Experiences in Co-Design Series: Engagement & Techniques

In this entry of the Experiences in Co-Design Series, I will discuss some of the techniques used in my research, Community-Based Co-Design of a Task Request Management Interface to Crowd-source 3D models to preserve Indigenous Knowledge. Below is an extract relating to the co-design techniques used within the research.

Co-Design engagement and techniques used

We learnt ice-breaking tactics for example long formal greetings asking about the rainfall and well being of the communities’ livestock was necessary before starting with research workshops. Allowing elders to share IK stories (1 story telling) that they thought the youth from their community should know of before jumping into co-design discussions of technologies. The IK stories shared in the ice-breaking sessions were referred to in the technology co-design discussions. Doing this has shown that the communities could easily relate to the co-design process before the actual software in use.

During the first workshops with a new community we identify one or two participants from the community ideal to be our (2) lead co-design contact person from the community. The lead co-designer is identified by the free willingness of sharing IK and eagerness to know about the technologies. At the end of the workshops we conclude with the researchers providing (3) tokens of appreciation to the community members for their valuable time spend and IK shared. The tokens are mostly a parcel of the stable food (oil, maize meal, soup, etc.).

The workshops were mostly focused groups of three to six participants for closer interactions. During the workshop, a researcher who speaks the local community language is the facilitator. All sessions conducted in Otjiherero, which is the language spoken by all the selected communities. Even though we have researchers who speak the local languages of the indigenous communities we still apply (4) verbatim principle where the researchers use terms and concepts taken from the communities vocabulary to minimise miss interpretations and allow the communities to see events from their interpretive lens. Translation to English was done concurrently for the non-speaking Otjiherero researchers to understand.

To provide a quick technology co-design readiness (5) technology probes were used. We used (6) card sorting in role-plays. Cards with pictures of traditional objects are handed out for the IKHs to place them around to demonstrate location of that object or portray the role-play scenario. Cards without pictures are also used for the IKHs or for the researchers to draw on when there are missing traditional objects from the cards deck. The cards are placed on a table with removable adhesive or on soil when there is no strong wind. Once a card role-play is done photos of the cards layout are taken.

Paper prototyping (7) was used with sticky notes placed on a board or on a table. The notes written or drawn on them and are placed on the board and moved around or replaced to demonstrate intended system behaviour. They way we use paper prototyping is similar to affinity diagramming. Affinity diagramming is technique that allows the researchers and the participants to visualise the problem being solved. This is done by placing adhesive visual notes on a board and moving them around to indicate interaction of the system being design.

We also acknowledge the peculiar benefit of co-designing (8) without any tools such as sticky notes or card sorting. We have noticed another level of creativity of impromptu usage of local tools or technologies they were familiar with.