Updated: Sep 24, 2021
Thoughts about readiness to codesign
Written by Max Hardy
No doubt you’ve heard the song (I admit my favourite version is Eva Cassidy’s).
Readiness is something we are acutely aware of when organisations approach us to do codesign or a deliberative engagement process for a complex issue. In recent months I’ve been working with many Councils, mostly keen to comply with requirements of the new Local Government Act in Victoria. This Act directs councils to undertake deliberative engagement with communities to establish a community vision and inform key planning documents. It’s fair to say, some Councils are more ready to work with communities than others. Here are some of the common statements we’ve heard reflecting a lack of readiness;
“We’ve never done this before. Usually, we tell people what we’ve planned, and the community tells us we how we got it wrong!”
“As Councillors we believe we’ve been voted in to make all the decisions – I find all this deliberative engagement stuff confusing. Where do we fit into all this?”
“Council plans involve so many dimensions. There are things we must do because they are tied to state govt grants; other things we’ve always done and there are plans from years ago we are now just getting around to implementing. I just don’t see how the community can now appreciate this and add any value to our planning.”
“How can we be sure the agenda we won’t be captured by a powerful minority?”
“We’ve already been doing lots of research and planning. Now it looks as though we’ll be starting all over again.”
“We talk to our community all the time. It feels insulting to be told to do something we never stop doing?”
In summary, some Councils are not sure why they are being required to deliberative engagement with communities. Some aren’t sure how it can be done well. Some believe they’ve been doing it well for some time and don’t see the need to do more of it.
Readiness means different things to different people and different organisations. For me, these are some of the things to work through in order to be reasonably ready for codesigning solutions with community, or inviting the community to deliberate over complex issues.
Can you view your community as an asset to help you work through your trickiest, most complex and potentially controversial challenges? (ie; can you let go of any pre-conceived notions of the community or other stakeholders being ‘difficult’ and only capable of being critical and/or single-minded or self interested?)
Can you acknowledge that you and your organisation may not know everything that is useful about tackling this challenge?
Can you accept that it is possible to be credible leaders, or a credible organisation, AND be able to ask for help?
Can you be curious and open to finding a different solution to the one that seems most appealing to you right now?
Can you commit to explaining the extent to which you endorse the outcome of deliberative or codesign processes, and if, for some compelling reason you cannot endorse the entirety of the proposed solution/recommendations, respectfully explain why?
Can you allocate a reasonable amount of resources (time, funds, staff) toward the process to give it a reasonable chance of being do-able? (nb; it helps to realise there is usually a very strong business case for engaging early and authentically – mopping up the mess after a superficial, ‘nonsultation’ process is invariably expensive and damaging – to learn more about nonsultation and other damaging approaches to engagement check out Jacinta Cubis’ fabulous blog).
If you can answer to yes to ALL these questions, you are well on the way to being ready.
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