The Art of Co-Creation

Closing the Gap – a series of Oxford University postgraduate student insights to the Skoll World Forum 2018

Katia Dumont, MSc in Social Anthropology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, reports on the Skoll World Forum session ‘The Art of Co-Creation: A Storytelling Model for Impact and Engagement’

Does the way we tell stories resemble a colonized past? Whose voices are we amplifying in the social entrepreneurship field and under what circumstances? What is the end message of these stories and to whom are we addressing them? These are some of the questions and reflections of the inspiring panel “The Art of Co-Creation: A Storytelling Model for Impact and Engagement” that left spectators in awe.

Storytelling has had an upswing within the impact sector in the last years. Not surprisingly, as the sector grows, practitioners and communicators are actively analyzing and reassessing the formats used while seeking better ways and avenues to communicate inclusively. Yesterday, at the Skoll World Forum, we presence a terrific account of various journeys in search for co-creation and collaboration of storytelling. Facilitated by Tabitha Jackson from the Sundance Institute, the session proved to be a magical account of co-creating stories of impact in collaboration with a diversity of actors.

Fred Dust, global managing partner of IDEO, and Katerina Cizek, lead at the MIT Co-Creation Studio, framed the concept and art, rather then science, of the co-creation process. It takes time, patience, active listening and constant reflexivity from those participating, while it brings forward to question the traditional recognition of individual author and merits. These processes often arise tensions between diverse view points and cosmologies, however as Dust remarks, tension is not a negative state. Understanding that we share this world and that we need to work together through networks and connections in order to build upon those, is a powerful way to create stories. In order to make this process fluid a draft manifesto, which can be seen below, was created.

Two concrete and inspiring case studies joined the scenario. Megan Chapman and Bisole Temitope Akinmuyiwa from Justice & Empowerment Initiatives in Nigeria co-created a documentary on the injustice residents of Lagos informal settlements have gone through and their needs. The second case study, a spectacular virtual reality experience, Awavena. Constructed in collaboration by Lynette Wallworth and Tashka Yawanawa chief of the Yawananwá people in Brasil, recounts the story of a female shaman. Both of the accounts are voices of the local population and collaborations on the method through which the message is being communicated to the broader audience. Both terms co-creation and collaboration, one in which there is an iteration process while the other implies forming partnerships that compliment each others strengthens.

With several laughs and many smiles, the panel itself was a beautiful storytelling experience ending on a co-created and improvised note. Encouraging participants to seek co-creation not only for storytelling, but in everything we do and with the call to action lead by Bisola stating “Our strength” and spectators responding “Unity.”

The session was a call for reflection and action, to co-create with others in order to build an inclusive world. Recognizing each others strengthens and weaknesses in order to complement them, and to feel comfortable with some transitional tension.  These processes are necessary to create new structures and systems and we need to be constantly striving to build them. Like the anthropologist Margaret Mead once said “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Draft Manifesto

  1. Make media with people and within communities rather than for or about
  2. Focus on process rather than just product.
  3. Reframe who gets to tell and represent which story and why
  4. Starting point is relationship rather than defining partnership by form or end-product
  5. Media-makers working with citizens, communities, scholars, across institutions, multi-disciplinary teams, and/or with machines/algorithms in a shared, parallel discovery
  6. Respect each others’ expertise including first-lived experience
  7. Create and use new technology, new workflows, new tools, new kinds of teams, and new language of storytelling that shifts narrative paradigms
  8. Develop and use new protocols, new forms of leadership, new forms of decision-making, new models of ownership
  9. Not only interpret the world, but change it
  10. Share and learn, be open, contribute to transparent, open and public knowledge frameworks.