Library Element Report

Co-designing Digital Interventions and Technology Projects with Civil Society

Uploaded by RRI Tools on 07 April 2021

Co-designing Digital Interventions and Technology Projects with Civil Society. WEF White Paper. 6 April, 2021. Co-authored by Dr. Mark Latonero and Dr. Urvashi Aneja

This paper explores the concept of co-design in partnership with civil society, using COVID-19 technology interventions as an entry point. While media headlines often focus on the new technologies themselves, such as contact tracing apps, the focus of this paper is the role of civil society in developing these technologies in collaboration with the private and public sectors. The paper is a step towards thinking analytically, and therefore intentionally, about co-design as the practice continues to be explored. While care has been taken not to overgeneralize, the findings of the report suggest that the ability of civil society to influence the development and impact of COVID-19 tech tools was made possible by access to resources, long-standing relationships with the private sector or government, and the capacity to be seen as a trusted expert.

Co-designing crisis-oriented tech interventions offers designers direct access to workable
knowledge, equitable practice and the lessening of unintended but harmful consequences related to technological implementation within a given context. The paper also suggests that, while co-design is no panacea, it is a practice that emphasizes how core values such as trust and empowerment can serve as a common language for meaningful collaboration. Co-design methods have the potential to be a first step towards building equitable relationships among civil society and the private and public sectors, and can help address the power imbalances inherent in such collaborations.


1. Introduction
2. What is co-design?

  • 2.1 Challenges for technological co-design
  • 2.2 Incentives for co-design
  • 2.3 Co-design relationships

3. Value of civil society as a partner in co-design
4. Challenges for co-design
5. Towards equitable co-design strategies

  • 5.1 For tech companies
  • 5.2 For civil society