Artistic visualization of our co-creative journeys at the Feb 2014 Learn/Share Lab in Thailand.

Do you see it?

For some years now, I’ve found it useful to believe that the tipping point (as Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the concept) has already been reached when it comes to the kind of social transformation that’s needed at a global level, in order to put our planet back on track. My growing sense is that in spite of all the troubling news we see around us, there are also many important levels at which we are actually on a firm path toward positive global transformation. We just don’t (know how) to see it yet.

The most valuable gift that orchestrating our recent Learn/Share Lab has left me with, is a heartfelt imperative to encourage all those using and reading about co-creation and co-creativity to be mindful of the potential transformation upon us, and step up to help nurture the the best possible global impact.

“Cocreation” is indeed the latest in better-world memes that is spreading like a virus, in a way that’s transecting all of our global systems. You hear about it from the business sector, universities are teaching it, organizations like Ashoka are investing in it, and all of them are using the word co-creation to talk about seemingly different things. At #cocreate14 we learned and shared about cases where cocreative approaches and processes were generating social impact – thru corporate employment policy, social product development, health administration, waste management, human rights policy, local resilience initiatives, online & offline community development, and more.

The wikipedia entry on co-creation is simply outdated, in my view. I wonder if C.K. Prahalad and Venkat Ramaswamy (credited with popularizing the term in 2000), realized then that the term would also align with the direction in which the social space has long been moving. I saw the other day that a leadership coach has trademarked “co-creative leadership,” which feels a little ironic to me, but there it is. In the end, the path through which we’ve all arrived to this confused space of knowing that lots of people are talking about co-creation is not really important. What is important – especially for those claiming the term – is that we embrace this organic emergence as a moment to recognize the strong commonality in what all of us are talking about at the core, when we speak of co-creation.

“increased We-ness”

I think I see that everyone who is using the co-creation meme is talking – in one way or another – about including more voices of the people who are connected through stuff that affects them, in developing stuff and getting stuff done. Wonderful! An across the board increase in the we-ness of how governments, organizations and businesses operate couldn’t be a bad thing, could it?

It could be, actually, if we don’t really see it. By seeing it, I don’t mean noticing and championing co-creativity everywhere. but developing tools for continents of people to see the we-ness in co-creative stuff with a discerning eye. WE-washing or cocreation-washing in some corporate and government media strategies could prove a nightmare of Orwellian proportions if co-creation becomes a hot meme that is exaggerated in ways which can’t be easily verified, even ranked. Could it ever be possible to imagine verifying such a thing? Especially since, as John Baxter reminds us, Our world is already inherently cocreated— we just don’t do it very well. (Discussion).

Doing co-creation well is not really about how many voices are included, or whether a group is closed or open, or working toward determined or emergent goals, as we plotted them for cross-silo analysis at the Lab. As Jean Russell writes, through the social impact lens it can often be about phasing co-creative processes into building something that is more centrally owned and managed. In fact, at #cocreate14 a common value we unearthed is that the process in co-creative approaches can be just as socially impactful for the participants as the actual outcomes achieved by any group of voices working together, large or small. I would posit that even in co-creative corporate branding and product development strategies, the process used will impact the participants personally in describable ways.

How co-creative is your co-creation?

I find myself wondering if a useful co-creativity index or scoring system could be developed, that’s built around the self reported impact of the process on the people involved in any process/initiative that claims to be co-creative. If I were to allow myself to imagine, I’d see:

  • A trip-advisor-like online interface for folks co-creating in the connected world. Co-creation listings with user scores (Thank you Nic Meredith for that inspired marketplace discussion at the Lab)
  • A simple survey that generates a co-creativity score or a composite index, based on how participants feel about a range of co-creative process elements.
  • Online scouts who find stuff that claims to be co-creative and add it to the platform for rating
  • Armies of volunteer travelers recruited to survey under-connected participants in local/international development initiatives.

