How do we begin to surface solutions in a moment of complexity, ambiguity and an uncertain future?

WithIn Collaborative Community Co-design looks to center the wisdom and wants of those who have been historically marginalized from community systems and processes. From a deep understanding of “what is,” we together move toward “what should be.”  

Our Offering

  • Is there a specific challenge or opportunity emerging that requires multiple organizations and stakeholders to explore? Let us help lead a team to explore and test possible solutions. 
  • Does your strategic planning need to better reflect the wisdom and wants of the  community you seek to serve?  Let us help you integrate community input as part of your strategy formation.

What is community co-design? 

Community co-design centers the power of decision making and system re-design with the people who spend their days impacting and being impacted by the community and institutions in the system they intend to change. The research, sense making, experimentation, and decisions are held by a team composed of those in the systems itself. 

WithIn Collaborative team plays different and evolving roles depending on the needs of the project and community. Often we are actively involved in building the team, scoping the focus of work, and coaching the work as it evolves. And after this intensive phase, our focus shifts to embedding solutions and coaching team members to step forward to lead the work. 

What brings community to co-design?  

Community co-design works best for challenges and opportunities that emerge from uncertainty or transition and/or when there are multiple stakeholders with different experiences of the current state, and a lack of clarity about possible solutions. 

We encourage you to learn directly from these communities about their work to remake communal systems. The work often begins with a question. 

  • How might we better the birthing experience of Native parents in Humboldt County? Learn more about our work with medical practitioners, hospital administrators, Native parents, educators and elders here
  • How might we create more visible support for LGBTQ+ families in Napa County? Read here about the Rainbow Family League, its policy change work, and its parent education prototypes. 
  • How might we increase empathy between law enforcement and the community it serves in Stanislaus County? Read the project description that started Stanislaus County’s work on re-designing community input into policing here

How does community co-design happen? 

In our work together, we map the existing system and engage deeply with those impacted to identify what’s possible to further belonging and justice. We then experiment forward; seeding multiple possible solutions between community stakeholders; and ultimately integrating solutions that center community needs.

This often includes the following phases of work:

Understand the system: Grow understanding and transparency around how organizational structures operate with particular focus on who benefits, who is harmed, and how inequalities are perpetuated. 

Build a team that mirrors the people from within that system: Identify and engage a team that reflects the lived experience of those who are most impacted and also best positioned to ultimately spur change. By design, the team embodies many of the tensions, opportunities and relationships in the system itself. 

Deeply understand the stories of those most impacted by the system: The central work of the team is to engage their peers, often through deep lived experience interviews, in order to understand the impact of systemic structures on their lives. This deep listening has two benefits. First, the stories anchor our work in the experience of those affected; second they provide an opportunity for the team to begin to collectively process the pain, guilt, and blindspots each may have been carrying into the work. The team’s collective sensemaking creates clarity about what threads of work to pursue.

Moving from stories we hear to shaping opportunities for change: Leaning on what the team now understands more deeply, the team begins to identify what opportunities might create the most impact within the system and makes a plan on what interventions to pursue. 

Experimentation and Implementations: Members of the team, perhaps with additional relevant stakeholders, along with wider coalitions of people, take on experimentation and efforts to implement multiple solutions.