This post was co-written by Acacia Betancourt, a DC-area Creative Director, and former Forum One staff member.
To design inclusively is to design with and not just for your audiences. In our inclusive design webinar, we discussed that co-creation is about defining your most impacted audience who are the people who will be most affected by the work you do, and who you are ultimately trying to help. Then, finding ways to collaborate directly with them throughout your design process. We defined inclusive co-creation design and discussed why it is vital to nonprofits and government agencies, and how to incorporate it into your work. We also answered some of your most asked inclusive co-creation design questions. Below, we’ve shared a few that help build on what we covered in the webinar.
Q: What are some good resources for someone who wants to start learning more about how to design inclusively?
A: There are so many designers and design companies doing co-creation well that our design team at Forum One has learned a lot from:
- Greater Good Studio, George and Sarah Aye
- Design No Harm: Why Humility is Essential in the Journey Toward Equity, Antionette Carroll from Creative Reaction Lab
- Mismatch, How Inclusion Shapes Design, Kat Holmes from Google
- What designers need to know about power and privilege, Minal Bopaiah from Brevity & Wit
- Microsoft Inclusive Design
Q: What do you do when your audiences aren’t the people that are ultimately impacted by your work but are intermediaries whose work you’re supporting? For example, healthcare providers might be the audience, but the impacted community is their patients.
A: This happens all the time. Often we are helping the people who are helping our most impacted audience and we may not be interacting directly with the communities we wish to help. In this example, our team may not have a chance to talk directly with the patients themselves. In that case, is there an opportunity to bring both healthcare providers and patients on as your co-creators? If not, how can you encourage the healthcare providers to ask the patients directly what they need? How can you support the healthcare providers in challenging their own assumptions and biases about what their patients may need? Explore the power dynamics that may be at play with the healthcare providers and their patients and educate them about the ways in which that could impact the solution you’re creating together. There won’t always be the resources or time to talk to every audience, but you could make time to educate the audience you are working with about their relationship to power and how they can transfer more of it to the people they are helping.
Q: How do you recruit people if they don’t think there is a problem? How do you recruit people if they are too busy or hard to reach?
A: Start by working internally, discuss how many co-creators you need, what their involvement will look like, how you’ll compensate them. Next, think about the available channels you have to request participation, such as social media, newsletters, and program staff. Put out a call and ask your audience to be involved. Be clear about what you’re asking (e.g, what you are trying to achieve, hours of involvement, activities they’ll participate in), and be clear about the impact they’ll have. If you hear crickets, you may need to make personal asks, reach out to people individually. You can also partner with recruiting firms.
Q: What if we have many audiences? How do we prioritize?
A: Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. This is hard work. We do this through audience research, usually interviews and surveys, and workshops with internal stakeholders. We ask stakeholders, “Who needs you the most? Who will benefit most from the work you do? Which audience group’s needs most align with your mission?” We recommend prioritizing your external audiences first before prioritizing the needs of internal stakeholders. Challenge your team to intentionally define which of your audiences may not have a voice and which have the most to lose. Start there. Sometimes there are one or two audience groups. That’s ok. But your internal team needs to be entirely aligned on priority audiences.
Q: Does co-creation and inclusive design apply to internal audiences, like my co-workers who use the product we’re designing?
A: If your product (e.g., website, app, tool) is internally-facing, then that’s probably the case! If your product is externally facing, you may have impacted audiences on both sides. For external products, where the public can access them, we always recommend really focusing on external audiences first. A good question to ask yourself is, “For each of these audiences, if they do not use this product at all, what impact will it have.”
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