Photo is illustrative. Cristi Tohatan (Unsplash)

In recent years, buzz words such as co-management, co-design and co-creation have risen to prominence in multiple sectors, including in the youth sector. At the heart of these concepts are the principles of those who hold the power (such as politicians, public servants, service providers) to share some of their power with the target groups or end users.

About co-creation and co-design

In the case of co-creation (or sometimes also called co-design), it often refers to specific policies, programmes or services being developed in close collaboration between the decision-makers and users. For example, a co-creation process for designing a youth policy or youth programme might involve setting up a steering committee with the equal representation of decision-makers and end users and then implementing a number of participatory processes, such as public consultations, roundtables, surveys and seminars to inform the creation process. Sometimes, particular methods, such as design thinking, might be implemented to guide the process of co-creation. At the heart of the co-creation process is the commitment that the solution or end result should be created in equal partnership with those who hold the power (typically adults in positions of power and influence) with those who are impacted by the policies, services or programmes being created (young people) from the start to the end of the process. An opposite of co-creation would be when solutions are written and created primarily by the decision-makers.

About co-management

Co-management refers to the commitment of ongoing shared monitoring, governance and decision-making between the decision-makers and end users in relation to the implementation of a policy, programme or delivery of services, or managing a process or organisation. It employs similar principles to those of the co-creation process with an emphasis on the implementation phase (as opposed to just the creation or designing phases).

Whereas co-creation and co-management, when done with genuine intentions, can be effective and empowering practices, they are more suitable in some situations and less so in others. For example, there might be no practical reason or need to practice co-management with adults in the context of leading a youth organisation, whereas co-management can be an empowering and effective tool in the management of the work of a decision-making or advisory committee.


Martti Martinson
Martti Martinson

Martti Martinson is an Honorary Fellow at Victoria University, Australia and his research and advocacy work is focused on the enabling environment for youth participation in decision-making processes. He is a strong advocate for the concept of human rights based youth work and legislating youth participation.