With that picture come so many interesting questions:

  • Could a simplified common survey be designed for participants/stakeholders co-creating in business, international development, education and community building, that enables them to meaningfully rate the impact of a co-creative process on them?
  • What would that inquiry look like, and what other things would folks need to see, in order to discern a truth in the use of the co-creation/ cocreation/ cocreative/ memes?
  • A co-creation index? A WE index? A Ci2i index? What name would help “memify” the highest genuine level of meaningful increased WE-ness into the history of “co-creation” that’s emerging at this point?

If not an index or scoring system, surely some other kind of tool could be developed to help us recognize and evaluate the co-creation increasingly around us more clearly – not just for what it is but for what it isn’t.

When WE-ness goes viral

An amazing amount of good – empowerment, confidence, sense of connection – could happen in people’s lives all over the world if the increased we-ness inherent in the co-creation meme actually became something “real” that people could learn to look for and demand in making our consumer decisions, investment decisions, career decisions….

But really, any significant increase in the number of people on the planet who are learning to see and want more genuine WE in our lives, inevitably results in deep ripples of transformation at multiple levels – potentially impacting not only the design and operation of products and projects, but socially impacting the individual people that comprise their eco-systems. It’s a gentle but powerful shift that appears to be taking root within, among and outside of our existing systems.  My hunch is that increased levels of WE-ness are already re-working and remaking the systems that guide and nurture our lives on this planet all around us right now, both within and well beyond those who will be meming about co-creation in times to come.

In that lies Gladwell’s tipping point, toward transformation everywhere.

This is a call, however, to all of us who talk about co-creation in our work these days, to think carefully about what we expect of ourselves and each other in walking our co-creative talk. We should all be thinking about how to proactively protect the integrity of “increased we-ness” that’s implied in the co-creation memes, and start imagining tools for resisting the potential perils in the worldwide wave of co-creation that’s upon us.

Share your lens?

I am so curious to have more views on this perspective. Your comments are very welcome in the space below. If there’s interest from among co-creative practitioners in working on an index or some other kind of lens developing tool for discerning truth in co-creation, maybe we can start some deeper thinking and planning in the Ci2i Global group at Edgeryders.


In the aftermath of #cocreate14, we’re left with a wonderful richness of case studies and learnings to sort through, study, analyze and share.

One of the ways we’re doing that is by finalizing with the presenters of the cases we’ve collected, on how/what to publish. As that process continues in the context of all our busy schedules, we’ll be uploading the cases that are ready to share here.  Another way we’re planning to share on our collective learnings is to invite the #cocreate14 folks and other practitioners we know to co-create of a book about co-creative impact.

The model we’re pursuing to make that initiative happen is inspired by the case study presented by Jean Russell at #cocreate14.

Co-created book: Thrivability – a sketch

The case study offers insights into how Jean orchestrated the “flash collaboration” which resulted in a book compiled by 65+ contributors in just 90 days. Thrivability – A Sketch has had almost 30,000 views on slideshare since Jean published it in 2010.

As a contributor to Thrivability – A Sketch back in 2010, I was personally impressed with and inspired by the co-creative leadership skills that Jean employed in making the book happen. Here are a couple of things that stood out for me as particularly aspirational:

  • The purpose behind the book was acknowledgement that the term “thrivability” is something that no one person can own. Instead of defining it herself (leading from the front), Jean asked people who she knew were using the term to help define it. The result of that approach for me personally was a greater sense of alignment with the term and an increase in my active usage of it.
  • She engaged contributors by making us feel shiny. The way Jean spoke of her admiration for all of the contributors made it feel like an opportunity to be a part of it.
  • She created a clear, time-bound invitation to collaborate in a very specific and easily manageable way, while at the same time offering a blank canvas for independent thought.  My contribution to the book was requested with respect and honor for whatever I might say around the sub-topic I was asked to write about (stakeholder engagement).

We’ll aim to be mindful of these and other aspects of the case study as we at Ci2i Global set out to replicate the model for co-defining co-creative impact. Learn more about our upcoming book here.

 


reposted from JeanmRussell.com

What in the world is that? I dunno. I guess I am figuring that out. It came out of my mouth, so I better figure it out!

What most people think of as the economy is a transactional world where exchanges are made between people that clear obligation to each other. I buy milk at the store for a few bucks. I give them money, they give me milk, basically end of the story.

