Within the BLUE-C programme, the co-creation process can be defined as the collaboration between actors (companies, entrepreneurs, associations, policy makers, public bodies, consumers, etc.) from one or more sectors of activity working together on the ideation and development of an innovation (product, service, initiative, etc.).
This process makes it possible to share ideas and enrich them thanks to the experiences and knowledge of the different parties involved.
And it is precisely because of these benefits that collaboration with others brings to a community as a whole, especially a collaborative community such as those that the BLUE-C project aims to strengthen, that this Bite Size knowledge aims to provide (future) entrepreneurs, professionals, students and SMEs with the basic knowledge on the co-creation of new ideas, products, services or initiatives.
On the other hand, this training may be of more interest to you in middle/senior management positions, or if as a (future) entrepreneur you are thinking of launching an innovation in the market.
The main aims of this BIte Size are:
- Understand what co-creation is and why it might be beneficial for you.
- Acquire competencies and skills on how to start a co-creation process.
Generally, co-creation refers to a process whereby companies establish channels of communication and collaboration with increasingly critical and informed consumers, gaining access to first-hand feedback on their needs and expectations and inviting them to share their ideas for creating new products/services or adapting existing ones.
However, as noted above, co-creation can be extended to a wide number of stakeholders, as long as they contribute value to the objectives of the collaborative process. In this sense, at BLUE-C we speak of co-creation in reference to any collaborative process that involves the active participation of two or more parties in the ideation, development, testing and implementation of an innovation in the blue economy sector.
We encourage you have a look at the following video to get further insights on what B2B co-creation means in terms of social innovation: Co-Creation for Social Innovation – Hitachi
Why is co-creation relevant for you as a (potential) professional?
Collaboration is a driving force for continuous improvement, competitiveness and resilience, which allows professionals and entrepreneurs to quickly respond to the changes in their markets or environments (i.e, taking advantage of a new business opportunity to explore the blue economy opportunities in coastal communities).
Moreover, it gives you access to first-hand knowledge and opinions from stakeholders as fundamental to the performance of your activity as, among others, your customers, suppliers or your “competition”.
Also on that note, co-creation gives you access to new sources of information that you would probably not otherwise be able to access on your own, and it is a great networking tool that will allow you to describe synergies with other actors!
Some of the benefits of this collaboration are, among others:
- Generation of a greater number of original ideas with value for the final beneficiary. It is well known that two heads think better than one, so, surely, the quality of these ideas generated through an informed exchange will also be of higher quality.
- It is a powerful tool for the exchange of experiences, knowledge and creativity, which favours peer-learning and mutual-learning and boosts business innovation.
- Co-creation allows, in many cases, the sharing of resources between parties, so that in addition to gaining new knowledge, you can also access important inputs for your professional activity (for example, new communication channels to promote the result of co-creation or raw materials necessary for the manufacture of the new product in fishery).
- This facilitates competitiveness and reduces the potential risks that an innovation process may entail for its participants, as these potential risks are also shared among the partners.
- As with information or resources, co-creation allows you to reach wider audiences through two basic mechanisms:
- If you include potential consumers in your co-creation process, then you will get them to act as prosumers or crossumers, which increases engagement with the devised product/service and pushes them to act as brand ambassadors.
- The result of co-creation, in addition to reaching your customers or final beneficiaries, will also reach the customers or audiences of your collaborators.
In short, collaborative, co-creation and co-design processes with other actors in the same coastal community (or not) greatly favour business innovation, as a force for change that favours the resilience of the economic fabric of the most disadvantaged areas and makes it possible to ensure the future of a business or initiative.
Innovation, transformation, must be a constant, and can be applied at various levels: the development of new products, the implementation of productivity improvements, more efficient communication with customers or suppliers, better waste management through the application of circularity solutions, …. and all of this, big or small, is more bearable if you have the right help!
Now, how to set up a co-creation process with others?
Do you have an idea that you would like to develop to take advantage of the opportunities that the blue economy offers your community, but you don’t know how to implement it? Would you like to explore new innovations together with other like-minded actors?
Then collaborating with others will help you polish your idea and put it to work!
Co-creation, however, can occur at different levels, depending on the level of commitment between parties. Thus, it is possible to distinguish between:
|LOW||It occurs when parties collaborate in order to improve their business processes and/or strengthen their professional relationships with partners, suppliers, competitors, customers, etc.|
|MEDIUM||Here, innovation already comes into play, as the parties commit to share their knowledge, skills and experience for mutual benefit. Thus, networks are also strengthened.|
|HIGH||In this case we are talking about closer collaborations and, probably, more lasting in time. The parties involved collaborate to co-create or co-design products, services, activities or projects that generate a benefit for the communities and greater value for their customers.|
In any case, co-creation can bring you great value, but bear in mind that it will not always be a simple process and requires prior planning and strategy in order to be fruitful.
