Developing methodological principles for co-creation

Kate Lloyd
Macquarie University

LinkedIn profile

Rebecca Bilous
Macquarie University

Greg Downey
Macquarie University

Laura Hammersley
Macquarie University

The concept of co-creation is increasingly being used within both the university and industry sectors (Bovill et al., 2011; Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004; Boyd et al., 2012; Steen et al; Bradwell and Marr). A key theme across a range of fields is the genuine and meaningful engagement and participation of key peoples, perspectives and ideas in developing and guiding various projects, priorities, and solutions. Such engagement is described differently depending on the discipline, organisation and context, giving birth to multiple ‘co’ concepts (i.e. co-design, co-production, co-construction, co-creation and co-innovation). In this paper we reflect on a process of co-creation used by staff and students from Macquarie University and eleven international community development partner organisations from seven different countries. We came together to co-create a curriculum that would better prepare undergraduate students for international work-integrated learning activities. While co-creation underpinned the project, when we began there was no common understanding or agreement as to what this process of co-creation might look like. Therefore one key aim of this innovative and ambitious project was to establish and document a co-creation methodology and key principles that would enable us to value different knowledges and co-create curriculum in new ways. To the project we brought diverse experiences and methodological approaches from a range of academic and professional disciplines and different international contexts. We found that the process was complex, messy and evolving but we learnt to embrace and work with this messiness, actively reflecting and documenting the process so that others might learn from our experience.

We recognised that the scaffolding of reflective practice using a range of different mediums to suit different ways of reflecting (Harvey et al 2016) was essential to our methodology. Therefore reflection was integrated into all aspects of the project and we were aware of our process of action research (Kemmis, McTaggart & Nixon 2014) as we undertook multiple cycles of planning, acting, evaluating, reflecting and documenting our co-creation.

One of the key outputs of the project identified in this paper are three key methodological principles that can be used to guide the co-creation process for others. These principles embrace the unpredictable, emotional and personal reality of bringing together diverse ideas and perspectives, as well as opening up possibilities for more creative ways of communicating and listening to what is seen, heard and felt. Each of the principles, 'acknowledging the individual's context', 'making space to be together' and 'bringing everyone along on the journey,' are explored in detail, drawing on a range of methodologies that include feminist, post-colonial and Indigenous, but relying most heavily on our lived experience of co-creating curriculum with international partners. We found that a focus on relationship building means being open to the experience of just “being together/ being with” (Pompa, 2002), “relating” to each other (Steinman, 2011) and understanding difference (Dostilio et al, 2012). This requires a decentering of academic priorities and an acknowledgment that participants’ personal relationships are interwoven in the research process. We conclude by exploring how these principles might be applied in different contexts.