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Using co-design to unearth community hidden assets

Our project aimed to find out how co-design and co-production could assist a community in identifying and unlocking hidden assets by themselves to create solutions that match their needs and aspirations in a sustainable and inclusive manner. The rationale was that communities can, with the right kind of support, identify and put their own assets to good use to create new possibilities. In this case, assets could be tangible or intangible (e.g. green space and friendship).

Our study was underpinned by the Asset-Based Community Development principles which begin with a self-mapping exercise to uncover assets in the community. The research revealed that the co-design and co-production approach could work in this context since it encouraged different stakeholders to work together, identify real problems, generate ideas, testing ideas with wider audiences, and implement ideas. Active engagement also helped build empathy and trust among all parties. The hands-on creative techniques employed in the co-design and co-production process have proven to be useful in providing a safe space for experiment with unconventional ideas and a level playing field for all stakeholders to contribute on an equal basis. 

The study revealed that people are often the most important assets in a community. Engaging people in a creative process, such as co-design and co-production could help them appreciated their skills, knowledge and creativity – this, in turn, has helped them recognise themselves as assets. The co-design of research and co-production of knowledge benefited both academic researchers and communities. Involvement in the project helped community partners build the capacity to undertake research using creative engagement activities and helped the academics gain confidence in working directly with communities.

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Design for Sustainability

Design for Sustainability - We focus on developing the theory and practice required to design solutions that foster environmental, socio-ethical and economic sustainability in areas ranging from materials and manufacturing to products, services, business models, bottom-up initiatives and socio-technical systems.


Project last modified 23/03/2021