What is co-development?
Co-development is an approach to research in which end users and other stakeholders actively participate in the process of innovation throughout a project. Taking an equitable approach to co-development means giving equal standing to the knowledge and expertise of all participants and providing an environment in which everyone is able to contribute. It also means recognising that the distribution of the real-world benefits of an innovation will be informed by the social, cultural, political and economic context in which the innovation is eventually used.
Why do we do co-development?
Many innovations fail to address the needs of end users or do not benefit those that they were intended to serve. By focusing on equitable co-development our goal is to ensure that the process and outcomes of innovation deliver benefits that are valued by all end users. For scientists and engineers, equitable co-development opens up a whole new way of working, addressing real problems with the potential to deliver long-term benefits and research impact.
When should I do equitable co-development?
Ideally, all applied research projects should proceed through equitable co-development, as without this focus there is a high risk of addressing the wrong problems or generating solutions where only a few people benefit. However, equitable co-development requires researchers to engage intensively with end users and wider stakeholders throughout the life of the project. This requires collaboration with social science researchers, skilled facilitation, and an ongoing commitment of time, effort and resources which needs to be factored in at the start of any project.
How can this website help?
This website provides descriptions of the types of tools you can use to support equitable co-development, alongside examples of tools we used in our projects. We also provide a theoretical framework and set of principles that underpin equitable co-development, allowing you to select the most appropriate tools and design engagement activities. This theoretical description will also help to explain your approach to co-development with external research funders and their review panels.
This page was created by Jonathan Ensor (Stockholm Environment Institute, Department of Environment and Geography), Steven Johnson (School of Physics, Engineering and Technology) and Daniel Vorbach (Department of Environment and Geography) based on our experiences with implementing technology co-development projects, interviews with colleagues, and engagement with associated literature. Please contact us with questions, comments or to share information about your co-development projects and methods.
Technology co-development in brief
The following short videos introduce some of the technology co-development tools we piloted as part of the integrated Participatory Technology (iPTD) project, which brought together natural and social scientists from the University of York with non-academic participants living in remote communities in Vanuatu.