The Empathic Co-Design Canvas: A Tool for Supporting Multi-Stakeholder Co-Design Processes
Wina Smeenk


The numerous grand challenges around us demand new approaches to build alternative sustainable futures collectively. Whereas these so-called co-design processes are becoming more mainstream, many multi-stakeholder coalitions lack practical guidance in these dynamic and systemic challenges based on entangled relationships, interactions, and experiences between stakeholders and their environments. Although scholars and practitioners convey a lot of co-design theories and methods, there does not seem to be a practical instrument beyond methods that supports new coalitions with an overview of a co-design process to come and in making shared and fundamental co-design decisions. Therefore, this paper proposes the empathic Co-Design Canvas as a new intermediate-level knowledge product existing of eight co-design decision cards, which together make up the Canvas as a whole. The Canvas is based on an existing theoretical framework defined by Lee et al. (2018), an empirical case study, and a diversity of experiences in education and practice. It aims at supporting multi-stakeholder coalitions to flexibly plan, conduct, and evaluate a co-design process. Moreover, the Canvas encourages coalitions to not only discuss the problematic context, a common purpose, envisioned impact, concrete results, and each other’s interests and knowledge, but also power, which can create trust, a more equal level playing field and empathy, and help manage expectations, which is greatly needed to overcome today’s grand challenges.

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