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Co-creation, how to make a difference

Why don’t you just do it, Dad? Those were the words of my youngest daughter a few months ago, when I pulled my brains out about how to make a difference and to be of service to others. I realized she was right. All great leaders in the world stand out because of what they do, and walking their talk. Amazing how wise children are.

I realized I should share my vision first how to make a difference. My vision is, through making a positive shift in myself towards: connection, openness and unlocking potential, I inspire others to do the same, having impact to larger communities. The domino chain effect, like shown in the picture below, is actually a good metaphor. Every next stone is larger than the one before, so the impact increases every time. Do you know that, by increasing the height of every next stone in an optimal way, in 29 steps the Empire State Building can be pushed over?


Next to making a shift and have impact, also progress is important for me. Many things inspire me, but it’s way to much to put my energy in everything. I was looking for a way to make choices about, where to invest my time and energy and where not. What works for me is asking myself: “Can I make a difference?” If yes, then it’s a good opportunity to put my energy in. If the answer is no, then I better let it go. I believe I can make a difference by unlocking potential and facilitating co-creation of a healthy environment. However, how can I do this in the best way and make the connection?

Does it feel good?
While working on several projects working towards a healthy city within the Citizen Initiative “City of Tomorrow” in Eindhoven, I noticed the method used for co-creation sometimes worked, but sometimes doesn’t. Especially, because we work with government, science/education, entrepreneurs, and citizens, coming from different backgrounds and organizations and different values and interests. The process of co-creation is mostly a very rational process focused on brainstorms and commitment. When working with government, science, and (technical) entrepreneurs, that usually worked if everybody felt safe. But when involving creative people or when there was no establishment of safety, the process of brainstorming and making commitments was very difficult. The process didn’t feel good for me. I feel that creativity is vital in this process, and for that, engaging the right brain and intuition is important.

Unlock the potential
About six months ago, I encountered Jessica Tangelder and her Host2Transform program for leadership and unlocking potential beyond boundaries. By doing the mini course and later the Leadership Development Program, I found it was the missing link. In my experience, facilitating co-creation is about creating a safe place and connection, unlocking the potential of the individuals and the group, and engaging with the right energy towards a common cause. By applying the H.O.S.T. toolkit, all necessary elements are addressed with practical exercises. H.O.S.T. stands for Human energy, Openness, Shared resources, and Transformation. By doing the exercises, you activate your body and left and right brain, which boosts creativity and critical thinking.

Just do it
Not long after experiencing the possibilities of Host2Transform, I was asked to facilitate a co-creation session, which was set-up in the traditional and mostly mental way. It didn’t feel good, so I used the H.O.S.T. toolkit instead. Due to the numerous example videos and direct support of Jessica, I could rewrite the procedure in one day. No time for testing, which felt vulnerable, but also exciting, because it felt much better. Not everything went like I imagined; it went even better. Because everyone got physically engaged, the energy was high and people took charge of their own process and inspired each other. In the traditional way, a project plan is made and looked at outcome, means, restrictions, risks etc. Now, we approached it from the point, imagining that our personal dream or project was already established and successful, and looked back at how we got there. It seemed awkward at first to approach it like this, but it really worked and it is a positive focus.

Outcome and lessons learned
The outcome we created were several project proposals that are also feasible. The picture shows the collection of project posters, on which all commented with Tops (what is already great) and Tips (what could make it even better).

My lessons learned:cocreation

  • If it doesn’t feel good, then don’t do it
  • To unlock the potential of the group, you need safety, openness and connection
  • Make sure the group agrees with the common cause
  • Address both analytical and creative people by using exercises and framing why you do it
  • The way you work together is more important than having different types of people
  • If you don’t know how to do it, then imagine you do, and just do it anyway

Comment Section

One thought on “Co-creation, how to make a difference

By Jessica Tangelder on 22 June 2017

Thanks John, great blog about how we aim to scale our impact exponentially!

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