Working in isolation can be difficult and frustrating. Some people might prefer to come up with and develop an idea alone, and see it come to fruition by their own hand. Ask marketers about the creative process, however, and most would agree that several minds are better than one.

In the same way that WPNC has rolled out its own version of sprints, the agency has recently been consulting with clients and prospects about co-creation. The fancy term for it is participatory design and it’s been around for 40 years.

Digital strategy director Dan Martin explains: “Co-creation breaks down silos, often a problem for charities, getting individuals to pull together as part of the creative process and, ultimately, taking an organisation on a journey. If a project needs to get off the ground but some people don’t feel invested in it, involving them in shaping the idea is more likely to make it succeed and, crucially, gain buy-in from the board or budget holders.”

The agency has created a framework based on the three stages of co-creation: ideation, where participants all share creative thoughts and themes; this provides fuel for solution development, where some of those ideas are firmed up into how a product or service might eventually look then fashioned into prototypes; and test & validate, where the idea is interrogated. This guaranteed, physical, testable output is perhaps co-creation’s greatest benefit.

“The idea came from a discussion we were having internally about the challenges of working with all of a charity’s stakeholders, internally and externally,” Dan continues. “Charities might not realise it, but they have solid foundations for co-creation.

“They all have an identified need which must be tackled and tapped into. They have, in the main, developed great digital teams alongside traditional fundraising expertise, and benefit from bringing in external experts to fill the gaps and ask the right questions. Meanwhile, silos are being bridged organically thanks to the digital transformation many charities are undergoing, which makes them a natural breeding ground for co-creation.”

WPNC has run a series of workshops allowing attendees to sample how co-creation can help charities. Mixing up teams from different organisations gives participants a feel for working with people outside their normal sphere. This would be replicated via interdepartmental sessions in a normal co-creation setting.

Workshop attendees opted prior to the session to tackle the issue of increasing millennials’ engagement and donations. Dividing into groups — and armed with market insight consolidated into a target persona, marketing manager “Louise” — teams began by generating on-the-spot ideas.

Groups reached a consensus on which idea to develop in their teams, and each member contributed further thoughts to develop the concept. Finally, the crystallised product ideas were presented back to the room.

Dan adds: “We hope people go away from these taster sessions with an understanding of the value of co-creation and an appreciation of how an independent facilitator can help get the best possible results.”

Delegates clearly found the session useful and left with practical advice and ideas. Helen McKenna-Aspell, group head of marketing and income generation at the Civil Service Benevolent Fund, commented: “I learned how everyone can contribute ideas, and you can rapidly evolve something into a really innovative and exciting product that you can take forward quickly into prototyping. “We have a big digital transformation and fundraising job to do, evolving [how we work with] civil servants, volunteers, supporters and staff, so this is very valuable. I think we will use a facilitated series of workshops to bring forward ideas that we have based on personas and audiences… and work through to practical solutions.”

Neil Hart, senior marketing and communications manager at Young Epilepsy, concurred: “The most valuable part was taking yourself out of your work environment, being with different people and thinking outside the box; also, the practical aspect of trying something abstract… and flexing those creative muscles in a collaborative mindset.”

Finally, Dan implores co-creators not to forget their ultimate beneficiary: the audience. He concludes: “The importance of audiences shouldn’t be lost in the co-creation process. Involve them and you’ll get a better product, as you will have the input of those experiencing your service. We think co-creation can be applied to any situation.”