On that note, keep in mind that during a co-creation process, the Design Thinking model plays an essential role. Thus, take into account its phases of thinking:
- Divergent thinking – after empathising with the challenge and identifying the aims of the co-creacion, then, during the ideation step, it is advisable to prioritise at first the quantity over the quality of ideas.
To make the ideation process easier, the creativity of those involved is essential. You can learn more about how to develop one’s own creativity by applying simple methods at: 16 Techniques for Creativity | Indeed.com
- Convergent thinking – which includes the “filtering” of ideas until the most appropriate one is selected in terms of value and feasibility, as well as its development, implementation and testing.
Take a look at the following graphic to learn more about the Design Thinking method that can be key to initiate a co-creation process and, to learn more, visit: Design Thinking: Study Guide.
Source: Design Thinking: Study Guide
If you were to submit your business idea/new product/service/product to a design thinking process:
- What would be the ideal process?
- What would be the idea to test?
- Which stakeholders and third parties would you like to involve?
Strategic Roadmap towards co-creation
As co-creation is a process involving other businesses, organisations and relevant stakeholders in the ideation and design process of a product or/and service to ensure customer needs are met and value is created, they’re based on 5 main steps:
- Prepare in advance – reflect of your objectives and needs when setting up a new co-creation process:
- Take your time to think carefully about what your motivations for co-creating are and what results you are hoping to achieve. Which are the main objectives of the co-creation and co-design process?
- Once you know what your goals are, reflect on who will be helpful.
- Do you know any business or organisation aiming to achieve the same?
- Who may be interested in co-create and/or co-design an innovative product/service?
- Do you both share common values?
- What resources do you need? Is there any business or organisation owning them?
This is known as the “Research” phase, after which you may find it useful to draw up a short summary of potential stakeholders with whom you can make contact in order to initiate co-creation.
We suggest you fill in a simple table like the one below, but of course, we encourage you to find the template or registration model that best suits your tastes or needs. Line 1 has been completed as an example for you:
|NAME||Main area(s) of activity||Why to collaborate?||Key inputs||Availability||Contact Information|
|Grow touristy!||SMEs cluster in the field of tourism in the region of Cáceres, Spain||Because it is an organisation of experts dedicated to promoting the activity of small tourism businesses and highlighting the attractiveness of the region in order to generate international interest in the destination.||A lot of experience in the sector. Professional profiles from different fields. Networking events. Access to funding for marketing campaigns. Training programmes for tourism professionals.||available||
(Name of main contact)
- Engage other businesses, organisations and stakeholders.
Now is the time for networking! That is, once you have defined the needs of the collaboration and identified relevant actors, it is time to contact them and share your idea(s).
Engagement and motivation are key factors when starting a collaborative process from scratch. In addition, networks may play an important role when it comes to attracting partners to the co-creation/co-design process.
Developing strong and reliable professional relationships will take time, but bear in mind they should be based on shared values and compatible goals.
You can learn more on how to mobilise your ecosystem in the “￼Mobilising your ecosystem to your initiative” unit within the BLUE-C programme.
- Understand mutual needs and expectations
The next step in the co-creation process will be to jointly and honestly and transparently co-define the expectations, needs, obligations and rights of each party involved in the process.
It is also recommended that a small document be drawn up that sets out the basic methodology of the collaboration, so that the information is clear, accessible and available to all at any time. This will contribute to the prevention of risks or possible misunderstandings during the co-creation process.
- Ideate, re-think or construct a product/service,
Again, we recommend you take a look at some creativity techniques to develop in a group that can facilitate the ideation process, whenever necessary. More information here: 5 Techniques to Conduct a Successful Ideation Process | by Pathum Goonawardene | UX Planet
To re-think or co-create a joint product/service/project, the following aspects should be taken into account:
- New perspectives: developing. Ideas and solutions for the challenge
- Business Plan
- Funding – how are you going to fund your new initiative? And, also, how are you going to divide the benefits if any?
Taken here into account the knowledge you can acquire by review our “Productization & Marketing” Bite Size.
- Test and validate your innovation in the market.
Don’t forget that, if you apply the Design Thinking methodology, you will be facing an iterative process that seeks to provide innovation with the greatest possible market value and/or positive social impact through the testing and implementation of improvements.
Some tips and tricks to facilitate co-design & co-creation are:
- Set SMART goals (i.e. goals which are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound), and define deadlines.
- Social issues that businesses must address in order to benefit their local communities are another important consideration. This is made easier when numerous businesses in the same area or zone cooperate to offer a close-by good or service while respecting their surroundings and minimising their negative effects on the environment and society.
