We were recently given the opportunity to create a second LEVEL 5 at Riffa Views International School in Bahrain. For those not familiar with LEVEL 5, it’s an innovative space that hosts events for students, educators and the wider community (www.thelevel5.org).
After reflecting on our first location at Shekou International School, we realised how integral the community had been to each stage of development. Even though our engagement process had been largely informal, the volunteers emerged from everywhere to assist with the design, fit-out and operation of LEVEL 5.
So for round 2, we decided to intentionally formalise a co-creation process for the development of our facility in Bahrain. We knew that by engaging the community in a true co-creation experience, we’d spark action, engender support and unearth new ideas.
1. Clarify scope
Knowing who to include in your co-creation exercise requires clarity of intent and empathy for those involved. It is important to have the right mix of skills and experience in a team that is representative of the larger community.
For LEVEL 5 Bahrain, we engaged PK12 educators for their pedagogical expertise, parents for their links to the wider community and students for their creative spirit and out-of-the-box thinking.
2. Craft a Call to Action
Once you’ve identified your scope, you need to create a call to action that’s tailored to each specific sub-group. For example, messaging that might engage parents could potentially have an adverse impact on student participation. Spend time thinking about “why” each different audience would want to be involved and then craft a short and compelling elevator pitch for each. No-one wants to read a wall of text.
Oh, and when trying to engage students, don’t try too hard…
3. Unleash your Collective Capacity
Face-to-face events are a great way to kick-start co-creation and rapidly build relationships.
For LEVEL 5 Bahrain, we hosted a series of events targeting students, teachers and parents. Using design thinking as a framework, we assisted participants in generating and pitching ideas for the design of the space.
Strategies that we found useful included:
- Interviewing others about their “Dreams and Gripes” to garner empathy;
- Uncovering new possibilities by developing and asking How Might We? Questions;
- Synthesizing our ideas via Affinity Diagrams;
- Developing STAR proposals to assist participants with generating and pitching comprehensive proposals;
- Leveraging Futures Wheels to determine potential impact
We were also cognisant to activate social media during these events to ensure the wider community could engage in the co-creation process.
4. Synthesize the Wisdom
Once your event(s) is completed, set aside time to pour through the solutions, challenges, and ideas that have been generated. Use affinity diagrams to group similar ideas and then discuss findings with your core team to ensure there is a collective understanding.
Don’t hesitate to reach back out to individuals to clarify suggestions and discuss further. This is a simple way to show you’re continuing to value their input through the co-creation process. Finally document everything for ongoing reference. You can never have too many pics.
5. Remain Transparent
Post event, share a synthesis with stakeholders and invite them to be part of a continuing feedback loop. You can also use social media platforms to share ideas further afield with industry, experts and others in your PLN.
We used this Padlet to showcase the ideas generated and engaged a wider audience on Twitter through a variety of hashtags (#agilespaces #issedu #edreform #designthinking #designsprint #makered). This continued to bring in a range of valuable ideas from people all over the world.
Even though we’re still in the early stages of developing LEVEL 5 Bahrain, the value of engaging in co-creation has been undeniable. There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the community, and our workspace has become a constant buzz of visitors, volunteers, new ideas and big picture thinking. The conversation continues online too.
Ultimately, co-creation has significantly altered our design process, helped us better understand the community we serve and fundamentally impacted our final product, for the better.