Monday 12 April 2021
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The importance of co-creation in seeking sustainable solutions

In recent years, we have seen paradigm-shift in the way businesses, communities and even governments seek solutions to the challenges they face, from traditional top down to increasingly more agile bottom-up approach. This article highlights the importance of co-creation and how co-creation techniques such as hackathons and mashathons can be used a practical, powerful and tangible ways to source solutions and services for sustainable development. Over the last centuries, businesses and governments have spent most of their time trying to become more efficient, developing processes to cost effectively deliver goods and services. However, this made business and governments to think of citizens and customers as a passive market for whatever product or service they create. But, thanks to Technology this has changed, markets have become like online forums whereby consumers define their own value and citizens want to be more involved in governance. Moreover, the emergence of the internet has greatly transformed the world; changing how people live, communicate and innovate. Furthermore, globalisation has made the world a global village, enabling people and businesses in different parts of the world to maintain long lasting relationships, rethink the value creation process and become more responsive to the fast changing customer needs.

Co-creation can be defined as a process that brings different stakeholders together, in order to jointly develop a product and or service that is mutually beneficial. In the co-creation process all stakeholders work together to create better ideas. Various studies show that co-creation is a strategic approach which strengthens the value of brands and changes consumers’ perception about a product or service. Moreover, co-creation is also an innovative practice that give companies a competitive edge over their competitors. Nevertheless, critics claim that little is known about how co-creation practices influence consumers who are not directly involved in the co-creation process. It is unclear if co-creation influences their perceptions of a brand or a product in any way. With an intention to answer this question, in her Master’s thesis, Joyce van Dijk explains how co-creation persuade customers who are not involved in the co-creation process by changing how a brand is experienced and the value it provides for consumers.

Today, co-creation is being used by some of the world renowned brands to create excellence in customer-centric innovations. LEGO a Danish company best known for producing Lego-brand toys, comprising mostly of interlocking plastic bricks, has an online community where members can see cool creations by other members and propose their own designs for new Lego sets. Other members on the platform can review and vote for best designs. LEGO then reviews the idea and picks a winner for an official LEGO Ideas set to be created and sold worldwide. The creator of the Lego set earns a percentage from the sales and is recognized as the creator on all packaging and marketing. This concept celebrates loyal customers and rewards them for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism. Another good and practical example of co-creating with the customer is being used by DHL, the largest mail and logistics services company in the world. DHL is working together with some of its loyal customers to co-create solutions that improve the service delivery experience for all. Together with its customer, DHL was able to create a drone by the name Parcelcopter to be used to deliver parcel. Using Parcelcopter DHL can potentially deliver local parcels in 8 minutes as opposed to half an hour.

Co-creation doesn’t only apply to companies that deliver services or make products but it can apply everywhere and can be used to solve just any problem. In Sports, Manchester City wanted to improve the overall mobile and web experiences for its fans. Together with the fans the football club created a mobile-first, video-rich experience that rebranded the club and provide fans with relevant content. On 23-24 September we hosted the first gender based violence (GBV) hackathon, where different stakeholders including developers, GBV experts and enthusiast citizens came together to leverage on the power of technology to seek solutions to combat GBV in Namibia and beyond. By applying the experiences from victims and offenders, the teams were able to come up with practical yet tangible solutions that connect the GBV victims/survivors, instantly report GBV and provide relevant information on GBV. Some of the solutions developed during the hackathon aims to improve the management of GBV cases by digitalizing processes such as the protection order.

In conclusion, as our nation seek for solutions that will help the nation meet Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP), national development plans and Vision 2030, we should turn to technology and use it to enable citizens to engage with the state in the co-creation of governance. Moreover, allow citizens to use their creativity to develop solutions that will improve the delivery of government service, thus enhance their own lives.  In the spirit of Harambee, businesses and government should co-create with their customers in order to seek sustainable solutions that offer mutual value.

*Lameck Mbangula Amugongo is country Ambassador of 1 Billion Africa in Namibia. He holds B.IT: Software Engineering, B.Hons: Software Development (Cum Laude) and currently pursuing MSc. Computer Science

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