Adopting co-creation processes to build innovation into end-users’ practices

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Co Creation


Matthew Hall | Research Analyst

Date: 27 November 2020

Co-creation workshops rely on extensive interaction between participants.

During co-creation, collaborators define an issue and undertake work to collectively create a solution to address it. Through the co-creation process, the latent knowledge of experts can be expressed, and manifest in the solutions produced. Co-creation is particularly valuable for many of Trilateral’s projects, which often involve multi-stakeholders research into new technology solutions.

Co-creation workshops would ordinarily be conducted in person, but restrictions to normal working practices during the Covid-19 pandemic means that we have had to be innovative.

By focusing on the substance of what co-creation involves and what you hope to achieve by it, such workshops can be successfully held online.

There are four important stages to the co-creation process, which are detailed below for anyone wishing to conduct such a process.


This stage fundamentally asks, what is the problem to that the technology, project or solution will address? During this stage, get participants to brainstorm and explore possibilities and make a record of the discussion. One way to get stakeholders to articulate this is to ask them to describe and discuss use cases for the proposed technology or solution.

Specific questions to ask stakeholders during this stage are:

  • What are the potential design problems or issues that they foresee?
  • Who are the most important stakeholders or end users that will benefit from this solution?
  • What are the stakeholder’s needs, goals, values or interests in this technology or solution?

This is important to record for the co-evaluation stage, below.


The primary task of this stage is to define the main functionalities of the solution or technology in conjunction with experts. This stage may involve stakeholders with technical or industry expertise, depending on what you are designing or developing.

For example, a risk methodology solution was recently developed by Trilateral Research in the ongoing EU-funded PROTAX project, which is a project to generate policy guidelines and toolkits to harmonise the treatment of tax crime in the EU.

During the co-design of this risk methodology, specific feedback was requested from expert stakeholders in tax crime enforcement roles, such as asking them to produce a list of indicators that may indicate a ‘red flag warning’ of a tax crime, and to identify any vulnerabilities in the institutional frameworks of the tax crime enforcement environment across the EU.


The purpose of this stage is to identify and overcome any conflicting values, purposes or functions contained within the technology or solution or between stakeholders. This stage is particularly useful for much of the work Trilateral Research does, especially when we focus on assessing the privacy, ethics and social impact of emerging technologies.

For example, a well-established balance that needs to be struck with many technology solutions is the balance between security and privacy. To navigate through such conflicts, the goals, values and aims drawn from stakeholders during the co-analysis stage can be brought back to collectively re-design out any conflicting values.

Achieving a certain level of agreement and harmony between stakeholders in the co-analysis stage, or at least flagging potential conflicting aims in the co-analysis stage for reflection by stakeholders, can make this co-evaluation stage more productive.

To practically generate reflection by stakeholders in this stage it is useful to get them to articulate the trade-offs themselves. To do this, ask stakeholders to produce lists that evaluate the conflicts or trade-offs that have been identified.

For example, get stakeholders to develop “positive vs negative” or “pains versus gains” lists, or a “pros vs cons” list if working through a disagreement over a design issue of a particular product or solution.

Not only does this help work through any conflict or balance itself but this process also gives stakeholders ownership over any compromises that must be made to move the project forward.

Co-implementation phase

This stage is to optimise the adoption of the project’s solutions or technology on a broader scale, beyond the stakeholders involved in the project.

In this stage ask stakeholders to identify factors or issues that will influence whether end users embrace or decline the solution provided.

If relevant, ask what factors may influence the public to accept or reject the solution, broadly defined as ‘social acceptability’. For example, Trilateral’s work on emerging technologies lead to focus on issues based around privacy concerns, ethics, values, usability and efficiency, depending on the project. Finally, identify information channels that could alert potential users to the solution.

Bringing people together to work through technology solutions during the current Covid-19 pandemic requires additional flexibility, however, by honing in on the actual substance of what working collaboratively aims to achieve, it can successfully be conducted online while we wait for the Covid-19 restrictions to be lifted.

For more information on this research area, contact our team:

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