Chapter 02



Introduction to planning

Philipp Job title
Deepta Job title
Design Thinking Guidebook
Design Thinking Course

“It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near one.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

This planning quote from Tolkien’s fantasy classic “The Hobbit does what all good quotes should do, speaks to the reader on many levels. This is, of course, a piece of dialogue that moves the plot forward. But Tolkien isn’t merely talking about made-up lands. He’s referring to the necessity of identifying risk in any thorough plan – and making sure we host space, structures and processes that can move beyond it.

After diligently studying the theory of design thinking in Chapter 1, you are now ready to begin using the tools! There is so much more theory to go through, by the way but this chapter helps you do two very practical things: 

GET STARTED – If you are new to design thinking as a whole, there are tools to try out which are useful in their own right and can be applied to your work. This will help you decide whether to go on to the full process.
GET A GLIMPSE INTO THE FULL DT PROCESS – If you have some previous experience, this section covers the planning stages you will need to complete before starting your full process.

Use these steps to diagnose the challenge and whether you have the right resources to approach it:


Step 1:
Identify the type of project – Is it a complex Social Change or an Organizational Change challenge? What are we gathering for?

Step 2:
Validate competencies and resources – Are there appropriate resources available and buy-in from your team or my partners to drive this forward? To get started with codesign you need:

  • Between four and seven colleagues willing to invest time to try a new approach
  • A space to host your sessions (can be online!)

Step 3:
Timelines – Is there enough time? You will need:

  • Minimum 2 hours to prepare
  • At least 6 hours to run
  • Minimum 1 hour to follow up

Step 4:
Relevance and Utility – Will it be of use to follow an iterative, collaborative and creative process?

If you can say yes to the above, you are ready to get started!

Planning your co-design

Bistra Job title
Adi Job title

When we first started to plan our codesign sessions (whether one or few days events) we used the usual design thinking preparation tips and relied on our own experience in civil society and social innovation. We realized that having some basic know-how in event preparations is very helpful, but when it comes to co-design, preparations need much more in-depth content dive. In order to outline our approach, we are sharing a list of questions that you and the codesign hosts (and/or participants) need to review and answer together. Your answers will then lead the logistic part, as well as all other relevant part of your codesign.

Questions/Decisions to make when planning your codesign?

Why are you co-designing? or What Are You Co-Designing? Multi-Year Strategy / Annual Workplan / Programme / Project?
Is this for a new or an existing activity?
What civic space issues are you addressing? What are the pillars of your existing long-term strategy and how do they connect?
How many programmes / activities do you want to design? You will have a max of 5-6 dependent on: number of days for the process; and facilitation team size.
Who do you want to bring together? Who is affected by the issue? Which skills and disciplines could help in designing the solution?
What desk research do you need to do? Context; stakeholders; existing solutions / programmes; possible solutions?
Who do you need to survey and how? What do you need to know?
What objectives and outcomes do you have for learning new skills and approaches from the perspectives of: your core team; participants in the process?

Few additional tips & tools that can get you started – and can be used at the co-design as well:

Context mapping process

  • Ask your colleagues or organizers to identify the current trends, issues, challenges that characterize the situation at hand? Discuss this in the planning meeting or capture these on post-its and place on a blank sheet of paper – you can easily use Miro or Mural, as well as free Jamboard for online settings
  • Group the post-its into categories or observe some repeating patterns in your ways of thinking (10 minutes)
  • What is this context telling you? What are some assumptions you want to test at the codesign? Which elements of the context map you must have reflected in your participants group? (15 minutes) 

Stakeholder mapping

  • During your planning meetings, ask to discuss and map out the direct and indirect stakeholders involved in your current challenge. 
  • For deeper insights, act out the current stakeholder dynamics through roleplay and capture their points of view.
  • Finally, make a clear decision on who should be part of your codesign and in which role.
  • This is a useful prelude to any codesign as it ensures diversity of workshop participants.

Tips coming from our I4C practitioners:

The process of co-design was very unfamiliar to our participants, and we missed to tackle that in the planning. When the codesign started, we felt like we were rushing through the agenda without giving meaningful space for participants to question the process or share any clarifications. Luckily, we were able to sense the confusion in the room and we made a decision on the spot: to host a 30-40mins session on co-design, onboarding people and clarifying details. It made a huge difference to the final result but we did struggle with the time allocation and had to change the agenda significantly. From this experience, we learned that planning ahead and understanding the participants is a crucial element to designing a fruitful codesign.” Fred from I4C Hub Africa

I had 3 planning sessions with a partner who wanted to apply codesign to a social challenge related to social entrepreneurship. Due to time availability, we had to stick to only 1 codesign session, quite an intense one. I was told participants have some basic understanding of design thinking. After all the planning, I felt very secure and confident about everything. As soon as we started the event, I relaized that participants had totally different expectations tghan what I was briefed. I had to let go of my planning work and agenda and adapt to the dynamic and knowledge of the participants. It was difficult but very satisfying experience – and I would have never been able to do it unless I did all the planning work ahead, because through the planning I understood them better and I could adapt to the energies and expectations in the room. Planning makes you more open to change.” Deepta, from I4C South Asia Hub

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