Impactful Co-design Training: An Impact Story from Palmerston North

Are impactful co-design training events possible? Does a short one-off co-design training event justify investment? Those questions wereat the back of Paul and Gina’s mind when they hosted the Palmy North Codesign Summit – a two day co-design training to support the local youth sector to take a collaborative, cross-sectoral approach to their work. The initial action created from the event suggests it was worth the investment.

Life as a Young Person in Palmerston North

Image of people standing in a line talking about how well their oranisation listens to young people

In February 2017, Gina sat down with a small group of young people and youth sector workers in Palmerston North to hear about the realities of life for young people in the region.

This is what we heard.

As a university town, there’s few options for school leavers who are outside the student population.

Car thefts are on the rise.

And the scope for young people to be involved in things that matter to them is pretty minimal.

Some of the local services felt sorely out of date with young people’s needs in 2017. Services were fragmented, and there was a clear need to build more youth-centered services and initiatives.

We’ve noticed in our travels around the country that every community has its own set of themes. For some communities, the main challenge is employment. For others, it’s a lack of cultural identity. Others might be grappling with environmental challenges.

That’s why it’s so important for communities to define the issues that matter to them. And to be empowered to work on those challenges themselves, rather than having a white knight from somewhere else drop in to ‘fix’ them on their behalf.

Motivated, but lacking the opportunity to collaborate

Photo showing two people sitting on the ground chatting at tht ePalmerston North Codesign Summit

Lifehack was invited to Palmerston North to empower their youth sector to better collaborate and co-design services and initiatives to support young people.

Our starting point was a bubbling desire in the youth sector to collaborate.

The youth sector was fortunate to have a strong foundation to build on. They had some well-connected informal networks, as well as the Palmy Youth Network. They’re an existing group from various organisations working to make good things happen for/with young people.

But there was a need to fold other organisations and people into this well connected group to build trust and increase the likelihood of collaboration.

The desire for collaboration was there; they needed a catalyst.

Our aim with the Palmy Codesign Summit was to increase motivation and capability for co-design, and create opportunities where people could connect to take the next step.

The Summit involved ⅓ whakawhanaugatanga (relationship-building), ⅓ co-design skills and tools and ⅓  visioning and action planning. You can read more about the content for the co-design training in our earlier blog post.

Impact story

Participant laughing at the Palmerston North Codesign Summit

A couple of months after the co-design training we checked in with folks on what had happened since.

We already knew they had enjoyed the Summit. Ten out of ten respondents gave the event the top rating in a questionnaire straight after the event.

But enjoyment means little if it doesn’t translate to lasting behaviour change and impact on young people.

Over time, we’ve developed a comprehensive questionnaire that’s aligned with our impact model. It’s designed to help us understand what’s changed for people and how that might create the conditions for youth wellbeing in Aotearoa.

We ask about collaboration, wellbeing knowledge, multi-disciplinary ways of working, action planning, partnerships—and the mindsets, aspirations, and capacities that enable those to happen.

Six of the 12 participants filled in the questionnaire, and we also had a report-back on visible progress from our main contact in YOSS.

At a practitioner level

Two people outside at the Palmerston North Codesign Summit chatting

People self-reported having a newly sparked motivation and commitment to youth wellbeing as a kaupapa, and working with others to improve young people’s lives:

“It was motivating to see the passion and dedication that others had about helping youth in Palmerston North. Which motivated me to want to do more through the Youth Council and possibly through collaborations in the future.”

We heard about people adopted new terminology, like the language of prototyping. Several people had developed a new understanding about the reality of young people’s lives. And a new peer support role has also been created, following the workshop.

“My motivation and commitment has increased in going out looking for extra wrap around support and courses and programmes for our youths […]. Going to meetings with others that work with youth.”

These are promising signs – and our impact model suggests that these factors increase the likelihood of positive outcomes for young people further down the track.

At a community level

The week after the event, the Palmy Youth Network steering group invited the participants from the Summit to prototype some new tactics for the upcoming Youth Week.

“It was hilarious (and a great way to test what we had learnt.)”

One participant said that they were looking to involve young people more in their organisation’s planning of events and activities. Another spoke about being more purposeful when engaging young people – listening deeply to their kōrero.

The participants are more connected and active in the youth network and are inviting each other to events and meetings aimed at building youth participation. Since the co-design training, one of the participants had reached out to the others for more support with their project and they had been connected to another youth worker who was passionate about that kind of work.

So the initial findings suggest there is potential for short one-off co-design training to have enough impact to justify the investment.

With more time, we would love to invest more in the Palmerston North community – both in evaluating the outcomes more fully, and in supporting the youth sector to build on the strong foundation it is starting to create.

As for the final word, we’ll leave that to Trissel Erikson – a wahine toa and the head of the Youth One Stop Shop in Palmerston North.

“Thank you sooo much – not only did it spark passion and fire, but lots of action too.”

Want to host a co-design training workshop in your town?

Image showing a vision board from the Palmerston North Codesign Summit

We produced a summary of the workshop we ran in this earlier blog post. It should have all the resources you need to get it off the ground – as long as you’ve got the right connections and inspiration as a foundation.

You might also want to check out our Resources page, which has many of our resources from 4 years of experimenting with codesign and social entrepreneurship with and for young people across Aotearoa New Zealand.

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