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Cultivating Collective Innovation: The Power of Co-Design for Structural Change

What do we mean with co-design?

Co-design is a participatory technique that can be used in a variety of contexts, from organizational planning and forecasting to policy or product design or collaborative research. The approach involves different stakeholders collaborating and connecting their knowledge, skills and resources in order to contribute to a design task, building on the different participants’ expertise and providing them with the opportunity to concretely contribute to solving complex issues. In essence, co-design is a process used to frame and understand a current challenge and imagine solutions with the aim of building a better future.

What are the benefits of a co-design approach for structural change processes?

The co-design approach can foster collective creativity in order to create innovation in organizations, and making research institutions gender equal/sensitive requires a good degree of innovation. There are many benefits of adopting a co-design approach in structural change processes. It allows the inclusion of a variety of actors, knowledges, hierarchical levels, and sectors in a Gender Equality Plan (GEP) design ensuring diversity in the structural change process. It provides the opportunity for various actors to work together for a common goal enhancing more creative solutions. It allows the creation of new synergies among different actors, ending up with lasting connections and collaborations; and it empowers actors, making them key players in their own environment.

What co-design methods and tools were used by CALIPER and what were the results?

CALIPER adopted a participatory approach throughout the GEP design process. Partners elaborated different “strategic change scenarios” sketching different potential ways to reach a desirable future in terms of institutional change for gender equality in STEM. Scenarios helped partners to better understand and reflect on the key factors, the potential measures, and the strategic collaborations with internal and external stakeholders that needed to be leveraged in terms of GEPs’ implementation. The scenarios were used in three following stages via series of workshops:

Firstly, three exploratory scenarios for GEP’s adoptions were developed by the partners’ GEP working groups: a negative one, a positive one, and an intermediate one, building on results from the internal assessment of gender inequalities and the gender analysis of each partner’s research and innovation ecosystems. Then, different types of internal stakeholders, middle and top management included, were involved and consulted to identify the most appropriate strategy and a set of feasible solutions to address the identified existing challenges. Finally, the scenarios fed dialogues with external stakeholders from respective research and innovation ecosystems in each country in order to identify and analyse the external conditions that could support or impede the GEP implementation and replicability. As a result of the above three stages refined versions of those scenarios were used internally at each research institution within the following phases of GEPs’ design.

How can extrarenal stakeholders benefit from such methods and tools?

The co-design methodology elaborated by CALIPER project can be replicated by other institutions willing to adopt a GEP by consulting the relevant deliverable (D2.1, authored by ULB- Université Libre de Bruxelles) and the dedicated guidelines for GEP’s design. What is more, the methodology includes a toolkit with several types of techniques and exercises and is applicable to any institution willing to adopt a participatory approach to internal change by involving external stakeholders from their innovation ecosystems in the process.

In conclusion, co-design can be an effective tool for fostering creativity and innovation in organizations, particularly in the context of structural change processes. The CALIPER project’s co-design methodology, with its various methods and tools, provides a blueprint that other institutions can follow to adopt a GEP and involve external stakeholders in the process.

Authored by

Marzia Cescon and Maria Sangiuliano, Smart Venice