There is another economy – the gift economy. I am out of milk, I borrow some from the neighbor. I do not insult her by giving her a few bucks for it. Instead I bring her cookies. I reciprocated but it wasn’t transactional – in a tit for tit kind of way.

people sitting

We were talking, at #cocreate14, about the qualities of being co-creative. And that is when this phrase, non-transactional reciprocity came out of my mouth.

The old forms of international development/philanthropy worked in something like the following storyline for those providing what they thought of as “help” to others who needed to be helped. “I have something. I am sad that you don’t have this thing. So I am going to help you by teaching you how to have the thing that I have.”

When we come from a place of being co-creative, the story goes much more like:

“I have value to offer and I recognize that you have value. Let’s share our value with each other over time and see if we can make things better in ways we both believe actually are better for us.”

There is reciprocity here, where there wasn’t in the old international development/philanthropy model. But it is not transactional – as in we do not measure our gifts for each other as equal in a way that we feel the encounter is completed.

Maybe there is a better word for it, but this is the phrase that came to mind at #cocreate14. We did not talk there about how it relates to the gift economy, but I would love to hear your thoughts on how they may relate to each other.


A small but diverse group from 12 countries and many fields of practice came together recently to explore the concept of co-creation at the Learn Share Lab.  The event modeled a co-creative approach itself, featuring 14 case studies of co-creative initiatives, discussed both in facilitated and open space sessions which were guided by a number of the workshop’s participants.

In two days of animated large and small group discussions, some themes about co-creation that surfaced included:

Co-creation can be a challenge to define but some core concepts (patterns in organization and methodology) may be identifiable.  Some discussed by the workshop’s participants (in a exploratory, not definitive list) included:

* Emergence is a key value/concept – the cases studied found that the groups needed to relinquish expectations regarding outcomes to some extent.  There is a need for adaptability and allowing space for failure.

*Non-hierarchical – there may be leaders but a characteristic that helps define a co-creative effort is that there is not one leader throughout the whole initiative. There may be many different coordinators who have different areas of responsibility. So rather than “leaderless”, it may be “leaderful”.

*Shared responsibility and authority for activities and outcomes; there are often contributions from many in deciding how things will be done and in implementation. (Shared authority empowers people to take leads, make decisions, and be freer with their ideas than they might be in team with a clear leader.)

* Mindful of when to be inclusive and transparent – there may be times that a group consciously decides not to be inclusive or transparent for a particular part of the process, but it is a conscious decision after discussing the advantages and disadvantages and rationale.

*Process is critical to the outcome; and the process may have its own impact such as increasing self-esteem so participants can be more engaged in helping themselves and the co-creative effort.

* There are a diversity of ideas reflected and the group is encouraged to think creatively.

*The group is conscious of which decision-making frameworks are being used throughout the process, but they may vary according to the moment or context.  No one decision making process is necessarily preferable.

Some core values and practices were also identified:

1)      The importance of active listening – although we talk a lot about listening, in many cultures and professions we are actually trained and practice talking more than listening.  In co-creative approaches, placing a large priority on listening and observing, leads to better outcomes.  Here are a few resources to help further explore how to become a better listener: Listen First, http://www.listenfirst.org/  and Intercultural listening: http://www.qualitative-researcher.com/listening/intercultural-listening/

2)      Shared, reciprocal learning – As with listening, in some professions and positions we are trained and practice teaching more than reciprocal learning.  With reciprocal learning – we can all learn something from an exchange of ideas – our outcomes will be stronger.  Here is one useful resource: ActionAid International’s Shared Learning Guide  http://www.goinginternational.com/pdf_SharedLearningGuide_FINAL20July2007.pdf  “We believe that learning is a process that takes place in relationships between people.”

3)      It’s all about the questions -  Questions are at least as important (if not more so) than the answers. It’s another area where we can all use a little more practice!  The Art of Asking Questions  http://blogs.hbr.org/2011/08/the-art-of-asking-questions/ & http://wecollaborize.com/pdf/art-of-asking-questions.pdf

If you are interested in joining this emerging community of practitioners around co-creation register your interest in being kept apprised here https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1iQGnozmfrjcYnOT9bgtFjowiiRdoqOls83oC0WHPp1I/viewform

(Note:  The resources cited in this blog post did not come from the Learn Share Lab but are ones I am aware of.  More resources from the Lab will be available at a later date).

