relinquish expectations regarding outcomes to some extent.  There is a need for adaptability and allowing space for failure.

*Non-hierarchical – there may be leaders but a characteristic that helps define a co-creative effort is that there is not one leader throughout the whole initiative. There may be many different coordinators who have different areas of responsibility. So rather than “leaderless”, it may be “leaderful”.

*Shared responsibility and authority for activities and outcomes; there are often contributions from many in deciding how things will be done and in implementation. (Shared authority empowers people to take leads, make decisions, and be freer with their ideas than they might be in team with a clear leader.)

* Mindful of when to be inclusive and transparent – there may be times that a group consciously decides not to be inclusive or transparent for a particular part of the process, but it is a conscious decision after discussing the advantages and disadvantages and rationale.

*Process is critical to the outcome; and the process may have its own impact such as increasing self-esteem so participants can be more engaged in helping themselves and the co-creative effort.

* There are a diversity of ideas reflected and the group is encouraged to think creatively.

*The group is conscious of which decision-making frameworks are being used throughout the process, but they may vary according to the moment or context.  No one decision making process is necessarily preferable.

Some core values and practices were also identified:

1)     The importance of active listening – although we talk a lot about listening, in many cultures and professions we are actually trained and practice talking more than listening.  In co-creative approaches, placing a large priority on listening and observing, leads to better outcomes.

2)      Shared, reciprocal learning – As with listening, in some professions and positions we are trained and practice teaching more than reciprocal learning.  With reciprocal learning – we can all learn something from an exchange of ideas – our outcomes will be stronger.  Here is one useful resource: ActionAid International’s Shared Learning Guide   “We believe that learning is a process that takes place in relationships between people.”

3)      It’s all about the questions –  Questions are at least as important (if not more so) than the answers. It’s another area where we can all use a little more practice!  The Art of Asking Questions I  & The Art of Asking Questions II 

If you are interested in joining this emerging community of practitioners around co-creation take a look at the Ci2iGlobal website  and register your interest in being kept apprised here.

(Note:  The resources cited in this blog post did not come from the Learn Share Lab but are ones I am aware of.  More resources from the Lab will be available at a later date).