A Co-Design Process for Innovation


I believe candor is important, so let me start by stating my perspective on one of the key elements of change.  While I know it is valuable for educators and schools to focus on things such as assessment, curriculum, teaching strategies, classroom management, and child development (this by no means is the complete list of priorities in education), I believe the catalyst to our efficacy in all of these areas is culture.  The culture of an organization is a reflection of our thinking and being with respect to:

  • curiousity
  • experimentation
  • acceptance of failure
  • care and support
  • honesty
  • learning
  • pride

My view is that we can push the boundaries of what we are currently doing in education if the culture is right for us to innovate.  Under these conditions, we are open to new ways of assessing, teaching, understanding children, and working as a community to better this generation for a future that will look different than today.

This blog entry is a summary of our recent professional day as a staff on September 25.  The focus of this day was on designing innovation.  We used a Co-Design Process taken from a recent workshop by WellAhead attended by Pam Becker, our VP,  to understand, develop, and refine ideas that would be potential innovations.

We started the day with a short introduction.  The messages we wanted our staff to hear were that if we are to truly innovate, we need to suspend judgment of the ideas, encourage thinking outside the box, and avoid being consumed by potential barriers.  In essence, we need to give ourselves permission to dream as big as we want.  We also wanted them to know that they have our permission to fail; that in fact many innovations fail and that in this failure are sometimes the greatest opportunities for learning and growth.  If an idea is worthy of implementation, the potential success of that innovation will fuel us, give us a stronger sense of pride, and push us further to pursue the next innovation.

The first activity we asked of each other was to write on a post it note what innovation meant to us.  Here are some of the comments:


At our subsequent staff meeting, we organized these post it notes by themes.  The overarching ideas that emerged from that activity are another reminder of the key components necessary in any culture of innovation.  Even more importantly, these themes, as well as the Co-Design Model can be useful in teaching our students how to be innovators.  Here is a summary of the themes generated by staff:


We then started our Co-Design Process by outlining the Co-Design Ideation Principles (a set of guidelines for effectively innovating and working as a team):

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With these ideation principles in mind, we launched into the innovative design process using our school goals to guide us.  Our school has two main goals or focus areas.  The first goal relates to developing community (relationships, care, compassion, sense of belonging, and positive school culture) and the second goal relates to technology (developing 21st century fluencies and a positive digital footprint).

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The staff were asked to organize in groups of 6-8 people around one of these goals in order to begin our design process for innovation.  The Co-Design process starts with 4 key steps:

Idea Generation (the staff were asked to brainstorm as many ideas that related to the goal of their choosing and write each idea on a sticky note).  They then shared these ideas with a partner and chose one idea on which to focus.

Idea Development (the staff use a Co-Design worksheet to clarify their idea).  The worksheet then circulates amongst the group members in a round robin format so that each person can provide feedback on the idea.

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Idea Refinement (the staff take the feedback from their colleagues to refine their idea)

Idea Desirablity (on a matrix, ideas were plotted to determine if they met all or most of the criteria for desirability, feasibility, impact, and integratability)


IMG_1693 large

Ideas that fell closest to the centre of the matrix (in essence the bulls eye) were seen as best fitting all criteria for innovation desirability.  This led to further discussion and reflection as each group ultimately worked to pick one key idea to present to the rest of the staff.  With twelve group ideas presented, staff members were then asked to regroup according to the ideas that most appealed to them.  These newly formed teams went through a second round of the Co-Design process to gather more feedback and to refine their ideas.  At a subsequent staff meeting, teams met again to reflect on their ideas and to assess whether they met the following four pillars for potential innovation:


  1. Human Element (Does it touch the heart?)
  2. Does it push the boundaries of what we believe to be true?
  3. Does it generate a feeling of energy for us or does it involve an emerging field?
  4. Does it utilize technology or 21st century skills?

The staff will continue to work on their potential innovations over the remainder of the year, refining, experimenting, and learning.  Our focus is on the design and culture of innovation as well as the collaboration that ensues.  I look forward to being on this journey with our team and am incredibly fortunate to work alongside such a passionate group of educators.

On a final note, our Department Heads and Admin Team organized the pro d for our staff, including the presentations and format for the day.  A special thanks to such an incredibly dedicated group of leaders who continually help us push the boundaries of what’s possible. (Jamie Askew, Pam Becker, Joni Blaxland, Jeremy Brown, Raquel Chin, Rob Colombo, Miriam Cyr, Bryan Gee, JJ Hyde, Paul Lemire, Bonnie Mattu, Carlo Muro, Jennifer Nelson, Jeremy Neufeld, Dave Romani)


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