Codesign process

$1k to $5k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scope and plan
  • Explore options
  • Prioritise options
  • Deliberate
  • Collaborate
0-2 weeks
estimated run time
0-2 weeks
estimated lead time
Confident facilitator
recommended experience
‘Codesign’ is a mash-up of ‘collaborative’ and ‘design’ and can be used for a range of purposes, including planning for services, products or processes. Codesign is often used as an umbrella term for participatory, cocreating and open design processes.

A codesign process ensures participants have an equal ability to contribute towards outcomes. Underpinning the idea is that collaborative, cooperative and community-centred approaches to design will lead to more-effective, aligned outcomes.

The key principle of codesign is that we are all ‘experts’ in regards to our own experiences. This means that anyone who will be affected by, or part of, delivering a policy or service has just as much valuable knowledge to contribute as subject-matter or policy ‘experts’.

In 5 steps...

  1. Establish the purpose of the session with the participants and lay down the ground rules.
  2. Have a shared document or plan you are working on as a group to focus on.
  3. Ensure all participants have an equal ability to work directly on the plan/document or to contribute through the facilitator.
  4. Monitor time carefully to ensure you are able to produce the intended output from the session.
  5. Schedule another session if required, or establish protocols to finalise through collaboration outside the session via online or other media.

When to use it

This process is best used to make a plan. Involving participants at this stage can generate insights into things that might otherwise disrupt the process; for example, ‘It’ll need to be closer to public transport’, or ‘That date is in the school holidays’. It is also used to great effect in solving tough problems – breaking out of internal groupthink can invite creative and fresh approaches.


  • Ensures the ideas generated are aligned with stakeholders’ needs/interests.
  • Improved knowledge of stakeholder needs.
  • Immediate validation of ideas and concepts.
  • Better cooperation between different people or organisations, and across disciplines.
Long term
  • Higher degrees of participant satisfaction and trust.
  • Higher-quality, better-aligned solutions
  • Increased levels of support and enthusiasm for the project.
  • Better relationships between the project team and key stakeholders.


  • Codesign empowers participants to have an equal hand in the outcomes. If you are not intending to use the outcomes, make this very clear early on, as this may prompt negative reactions from the group later on.
  • Tensions naturally arise in collaboration. Use a strong facilitator to make sure they can be resolved and the process put back on track.



  • Find a good facilitator to assist you. Facilitators can gently encourage more-even contribution, and break the power dynamics that naturally occur when participants are familiar with each other or have perceptions of expertise.
  • Carefully select your participants. Because collaboration is hard and requires trust, codesign processes are best undertaken in small groups. Getting the right mix of representation and experience in the room will contribute greatly to the outcomes.
  • Don’t expect too much: giving everyone time to talk can make this a lengthy process. Be realistic about what you can achieve in a session, and don’t try to tackle more than one or two key outputs.
  • Consider tools that might provide a good focus for outputs. A range of such tools exist, including templates for user journeys, storyboards, prototyping and scenario generation.

During the process

  • Keep a read on the tensions and voices in the room.
  • Be ready to halt the process if a lack of shared terminology or shared understanding is causing tension. This may become evident through body language, an inability to progress, or some participants hesitating to contribute.


  • Once the output of the session is finalised into a shareable form (usually the responsibility of the facilitator or convener), be sure to distribute this to the codesign participants before communicating it more broadly. This ensures that you’ve correctly interpreted what they’ve said, and that they feel their experience and knowledge have been valued.