December 16, 2019

Dr Penny Hagen

Hosted by: OPEN – Research to Practice Hub  (CFECFW)

Date: 19 November 2019                          Location: CFECFW


Dr. Penny Hagen is the Co-Design Lead at the Auckland Co-Design Lab. She assists organisations and teams to apply participatory and developmental approaches to the design and implementation of strategy, programs, policies and services with a social outcomes focus.

Presentation Overview

This full day, interactive workshop explored the benefits and challenges of creating authentic co-design practices with local families. Penny shared with us her extensive knowledge of co-design practice, as well as her personal experiences of working with families and communities – whose perspectives she acknowledges as informing her own understanding. Penny’s reflections are provided below.

I’m sharing on behalf of the learnings that families and communities have shared with us

The challenges of participatory co-design

“Co-design harnesses the knowledge and creativity of citizens and staff in identifying problems and generating and implementing solutions – it offers the opportunity to uncover the real barriers to, and accelerants of, progress.”  (The Future State Project: Meeting the Challenges of the 21st Century, Institute of Policy Studies (IPS), Policy Quarterly, Volume 6, Issue 3 – August 2010)

Co-design is not neutral: it is strongly focused on changing the status quo. Engaging communities in authentic participation involves privileging their perspectives. It avoids perpetuating disempowering relationships with Indigenous families. It requires us to see ourselves as guests, and critically self-reflect on our behaviour and our role.

Co-design practice should be values-led, so that the process enhances the wellbeing of participants. And it should always be culturally grounded, and place-based because connection to place is very important for communities. This is also important because the cultural protocol (tamariki) of communities differs, and this influences the design process.

When designing, The Auckland Co-Design Lab works with multiple types of evidence, sees these as informing each other and tests them with families in their communities. These include Lived experience – Indigenous knowledge – Western science. This type of co-design means knowledge is transferring both ways between ourselves and the community.

This approach flips where the expertise lies; as social innovation agents we need to be ‘in service’ of the change that our families want. It is not important what outcomes services providers may want but what outcomes matter to families.  Successful co-design also requires us to to create systems, funding arrangements and knowledge-sharing networks to enable this work.

At the moment, there is a significant work to be done in our sector to create opportunities for authentic participation. We need to be willing to invest in discovery work, and be evaluation-ready from the beginning of our projects. We need to be willing to shift our language and our focus to privilege the needs of families. We can all be leaders in shifting our organisations’ understanding of authentic client participation.

Multiple additional insights emerged through discussion of Penny’s two case studies. Some of Penny’s key reflections on these experiences include the importance of :

  • focusing on a family’s protective factors – these conversations activate prevention opportunities
  • building on existing networks and systems within the local council and community
  • keeping stakeholders involved all the way through the project – ask them to walk through and visit regularly
  • transparency, trust and respect between all stakeholders
  • remuneration as vital to acknowledging the expertise of families
  • ensuring we achieve outcomes from the process, part of this is prototyping possible solutions, trying new things, learning and retrying. There needs to be acceptance of trial and error learning
  • interrogating our criteria for ‘good’ outcomeswhose voice do they privilege?

Resources for Review