The learning relay: reflecting on the SIC experimentation
During the SIC project, five organisations in Turin, Zagreb (twice), Oslo and Pärnu worked with design thinking and co-creation methods to experiment with social innovation. They ran into several roadblocks along the way, including the struggle to engage stakeholders outside their own networks, sustaining the involvement of one-time workshop participants over a longer experimentation process, and the lack of a clear owner of the identified local problems. These realisations prompted supporting partners to participate in the Social Learning Relay, to receive input and insights about their questions from the participants.
The “Social Learning Relay” was organised by SIC in March-April 2018 in Zagreb (Croatia), on the theme of experimenting with social innovation. The event combined a full-day thematic workshop with an online peer-to-peer learning relay (‘the act of passing something along’). Participants consisted of social innovation practitioners, members of social change initiatives and networks, “agents of social change” working in multidisciplinary teams on developing sustainable impact and persons experienced in participating or facilitating experimental processes (e.g. co-creation, design thinking). The Social Learning Relay provided a fertile ground for participants to boost their knowledge in the thematic area and learn from and with social innovation peers.
The partners involved in the SIC experimentation posed two questions to the group:
How do we identify and creatively engage relevant stakeholders in co-creating solutions for social challenges and bringing solution ideas to life?
How can we enable stakeholders to collaboratively take ownership of local challenges and work together across sectors during and after projects?
Recommendations for co-creation facilitators
The highlights and main lessons learned as a result of the learning relay collective reflection are some recommendations for those who facilitate co-creation processes:
- Go where the energy flows, and have a human-centered approach on the co-creation process. While this gives room within the process so that participants can go wherever it takes them, effective facilitators are crucial in keeping the process flexible but focused. Facilitators who are experienced, knowledgeable and open to change are required in order to help foster an atmosphere of trust and inclusiveness from which participants can channel their energies into the creative and solution-finding phase.
- Clear and honest communication is vital both from the standpoint of what is conveyed between facilitators to participants, and between participants and those facilitating the co-creation process. Accurate management of the expectations of the participants is crucial to keep them engaged, especially given the flexible and open characteristics of co-creation. It is OK to say what you cannot offer.
- Keeping ideas and the message as simple as possible enables a common understanding of the social challenge.
- Engagement needs time management respecting the time needed to take participants on the co-creation journey, enabling the challenge and process to be properly understood, explored, and discussion on the solutions to develop.
- Enable commitment by identifying knowledge, expertise and resources, and creating an atmosphere of trust and engagement with the cause and inviting to commit.
- Creating the right environment emotionally (safe, exciting, inspiring, feeling part of the process-community).
- Motivating participants by making them aware that the co-creation process is a personal development process beyond the social challenge itself.