Inclusive SA

Extending engagement to co-design

Co-design is a simple way of involving people in the community in decision-making processes. There are many benefits to co-design and it can be used in a wide range of circumstances.

One of the ways in which the outcomes of engagement can benefit people with lived experience of disability is through co-design.

Guidance to co-design with people living with disability

Purple Orange has developed a guide to co-design with people living with a disability. The guide is intended to assist organisations and individuals to apply co-design principles in their work.

The guide contains information such as:

  • What is co-design?
  • Co-design vs consultation who should use co-design and when?
  • Key co-design principles
  • How to run a co-design group
  • Meeting preparation
  • Hosting meetings
  • Follow-up
  • Co-design meeting agenda template
  • Co-design terms of reference template

The full Guide on Co-Design with People living with disability (Purple Orange).

Co-design explained

The ‘co’ in co-design stands for community, conversation and collaboration. It’s about bringing together people with lived experience of disability and those undertaking the designing to jointly make decisions, informed by each other’s expertise.

The ‘design’ in co-design is about inputting, making, creating and testing, leading to rich learning and testing of ideas and assumptions. It leads to better outcomes which should result in more informed projects, programs, policy, services and products, and to benefits and longer-term improvements in design in other contexts, better community understanding and awareness, and improved accessibility and inclusiveness more broadly.

Co-design approaches are often workshop-based, bringing the community experience into both the physical and virtual room through presentation of examples and user journeys. Where in the past we have expected to meet face-to-face, in a technologically and geographically expanding world, opportunities present themselves for community, conversation and collaborative co-design in an online environment. This can be done in through simple online meeting tools including video and teleconferencing.

Deciding if co-design is right for you

It is important to be honest about the level of engagement that can be achieved and if co-design is right for what you are planning. There will be times when co‑design is not the best approach. Examples may include:

  • an outcome has already been pre‑determined
  • a project that is time‑critical
  • it is not possible to obtain the relevant lived experience expertise
  • resources to conduct co-design are not available.

It may be that an approach using consultation without co-design is more appropriate.

The benefits of co-design

While it may appear to be easier and more productive to progress a policy or program with limited external input, consultation and by extension co-design, offer a range of benefits:

  • brings together the wisdom of lived experience and of professionals
  • provides better and broader understanding of problems
  • generates collective innovation, fresh thinking and new ideas
  • engages, motivates and empowers end users
  • creates a sense of collective ownership of solutions and outcomes
  • identifies alternative business and service delivery models.

Involving people with lived experience of disability in co-design will benefit those involved, organisations and the whole community.

Holding a consultation or co-design event or activity

While this toolkit provides information about how to engage and consult with people living with disability, the emphasis here is on enabling the voices of people with disability to be heard through engagement that involves co-design events and activities. In planning a co-design event or activity, resources from the Better Together website may be helpful to you.

Information about holding an accessible and inclusive event, is available in the Accessible and Inclusive Community Events toolkit.

Some practical tips on conducting engagement and consultation using co-design can also be found in the Metro-Regional Intellectual Disability Network RID (Co-Design kit)

You may also like to refer to other toolkits on co-design. An example of another toolkit that has been reviewed and is considered useful has been produced by the Western Australian Council of Social Services ACOSS Co-Design Toolkit (PDF 7.3 MB).

The Australian Centre for Social Innovation has co-design Training resources: Co-design Training Resources (TACSI)

A number of links to existing co-design resources can be found in the Resources section of the toolkit.

Seeking feedback on a co-design event or activity

Asking people with disability who participated in a co-design event or activity to provide feedback on what they thought of the process and outcomes is important. This will provide insights into what was done well and where things could have been done better. Surveys are also a good record and can assist with holding future events.

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Provided by:
Department of Human Services
Last Updated:
26 Oct 2023
Printed on:
03 Dec 2023
The Inclusive SA website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence. © Copyright 2016