This research reports on a co-design project to improve creative engagement tools with academics and public sector organisations in the northwest UK. Creative engagement (which is a staple of co-design activities but also used widely outside design) is often supported by tools and resources. However, there is a need to tailor tools for specific contexts to accommodate the skills and practices of creative engagement professionals and the contexts in which they work. While there is a literature examining tools in co-design and to a lesser extent in wider creative engagement activities, there is a lack of research on how tools can be improved. This article presents a framework that enables engagement practitioners to improve the tools they use in their practice. Following a Participatory Action Research approach, three case studies document the application and testing of the improvement framework. The paper discusses the insights and lessons learnt from this process and the impact of the new improvement activities on the practices of the creative engagement professionals. The research outcomes include building improvement capabilities in participants and understanding of how the framework works in practice and how it could be more widely applied to tool improvement within and beyond co-design.
Open access paper