Designing collaboratively involves taking your stakeholders' needs into account at all stages — from how you plan your time, to how you deliver your service.

Designing collaboratively involves taking your stakeholders’ needs into account at all stages — from how you plan your time, to how you deliver your service. You can design collaboratively using different methodologies, including co-design, co-production or improvement science.

It’s about modelling, and embedding, a culture of collaboration in the teams you work in. As well as designing with users, it’s also about empowering them to be part of the decision making process.

For example, once we’ve done research on a topic, we make sure users help analysing the data we’ve collected by inviting them to sensemaking sessions. This means users are involved in deciding what’s important.

##What your design process should do Your process should make it as easy as possible for all users to:

  • understand the problem or current service, so everyone can decide how best to approach solving the problem together
  • work with staff, other service users and other members of the public
  • invest their time, knowledge and skills in engaging design activities

Decisions you’ll need to make

Every decision that’s made, from how a project is run, to who’s involved in creating the brief will influence the design of the service.

For this reason, collaborative design is more than just running a co-design workshop. It includes how projects are managed.

You’ll need to answer these questions:

  • how will you make sure that decisions about design will be made collaboratively with users, staff and organisational stakeholders?
  • how can you make time for collaborative working?
  • how can users and service staff be empowered through sharing collaborative skills?
  • how can you highlight, and communicate, the value of the users and staff engagement?
  • when’s the right time to bring citizens and staff to the process, so you don’t waste their time by getting them involved too early or too late?

When to design collaboratively

Having an active design mindset means understanding how the individual decisions you make about parts of a service can influence the overall design of a service.

For example, if you have a service that involves users submitting applications, and you decide to only support applications over the phone, the you would have to consider how:

  • those with hearing impairments could get help
  • a call centre environment should be designed
  • staff should be trained to answer calls
  • to recruit appropriate staff — do they need to speak multiple languages or need specific subject knowledge?

You should be aware of moments when these decisions take place, and the impact they can have.

Understanding the service’s scope and its impact on the users, service staff and organisation is key.