There are several steps to planning your co-design. Work with your team to collaboratively plan the workshops based on the following areas. For more information about co-design, see Community Co-design: Introduction.

Gather your team

Who do you want on your planning team? Consider community leaders, worker-members of your organisation, designers, those who will be most impacted by the outcomes, and others who may be interested in facilitating the sessions. Involving potential facilitators and participants in the planning sessions increases their engagement and helps to ensure that your co-design approach meets the needs of participants and the community. 

Other things to think about:

  • When inviting members to join the planning team, consider their role in the organisation in relation to who holds decision-making power. You may wish to invite those with less power in the organisation to be leaders in the planning, in order to give them a voice in deciding what the co-design process will look like.
  • Depending on whether or not those on your planning team have worked together before, you may need to allow extra time in your planning process for relationship and trust building.

Identify the goals and desired outcomes

When defining the goals of the co-design workshops, take into account the longer-term goal of the project and what outcomes you’ll need at the end of each workshop in order to get there. Some examples might include:

  • A prioritized list of barriers or issues facing the community
  • A sense of trust, shared experience and connection within the group
  • A clearly-defined list or visual mapping of community needs
  • A rough design for a website, platform, app or other tool 
  • An outline or first draft of a collaborative document

Consider what you will do with the information you gather during the workshops. What will be your next steps? 

  • This can help to inform not only what you gather or create, but also how – the methods and materials you use to document your process and outcomes (see Community Co-design: Collaborative Documentation)
  • For example, if your first workshop is a needs gathering activity, your next step may be to group those needs into themes in order to create a needs map. In this case it may be helpful to have participants identify themes towards the end of the workshop. You might choose to do this by having participants write their ideas on slips of paper and then engage in an activity of collaboratively organising their ideas into themes. 

You may need to allow extra time in your planning process for relationship and trust building.

Decide who to invite to the co-design sessions

Who do you want at your co-design sessions, and why? In some cases it may be useful to limit your participants to a particular group and in other cases it may be more useful to bring together members of different and diverse groups. The following example may help to clarify your approach:

  • If your co-design session is aimed at uncovering and addressing challenges in how workers’ time is being scheduled by management, it might be useful to limit participants to non-management workers, since they may be more likely to bring up issues if management is not present. 
  • In another case, bringing these workers together in a joint session could provide an opportunity for collaboration that will build relationships and trust while finding solutions that work for all. 
  • Depending on your goal you may also choose to organise a combination of these approaches into a series of workshops.

Barriers to participation

When deciding who to invite to the co-design sessions be sure to include those who might find it difficult to attend but whose input is important. Barriers to attending may include financial needs, time limitations, travel distance, mobility needs or other unmet needs. 

Consider the following questions:

  • What support can you provide, financial or otherwise, to get participants to the co-design session? 
  • Is it possible to have participants join remotely through phone or video conferencing?
  • What languages do community members speak, and can you find translators for your co-design workshops?
    • Keeping your language simple (for example not using technical jargon, colloquial language or expressions unique to one language or culture) helps to ensure that everyone can access the information they need to be able to participate
  • Some things that can help support participation, particularly for longer workshops, include
    • Providing childcare 
    • Covering transportation costs or providing transportation to the venue
    • Providing beverages, meals or snacks
    • Scheduling breaks as needed

Motivation and Benefit

What will participants get out of participating in co-design, beyond the longer-term goal of the project (which may not be realised for some time)? This can be communicated to potential participants to encourage participation. For example, in addition to any financial compensation, the co-design session may help to build community by providing social and networking opportunities or it may provide a forum for members to communicate long-standing issues. Or co-design efforts may provide an entry point for members to learn more about and experience cooperative governance, decision-making, and problem-solving strategies in action.

Determine the size of your group

The total number of participants in your co-design may depend on a number of factors including your budget, your timeline for recruitment, the venue/location, travel limitations or how many facilitators you have available. It is also good to determine what size of group feels manageable to your team and to take into consideration the volume of output that will be generated and your team’s capacity to document and synthesize it (see Community Co-design: Collaborative Documentation). If you are able to have multiple sessions you can break the larger group up into separate sessions, or you may wish to have smaller breakout groups during one session. See Workshop Structure document for more details (TBD).

Decide when and where to hold co-design workshops

Choosing a location that is most convenient for participants will help to ensure their participation. The location will also depend on your budget, availability of an appropriate venue, how long your workshops will be and your overall timeline. 

An illustration showing a number of people gathered inside of a building, who can be seen through a window. A woman in a sari stands outside the door as though she is about to enter the space. A sign outside the building says "Meeting Today"

Answering the following questions can help:

  • Can you take advantage of regular meetings, gatherings or events by using one of these for a workshop, or hold a workshop right before or after a regularly scheduled meeting? This can help to reduce the amount of travel time that participants need to put aside in order to attend. 
  • Can you meet at a location that is convenient for most participants? It might help to hold several smaller workshops in separate locations if travel is challenging or if participants are spread far and wide.
  • What work can be done remotely / each on their own time? (e.g. using WhatsApp, Zoom, email, or a survey, etc). This may include preparatory work before each workshop to reduce the amount of time spent in the workshop itself.

Build your co-design timeline

Once you have a good sense of your goals and who your participants will be you can begin to map out your overall plan. Will you hold one longer workshop or a series of shorter workshops? How many workshops you will need to achieve your goals, and how many you can realistically hold based on your budget and timeline? The following points can help your team with planning your timeline:

  • Shorter workshops can often be more accessible since participants can more easily fit them into their daily schedule. 
  • When holding multiple workshops it can be helpful to avoid spacing them out too much, in order to maintain continuity and avoid having to spend too much time reviewing what happened at the last session. 
  • If distance to the venue / travel is challenging, it may be better to hold one or two longer sessions over the course of one or two days.


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