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Cocreation for impact
Tackle wicked multistakeholder problems
Complex, multistakeholder challenges don’t often present a single obvious solution. Cocreation can be an effective way to unlock solutions.
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- Why cocreation?
- How does cocreation work?
- Leveraging the power of design science
- Want to learn more?
- About GovLab
Complex challenges such as global warming that include multiple stakeholders with intertwining or contradictory interests are often called “wicked problems.” They present multiple possible approaches but no obvious single root cause or solution. They shift faster than our ability to fully understand their components. Each is a symptom of another problem and has no one right answer, just approaches that improve the situation. In other words, wicked problems are everyone’s problem—and no single stakeholder’s responsibility.
Because wicked problems have multiple stakeholders, a cocreation approach—in which the stakeholders share responsibility for the problem and together develop a process for solving it—can be an effective way to unlock solutions.
Cocreation has, in the past, proved to be a key lever of positive change. Take the initiative to redirect 40 million tons of America’s annual food waste to 49 million Americans who would otherwise go hungry. At a local level, efforts such as the Food Recovery Network address the “last-mile” equivalent of supply chains, by collecting unused good food from college dining halls and events and getting it to hungry mouths.
While cocreation is sometimes considered an alternative to corporate social responsibility (CSR), it should instead be considered a key element of it—essentially, cocreation is “doing good without business tradeoffs.”
How does cocreation work?
The following five-step cocreation framework is a systematic approach that can help government organizations understand the need for cocreation, identify the right partners, and engage with partners for meaningful outcomes.
Phase 1: Decision-making
Before initiating the formal cocreation process, it is important to determine if the challenge at hand can benefit from a cocreation approach.
Phase 2: Mapping
In the mapping phase, the challenge is illustratively explored through the lens of multiple stakeholders, layered with other perspectives such as related to systems, legislature, the business, and users.
Phase 3: Analysis
During the analysis phase, the primary stakeholder explores the problem analyzing and envisioning the eventual cocreation relationships.
Phase 4: Involvement
The involvement phase is when the potential partners are finally reached. It provides an opportunity for participants to listen, clarify common ground, and identify partners’ needs and priorities.
Phase 5: Engagement
In the previous phases lay the foundation for the actual development of the solution. The engagement phase is all about coming to the nuts and bolts—specifics and mechanisms in the proposed solutions.
Leveraging the power of design science
Wicked problems can contain infinite potential solutions with an infinite number of possible activities. No solution is right or wrong—only appropriate or less appropriate. In other words, a wicked problem is a design problem, meaning that the problem is only understood through its solution design.
Design thinking can be applied to aid the cocreation approach as the outset focuses on human beings. Design thinking, by creating empathy with users (such as patients), reframes the challenge in a way that enables other participants to contribute to a shared solution.
Want to learn more?
Download the report to learn more about a cocreation framework that helps users map a challenge from a variety of perspectives, analyze that information, recruit unlikely partners, and collaborate toward common outcomes.
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