Massachusetts Institute of Technology (UNITED STATES)
About this paper:
Appears in: ICERI2022 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Page: 6280 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-09-45476-1
ISSN: 2340-1095
doi: 10.21125/iceri.2022.1550
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Co-creation is a design process that engages designers, users, and other stakeholders in the entire design process (problem framing, idea generation, solution development, testing, feedback and iteration) as equal members of a design team. This paper centers on why training in co-creation is an important approach to integrate into curricula for graduate students aspiring to careers in the humanitarian sector. A co-creative approach teaches students to tap into the creative potential of displaced people to develop solutions to problems they face. It broadens the idea of who holds expertise, helping students recognize the value of knowledge and experience of displaced people in developing more effective and efficient solutions to humanitarian challenges. With a grant from the National Science Foundation in the United States, the Humanitarian innovation team at D-Lab has designed a new kind of curriculum that can be used for graduate students going into the humanitarian field; a Co-Creation Toolkit for Humanitarian Innovation . The long-term goal of this educational initiative is to move future leaders in humanitarian work toward more collaborative and inclusive approaches to problem-solving within the context of humanitarian response. Over the past four years of the project, the instructors have developed a suite of co-creation methodologies and integrated them into their class on humanitarian innovation to support students keen to use their skills and education to help solve many of the urgent challenges facing displaced populations.

Despite the humanitarian sector’s commitment to Participation Revolution that came out of the 2015 World Humanitarian Summit, most displaced people have little voice in decision-making around the aid and services they receive. There are few concrete pathways that would help humanitarians engage with displaced populations to elevate the role they could play in shaping their situation and improving their lives and livelihoods. As a result, outside expertise is often overvalued and the cultural and contextual expertise of the displaced undervalued. The Co-Creation Toolkit was developed as a new curricular resource to equip future leaders in humanitarian work with skills to effectively engage with the displaced, expand their participation, integrate their expertise and ultimately them to gain more agency and authority around shaping their future. It can be used in its entirety or discrete sections can be integrated into graduate courses across disciplines such as engineering, public health, and architecture.

The paper will look at why understanding co-creation is relevant for students interested in going into the humanitarian sector; how being able to facilitate co-creation activities is useful both professionally and personally; and why training around bias, power and mindsets develop important skills for students who plan to become sector experts within the humanitarian context. The paper will also present key student learnings over four years and reflect on the experience and challenges of integrating co-creation activities into a university-based class.
Co-creation, humanitarian, graduate curriculum.