Best Practices for Co-Creating Network-Centric Resources

On August 26th, 2020, we held an online discussion with members of our network of resource designers to compare notes, share challenges and solutions in engaging communities and networks in co-creating knowledge-assets. We were fortunate to have Chloé Mikolajczak from The Restart Project, as an anchor for the discussion, sharing lessons learned in their efforts to engage community members in building the European Right to Repair Campaign Toolkit. 

Also participating in the online discussion, and thus, co-creating this blog post was: Kate Chapman, Wikimedia Foundation,  Marisa Figueroa, ECFR, Bob Gradeck, University of Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center, Kim Graham/Shared Assets, Nancy Hoebelheinrich, Data Management Training Clearinghouse (& Knowledge Motifs LLC), Neil Planchon, Oakland CA is current world HQ, Ugo Vallauri, The Restart ProjectRachel Wells, DataKind

Common challenges in the co-creation process:

We started out in small groups to surface challenges that resource designers face.

  • Getting started in a way that builds trust
  • Knowing who the audience is and what they expect
  • Gaining contributors, establishing adequate mechanisms and processes for contributing.
  • Getting the attention of crucial participants & turning that into substantive contributions
  • Using the right language
  • Being inclusive
  • Time
    • Working with volunteers who have limited time
    • People who are already over-capacity donating time 
  • Keeping the excitement going past the beginning 
  • Funding ending just as engagement is starting
  • Engaging outside of the resource creation process is essential (technical assistance, meetings, etc.) but how is that funded/rewarded or tied to the process.
  • ‘Online-only’ spaces making network co-creation even more exclusive
  • Get feedback on how to improve & inform on how feedback was used.
  • Understanding cross-cultural usefulness of a global network resource.
  • Providing resources valuable to everyone across a network, accounting for different operation styles
  • Not just knowing your audience, what’s the right format? What about different languages and translations?
  • Maintenance? Requires feedback to improve (how do we even get that feedback?). Takes time to maintain. 

Solutions & Best Practices for Co-Creation

After we reflected on our challenges, we then brainstormed solutions to our challenges and added what we would consider best practices for co-creation.


  • Bringing the network into the design stage before even starting the project, building goals based on co-designing, before moving into co-creation
  • Design for the extremes — start with what works for everyone 
  • Create different onboarding processes, or provide other mechanisms for participation and feedback.
  • Have a clear path for those that want “to join.” 


  • Be transparent about the goal/purpose.
  • Being transparent about the motivations for the co-creation and what stage it’s at – and what stages there are for people to get involved (not everyone might want to/be able to be involved at every step)

Managing change / progress

  • Be patient with the process of change, recognising that a transformational shift in one individual or instance can be exponentially impactful.
  • Be open to change and evolution away from the original ‘idea’ or ‘purpose’ of the network/its resources.
  • Be open to change from the original vision, as the network grows; it may morph.
  • Not rushing to formalise a ‘network’ letting things evolve organically as a group


  • Invite feedback and show what you did with it (‘you said, we did’)
  • Importance of maintenance and feedback (taking all opportunities you can to get this)
  • Prioritise incorporating those few initial contributions that you get, and show others in the network how you’ve incorporated them into the resource, to demonstrate & motivate others to participate 
  • Ask volunteers how they would like to contribute and what the best way to reach them for contribution is (do they prefer major update emails? Pre-scheduled meetings with pre-work? Regular casual check-ins on slack?)


  • Make sure to communicate the value of those that contribute/join 
  • Get time and demonstrate your network that you can add value, do something useful


  • Ask local groups to engage with local media as a simple step to raise awareness.
  • Try to make sure that what is being offered is relevant at different levels (e.g., local, regional, national or individual, team, organization, broader community)
  • Go local, and be more assertive when spreading the voice on your findings, campaigns.
  • Be engaged with people outside of the creation process helps. These creation processes depend on trusted relationships. Can’t just say “I’m creating a resource” without being part of a community.