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Your free guide to hosting a Co-design Workshop

Tuesday, 21 July 2015   (0 Comments)
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How do we make public participation more meaningful to ensure citizens are actively engaged in designing the future of their neighbourhoods? That was the premise behind the City of Cape Town’s co-design process, established as a way to introduce design processes in neighbourhoods across the metro. The learnings and the methodology used were carefully documented and are now available in a free open-source guide that can be used by anyone interested in catalysing change in their own environment.  


Designing a city is not only about the large-scale complex infrastructure of roads, transport interchanges and housing projects. It is also about the smaller neighbourhood projects that affect the quality of life in communities across the metro: park upgrades, public art and places to meet and play.

Using the World Design Capital year as a catalyst, the City of Cape Town embarked on a 20-month process to reimagine and redesign parts of the city, from creating whole new neighbourhoods to upgrading local parks. The workshops brought together designers, public officials, community members and civic organisations, who worked together to find innovative, design-led solutions to a stated problem facing each community. The process was carefully documented in a manual that forms not only a public record of the workshops, but ‒perhaps more importantly ‒ a step-by-step guide to the co-design process.

While it’s acknowledged that co-design is not a silver bullet that will resolve all issues, it does allow the end users – the community – to bring another perspective to proposed solutions. The manual provides an overview of co-design principles, and also detailed guidelines for planning and implementing the process. In summary, the manual covers most of the key points that should be factored into a co-design process, including:

  • Planning a workshop – who to invite from the community and the public and private sector; optimal group sizes and how to communicate that the workshops are taking place

  • Workshop logistics – how to arrange the physical spaces, what facilitation and design resources are needed and also practical resources including venue set-up and catering

  • Roles and responsibilities – what role the designers and facilitators play; how to structure the programme and how to manage the dynamics in the room during the course of the day

  • Design synthesis – what the designers can do to bring together all the ideas into one single concept for presentation to the City

While the manual was developed as a tool to co-create physical spaces in urban environments, the methodology can also be adapted for other visioning exercises for developing objects, programmes or services. Above all, the manual is freely available as an open-source template for anyone who wants to use design-led thinking to shape the outcome of their task at hand.

Richard Perez, former director of the World Design Capital office at the City of Cape Town, explains the rationale behind the manual: “Reflecting global trends, co-creation is a key platform in the City’s programme to drive innovation in Cape Town – and especially in the public sector. Co-creation gives meaning to public participation. It gives people a real chance to make their voices heard about what they want to see in their communities”.

“This manual allows us to transfer the knowledge gained from the City’s co-design process. It’s also an important tool that will encourage others to embrace co-creation as a way to transform our city through human-centred design.”

Visit the City of Cape Town’s website for more details on the workshops in general and the outcomes of each project in particular.

Titled The Perfect Storm: a guide to hosting a co-design workshop for the public sector, the manual is available for download here.

Were you involved in any of the co-design workshops? Are you planning one of your own? Let us know by email

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