Search
  • Max Hardy

Common objections to committing to collaborative (co-design or deliberative) engagement processes

We know not all projects require, or are appropriate, for co-design (to find out when this is appropriate check this blog and short video). But let’s imagine your situation ticks all the boxes. You have a complex, even a potentially controversial project, and there is quite a lot of uncertainty about the best way forward. There is every chance the project could be delayed, abandoned, or just one of those really drawn out, painful projects to implement.

Yet, there are objections with the sponsoring organisation to giving it a go. They are not uncommon. Here are a few of them.

1. “We shouldn’t go public until we have worked out a solution ourselves; and when we have an answer to nearly every question, we are likely to be asked, or able to defend any accusations that might come our way.”

2. “The public can’t really add much value to this process. It is one for the experts.”

3. “Every time we engage the public we just hear from the same people banging on about their favourite issue, or just giving us a hard time for the sake of it!”

4. We have not got the time or money to do something as resource-intensive as co-design. Imagine if we did this for every issue? All we’d be doing is engaging, as opposed to delivering?

What other objections have you heard? Let us know!




Here are some of my very short responses to these objections – feel free to use them!


1. “We shouldn’t go public until we have worked out a solution ourselves; and when we have an answer to nearly every question, we are likely to be asked, or able to defend any accusations that might come our way.”

Taking this approach will mean your engagement is more likely to resemble ‘marketing your solution’. Once you believe you have figured it out, you are more likely be preparing to defend. It will reinforce views in the community that you are not really committed to engaging in a meaningful way. You will also miss out on what the community could bring to the process. Which brings us to ….

2. “The public can’t really add much value to this process. It is one for the experts.”


Ok, so how do you know that? It is important to recognise there are different kinds of expertise. There is always something to learn from others and local knowledge guarantees a different perspective than a technical expert working from a distance. It is not about either/ or. It’s about both. It’s about tapping into the collective ‘smarts’ of the whole ‘community of interest’. I can honestly say I have NEVER engaged a community on a complex issue when nothing worthwhile has been contributed.

Some projects are merely complicated, in a technical sense, and are not complex in terms of social/political/cultural issues. That is true. If that is the case you would not invest on a co-design process. However, if you think there is a reasonable chance you won’t be able to implement the project due to community concerns, then it is not only a technical issue you are trying to address.

3. “Every time we engage the public we just hear from the same people banging on about their favourite issue, or just giving us a hard time for the sake of it!”

Well, that is probably because you have only designed the processes in the past to suit the ‘hyper-engaged’. You have probably designed perfect processes for alienating the ‘harder to reach’, or people who simply haven’t been able to participate because of methods being offered. You can design processes in such a way that you’ll get much more diverse participation. In fact, designing the process with the help of community members will help achieve this more effectively.

4. We have not got the time or money to do something as resource-intensive as co-design. Imagine if we did this for every issue? All we’d be doing is engaging, as opposed to delivering?

You don’t need to collaborate or codesign with everyone, all the time, about everything. However, if you have a complex project you run the risk of projects blowing up and blowing out. Have you had projects like that? Ones you thought would be relatively straightforward that end up taking 5 times as long and cost you up to five times as much? It may be that investing in a process that builds trust will not only be the most cost-effective way of delivering a project; it will also help you to do ‘business’ with those communities more efficiently in the future.

For more information about addressing challenges and objections you may like to check out our website. Sign on to being part of our ‘community of practice’ for starters! We also have a Linkedin page for Authentic Codesign.

Any other objections you’ve had to deal with? Or have you expressed another objection not listed here?

Look forward to hearing from you.

81 views
  • LinkedIn

©2020 by Authentic Co-design. Proudly created with Wix.com

The creators of Authentic Co-design reside on the Country of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We acknowledge the custodianship of all Traditional Owners across Australia, and the historic dislocation and dispossession of their lands. We celebrate the extraordinary resilience of their culture - the oldest living culture on the globe. We pay respects to elders past, present and emerging. We look forward to our shared future together.