 

 


cross posted from jeanMRUSSELL.COM

We called it the Learn/Share Lab: a laboratory experience for learning and sharing together on the topic of co-creation. We gathered 14 case studies in co-creation on projects from around the globe. We all shared, and I learned a lot. I want to share one aspect of what I learned with you about being co-creative over time as well as a distinction between being co-creative in how we do what we do and being co-creative in what we do.

Nadia, Edgeryders and Tom, StartSomeGood

Nadia, Edgeryders and Tom, StartSomeGood

By the end of the event, I was most interested in how being co-creative plays out over time. Let’s look at Edgerydersfirst. The project is very open in the sense that anyone can join the network and participate. Also, the events are open to anyone. However, the governance and structure is not co-created – in the sense that the ground rules were stated up front on how it was going to work. So the initial phase of creating the structure of it wasn’t co-creative. Let’s call that phase 1. It became co-creative once the structure was in place, which we can call phase 2. What they developed together – the LOTE events (Living on the Edge) and from the the Unmonestary, were both emergent outcomes of co-creation in phase 2. So the process design – how you behave and interact – was not co-created, however, the outcomes were. The outcomes were only possible through the conversation of many people interacting and building on each other.

Similarly, my book, the Thrivability Sketch, had a clear process that I dictated, yet each piece came from the contributor or in the space created between the contributor and I. So you could say phase 1: process design, was not co-creative. Phase 2: content creation was co-creative. For example, the page on creativity became an email from the contributor to me discussing the challenges he was having writing the piece and my counsel to him that playful was better than intellectual. The production of the book, post-editing, was a very closed process with just 3 collaborators helping me polish and design it. So phase 3: production wasn’t broadly co-creative. Once the book was released, the marketing of it was very co-creative again. So phase 4: promotion was again co-creative.

bar chart

Phases of Co-Creativity

It is my sense in both of these cases and others where the process design is pre-determined, that the projects move quickly forward with only those participants who self-select to be part of the process. Speed of action is gained, but it risks alienating people who either want to create process together or don’t like the process that was dictated.

Other projects begin with a challenge and an open question, unclear about process. The process is emergent. For example, Let’s Recycle in India suffered a massive fire that wiped them out, so they gathered with their suppliers (waste pickers) and discussed what to do. The solution came from that open dialogue from a vulnerable place: both the process and the solution that emerged were co-creative. So their early phases, of this iteration of the work, were highly co-creative of both process and deliverables, but the way they might be running now may be less co-creative now that they have a co-created process that everyone is working with.

The urgency of the fire moved the conversation on process and outcome forward swiftly. There was a great deal of risk taken by leadership to let it unfold, but the crisis made that risk-taking a necessary one. With proven positive results for co-creative process, Let’s Recycle is more likely to continue using co-creative process and co-created outcomes in the future. If we were to map co-creative activities over time with Let’s Recycle, we would see a sharp spike following the fire followed by a slope toward standard process and outcomes thereafter, probably never returning to a place without co-creative elements again. Plus the threshold required for initiating another co-creative phase has been lowered.

spike flow chart

Co-Creativity over time for Let’s Recycle.

So co-creation seems not to be some element that is always present in all different aspects of a project. For some projects it may be a recurring piece of the process. For others it might be co-creative on outcome but not in process design. This seems to make the patterns for co-creation a little tricky to surface, as patterns for process may be quite different than patterns for outcomes. Being co-creative at different stages of co-creation may take different skill sets or require different structures. I think this is really getting us to a much clearer place of understanding how the case studies share certain elements while also understanding how different they are. And, I believe that makes us closer to knowing how and when to instigate co-creative practices.

We believe we have developed a list of qualities that can be present in co-creative endeavors that differentiate at least the co-creative portion of that effort from other approaches. To flesh that out, we will be co-creative in making a book about who, why, how, what and when of co-creative efforts for social innovation and impact. Look for that outcome later this spring.