QDN’s Co-design principles

Front cover of QDN Co-design priniciples.Co-design is the new buzzword in the field of disability. But co-design isn’t only about disability inclusion. It’s a design process that seeks the best design for the intended users. Including people from a diversity of backgrounds, ages, levels of capability and experience is good practice. It’s how you do universal design. But what is it exactly and how does it work? 

The ultimate in co-design is to include users from design concept stage. The next best thing is to include users in testing the first prototype. Many design firms say budget and time constraints prevent them from implementing this highly iterative method. But how much does it cost to remedy poor design and lack of compliance? 

Co-design should not be confused with community consultation which seeks opinions about a design. User testing is not a form of co-design either. Co-design is where designers and users share the power of designing together. Co-design can be used for developing products, buildings, websites, services, policies and guidelines.

Queenslanders with Disability Network (QDN) have published their Co-Design Principles. This document obviously focuses on people with disability and the Queensland context. Regulation, legislation and policies such as the state disability plan fill most pages. 

 Five values underpin QDN’s co-design principles and processes:

      • Authentic Voice – We ensure those with limited or no voice are heard and valued
      • Collaborative Action – We learn from collective experiences, values, and wisdom 
      • Rights – We believe in a human rights approach 
      • Respect – We value human difference and diversity 
      • Resilience – We are here for the long term.

Co-design processes

A three page summary has the key points above and the co-design processes. 

The starting place – Craft the question that reflects intent/purpose and invites inquiry. 
Build the team – Get diversity and support inclusion
Discovery Phase – See the issue from different viewpoints, and perspectives. Hear from others including those who disagree
Pause and Reflect – Take time to pause and reflect on what you have learnt in the discovery phase and what you still don’t know before jumping to solutions
Sense-making – Look at the data, story, research, and evidence in their raw form and work together to make sense and meaning of what has been gathered
Generate options – Stage where sense-making starts to yield conclusions, ideas
and possibilities, and people get in the creative zone
Developing Prototypes – Generate as many ideas as possible and develop a working example of the policy, service, program, product, or scenario-based solution
Learning, reworking, and refining – Part of the learning cycle and reworks can produce ‘prototype’ – the solution for testing, piloting, or putting into action
Embed what works – Turn it into action and make it real. Keep people engaged and stay accountable.

The QDN website has more information about the organisation and their activities.

See other articles on co-design: The right to participate in co-design, and What does co-design mean? How does it work?