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Why having a “stickable mandate” is crucial for most things, especially for co-design projects...

What is a stickable mandate?

While I’m not a big one for perpetuating new word use, this one is kind of helpful. And thankfully self-explanatory. You know that you need a mandate to get pretty much anything done – certainly anything of consequence, depth, and challenge. A stickable mandate is a mandate that sticks. It is one that outlasts the original decision-makers and persists into the next generation of people in the same, or allied, roles. It is a mandate that survives the inevitable changes of leadership that occur as a part of the important, healthy, and regular refreshing of leadership in any organisation.


While all activities need them, stickable mandates are especially important for complex, challenging, changing, or different things than “the way things have been done around here”.


Why do I need a stickable one?

The last thing that any activity (i.e., project, program, policy, investment etc) needs is a disruption to mandate part way through implementation, or rollout. This creates small-scale challenges and too much instability and disruption. In the worst case, mandate disappears completely which is akin to sovereign risk (on a national or corporate scale). These bad outcomes are called various things based on the area in which you work: ‘dead cats’ (policy formation), ‘white elephants’ (investment and program development) and even ‘ashtrays on motorcycles’ (generally useless things), and they are to be avoided.

Without a mandate that lasts through changes in leadership (Executive, Board, Ministerial, Mayoral etc) your activity will bounce around too much to ever see delivery or implementation. Annoyingly a bouncing mandate is at least stochastic and potentially chaotic – it is certainly not obviously predictable.


What you are doing is important and you want and need a mandate that is equal to the task of seeing the project, program, policy, or investment through – a stickable mandate.

An important note… Please never mistake generating a stickable mandate as a way of avoiding accountability, reviews, auditing, or oversight. These are crucial elements of management, governance, and oversight, and are essential to build, improve and align outputs and outcomes from any activity. A stickable mandate rightly does not give you a pass on these things, rather it helps you maintain momentum on complex, challenging or gnarly stuff that is a little out of the ordinary.


Why does co-design need one in particular?

As discussed in past blogs, co-design can be challenging for some organisations to do. It requires giving away a little of your power and sharing decision-making with others – sometimes with groups who have been on opposing or fraught sides of debates.


It is often useful in the kinds of projects or programs that have been complex, challenging or really hard for organisations. These are the kinds of investments that make it onto the risk radar of leadership. Co-design projects are sometimes the poster child of complex, challenging, changing, or different projects that are not “the way things have been done around here”. Hence any co-design project that is “authentic” needs a stickable mandate. If it is a genuine co-design project that hits all five of the principles of Authentic Co-design, it will require a stickable mandate.

How do I gain a stickable mandate?

You need to do some serious work to build a stickable mandate. You can’t just rely on the one crucial senior sponsor to get you through. You need mandate from virtually all their colleagues, many of their direct reports, and certainly their boss.

You will likely need to form a coalition of the willing who will work with you, find trusted messengers for your ideas, and nail down the forward budgeting, amongst other activities.


If the project touches into community or other stakeholders, you will need their mandate to continue as well. We don’t often think about mandate coming from stakeholders, but for co-design it is essential.


In our Authentic Co-design course, Max Hardy, Susan Carter and I discuss in detail the ins and outs of building a stickable mandate and challenges it can help overcome later.

Take the course or sign up to the Community of Practice to get a free Authentic Co-design Framework.

When have you needed a stickable mandate? How did you build it? What did you learn about nurturing it? Share your ideas…

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Visit www.authenticcodesign.com to find out more about us, the Authentic co-design tools, training and team professional development packages.

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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.