- Sharing resources among businesses can boost their competitive advantages while reducing their negative effects on the environment. Additionally, the new product or service will be more sustainable over time and will thus provide greater value for the businesses or organisations involved as long as it adheres to the fundamentals of the green economy.
- A mutual relationship of trust and respect between the participating entities should be established for the proper development of the collaboration.
Currently, one of the main examples of co-creation in the tourism and hospitality sector comes from social networks. The Internet and social networks such as Instagram and TikTok have revolutionised the tourism paradigm. In fact, the profiles of travel, transport and tourism companies are the most followed on social networks, second only to the entertainment, culture and sports industries.
Nowadays, in just one click, an Internet user has at his or her disposal a wealth of options on restaurants, monuments, activities, transport and hotels, making the decision-making process more complex. This is why many tourism companies co-create with either local, national or international influencers by inviting them to experience their services and sharing them with their audiences, as a way to provide them exposure on the networks and attract a more targeted audience, and as a great example on how to build up a crossumers fan base.
Similarly, other examples of co-creation in the tourism sector take place in collaborative processes between actors from different areas of activity. Think, for example, of a small local restaurant, a fisherman and a tour guide working together to create a tourist experience that allows visitors to experience local life first-hand and to delight in freshly caught fish after a guided tour.
Do you want to launch a collaborative activity to mobilise your ecosystem to create a positive impact on your community? Then “plogging” can be a perfect example of how to combine sport and active leisure with environmental protection!
Plogging is a worldwide movement that uses running and other outdoor sports to clean up cities or natural spaces from all kinds of non-organic waste. Including beach cleaning, which is beneficial for the environment. It is a kind of co-creation between citizens, SMEs and/or public bodies to protect the environment and keep natural spaces clean. Also by taking part in a group sport where you interact with more people in your community, you might have a great opportunity to connect with others in your ecosystem and network for your professional endeavours!
To learn more about plogging, go read All about Plogging, the union of ecology and sport – Iberdrola
In any case, keep in mind that this is just one example of co-creation and collaboration to consider in your community, with which you can generate a positive impact. Moreover, this sector, as in the case of tourism, is particularly suitable for collaboration processes with final beneficiaries and related sectors in the co-creation of new products, services, initiatives, win-win situations, etc.
To take a deep dive into the opportunities for co-creation in the renewable energy sector, we believe you will find the following report useful: Exploring modes of sustainable value co-creation in renewable energy communities – ScienceDirect
Co-creating in the environmental protection sector can be a daunting task, if we approach it from the systematic changes that need to occur on a large scale to ensure the sustainability and health of our aquatic resources.
However, it can also take place on a small scale through the strategic collaboration of businesses, individuals and local/regional public bodies committed to reducing marine or river litter, establishing environmental regeneration plans or learning to manage resources more efficiently in the blue economy sector by applying circular solutions, for example.
Again, the example of “plogging” summarised in the “Leisure & Sports” section would be applicable to this field of action.
To learn more about the importance of creating ecosystem thinking for the co-creation of positive environmental impact, you can take a look at the following TED Talk (it focuses on an example taking place in the US, but can be equally applicable to a European approach): Co-creating a regenerative blue economy for all | Daniel Kleinman | TEDxBoston
Sustainable ports have the roles of promoting ports as industrial hubs for the manufacture of material needed for the construction and transport of coastal wind turbines, as well as their maintenance; and promoting coastal protection, coastal and marine engineering and construction, as well as “building with nature”.
Shaping ports as key nodes for land-sea interaction and exploring their role in the development of maritime spatial planning; and the transition to the circular economy in the port context, for example by improving waste management and recycling, are other tasks of the sub-group.
A great example of co-creation and co-development of products is the case of the SeaMark project, in which a large team of multidisciplinary professionals put their experience and knowledge together to take advantage of algae as a raw material in various industries. You can find out more about this collaborative European project by watching the following video: Horizon Europe SeaMark Project: Seaweed-based Market Applications
- EnvironSmart Natura
- Barco del Tajo
- Mar Interior
- Cádiz Atlántica
- Holwerd aan Zee
- A North Sea Perspective on Shipping, Energy and Environmental Aspects in Maritime Spatial Planning (NorthSEE)
- Blue Horizons
- Blue Growth
- Northwest Regional Skills Forum
- Donegal Local Enterprise Office [LEO]
- Grow Remote
- Fáilte Ireland
- Donegal ETB
- Bord Iascaigh Mhara
- Co-Creation for Social Innovation – Hitachi
- Webinar: Innovating together for a sustainable Blue Economy
- Co-creating a regenerative blue economy for all | Daniel Kleinman | TEDxBoston
- Co-creating blue innovation
- “Collaboration and Co-Creation: The Road to Creating Value” – Gaurav Bhalla
- Design Thinking: Study Guide
- 5 Science-Backed Ways to Boost Your Creativity