Auckland Co-design Lab - reflections on 2018

Alastair Child - March 2019

Last month the Auckland Co-design Lab celebrated its fourth birthday – yay!

The lifespan of labs can be pretty short (maybe there’s a lab equivalent of ‘dog years’?) so we’re pleased to have made it this far and excited about what lies ahead.

Over the past month, I’ve bumped into a few people that were involved in the development of the Lab back in late 2014.  A reflection from these brief chats was a need to get better at sharing our journey, evolution and what we’re learning – the good, the bad and the ugly.  

So an aim for 2019 is to put more time into sharing our work and amplifying inspiring work by others. Reflecting on 2018 seems like a good place to start.

It was an important year with new team members and an evolving approach. Shifting away from an early focus on co-design process, methods and live challenges/projects. That’s shifting to a stronger emphasis on practice development and growing co-design capability and better understanding the conditions and behaviours needed to sustain it.


In part, this is a natural maturity step but it’s also grounded in what we’ve heard people tell us is most helpful for their work.

So, here’s a few highlights from 2018:

  • In February and March we developed a prototype co-design capability framework and toolkit to help teams explore new skills and better understand the organisational conditions needed to sustain innovation.

  • Over 50 staff from the Ministry of Social Development participated in co-design capability building workshops over four months focusing on live projects.

  • Policy by Design - Over 130 staff from across central government and Auckland Council attended workshops in Auckland and Wellington. Held in May and November explored the role of design can play in policy development and implementation. A key focus was the barriers and enables people face to working in new ways. You can read more about it in Penny’s blog.  

  • Co-developed 7 cases studies from across Aotearoa NZ sharing stories of teams applying a design-led approach to their work. The exciting thing about this report is that it only scratches the surface of great practice being developed across New Zealand. We collective need to celebrate and champion it more.

PbD booklet cover.PNG
  • Contributed to two co-design projects with The Southern Initiative and central government partners, generating new insight and ideas that have led to practical action on the ground.

    • Māngere ECE project adopted a place-based lens on early childhood education. It explored participation, parental engagement and school readiness from the perspective of ECE staff and parents who helped identify opportunity areas and key concepts for testing. (report coming soon)

    • The Pacific Labour Market Challenge report explored how the advancement of Pacific people in the workforce can be accelerated it sets out key insights, personas and principles that will be valuable for policymakers, providers and employers.

  • The Lab team contributed to over 15 lectures, workshops and conferences across New Zealand, Australia and Europe. It provided a great opportunity to share what we’ve been learning and learn from inspiring projects, practitioners and academics.

  • Just shy of 10,000 people visited the Co-design Lab’s website during 2018 to access free tools, resources, case studies and reports to download, reuse and adapt under a creative commons licence as far away as Mexico and Austria.

  • Arriving late to Twitter (yes..really!) our new account now has over 400 followers from around the world.

In short, 2018 provided an opportunity to explore new areas of work and re-frame how we can make a useful contribution to public sector innovation in New Zealand.

Looking ahead to 2019, key focus areas will include working with The Southern Initiative and our sponsors to explore the conditions needed to grow co-design capability and practice development in the areas of ethical design practice, measuring impact and building off the Policy by Design work exploring the role of practice-based evidence.

In future blogs (there’s another one on policy and design coming soon…) we’ll share more about our direction and what we’re learning.

Ngā mihi