NOTICE: Co-design or conspiracy – National Indigenous Times


In recent years, a new buzzword has gained popularity among governments and organizations when discussing how they engage with indigenous peoples on their concerns, “co-design”.

By definition, co-design means to collectively bring together a group of people to make decisions informed by their collective experiences. But in practice, this is not what happens.

As a result, Indigenous peoples are achieving the same results as before under the guise of new inclusive practices and a better public perception of these businesses and organizations.

Co-design is consultation, renamed.

When a business or organization embarks on its co-design journey, it begins by meeting with the appropriate Indigenous leaders and discussing their aspirations to co-design solutions.

It sounds like a great proposition and most indigenous people would be excited about the opportunity to be part of the solution.

After a few more interactions, it often becomes very clear that the interactions between the business or organization are just more frequent conversations about what they want. They put pressure on the Aboriginal community to accept and feel comfortable with these suggestions.

It can be done by well-meaning people, but the evidence shows that the only lasting solutions to Indigenous problems are those that are community-led and designed.

The problem with co-design isn’t that it happens, it’s that it’s not implemented in a way that allows for co-creation.

Conversations with indigenous communities should not be aimed at seeking community approval or comfort. They should consist of having a conversation with the community about how to create solutions that are appropriate and that work for them.

Move away from “can we do… ..” to “how would you suggest that we… ..”

When indigenous peoples are part of the creative process, have all the information and understand the problem, they can tap into thousands of years of knowledge to create appropriate, purpose-tailored solutions that work for everyone.

Denying indigenous peoples the opportunity to be part of the creative process is a waste of opportunity for everyone.

If governments and organizations are to do what is right for indigenous peoples, they must move beyond co-design and start co-creating with indigenous peoples.

It is the only genuine path to inclusive solutions to our collective problems.

By Sara Bergmann

Sara Bergmann is a Nyikina and Nyul Nyul woman from the Kimberley


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