Co-Designing with Vulnerable Populations

Many humanitarian organizations support support people who are vulnerable. They may have experienced trauma, oppression, or disempowerment. Co-designing solutions meant for them can be an incredibly empowering experience. However, special care must be taken to ensure the emotional and psychological safety of your co-designers. Helpful principles are below.

  • Create safe space, both physical and emotional.
  • Provide choice whether and how they participate.
  • Collaborate fully, making decisions with not for them. Use collaborative governance to mitigate power imbalances.
  • Be trustworthy as you are consistent, clear, follow through, and respect boundaries. 
  • Empower beneficiaries through capacity building, affirmation, and support.

(For more information, check out The Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care (2015) and Valesca Lima’s Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions (2021)).

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