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Can co-design be successfully deployed in Environmental Impact Assessment?

We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the use of co-design in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). Both are well defined and globally used approaches for making decisions about the trade-offs between some form of development and the environment.

The image accompanying this blog shows the standard approach from a recent(ish) UN Environment Program review of global legislation about EIAs and SEAs (not a best seller we admit, but worth a look if you are into this stuff!).

Both EIA and SEA have well known processes and much has been written about the pitfalls, opportunities and challenges of enabling public participant in them. We can point you to loads of great papers and articles about enabling input to both processes.

So you our question – can co-design be used in EIA or SEA?

We think YES.

In fact, from a pure process perspective, there are many opportunities to use co-design. Below we have mapped the places where co-design could be used in a standard EIA process. Aside from the overall process (worth an entire bog in itself!), there are at least six (6) clear places in the process that could involve co-design.

Image Source: UNEP (2018). Assessing Environmental Impacts: A Global Review of Legislation. Nairobi.

We would argue that it needs to be authentic and be a principle-based use of co-design.

Over the coming month, we will have more to say about how to use co-design successfully in environmental impact assessment processes, and we will explore tools and approaches that make it practical.

(spoiler alert…!) And soon, we will announce another Authentic Co-design Masterclass designed specifically for impact assessment professionals.  Stay Tuned!


So what do you think about using co-design in environmental impact assessment?

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