Consent and Ownership Agreements

Guide for Community Involvement


This document includes information about when and how to use the following forms:

  • Consent form
  • Media release form
  • Contributor license agreement

These forms can be used as tools to give participants:

  • More control over how they choose to take part in the co-design sessions,
  • A chance to negotiate the agreements to suit their needs,
  • A clearer understanding of expectations before beginning the co-design session.

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Participants taking part in user research or co-design may be legally required to sign consent forms. This is true in many settings, such as research institutions or corporations. However, these forms can play much more than a legal role; they are key to making sure everyone is informed about how they’ll be expected to take part in the process, and how the outputs of a session will be used.

These forms also help to ensure that participants are in full agreement with the process. Having clear agreements can support the creation of a space where participants can feel freer to share their ideas.

Allow participants to change their own terms

When appropriate, give participants the opportunity to co-create and modify the consent, media release, and licensing forms. This gives them the power to define how they want to take part, and helps to ensure their full understanding and agreement to the process. If you can do this early on and together with community leaders and participants, it will give participants a way to to change the terms to meet their needs or to offer partial consent.

Revisit your agreements

You may need to revisit these agreements at various stages of the project. For example when there are any changes to your co-design plan, or if participants have concerns or disagreements about the process along the way. Remaining flexible and allowing for some changes to the agreements can help to resolve potential conflicts.

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There are a variety of forms you may need, including the following:

What it is

The goal of a consent form is to inform participants about the nature and details of the co-design activities and to document their agreement to participation. Documentation of consent helps to protect the rights and welfare of co-design participants.

A consent form usually includes:

  • Details of the activities they are consenting to participate in
  • Any risks and benefits
  • What information they agree to have collected
  • Their right to withdraw at any time
  • How you will protect their privacy
  • Who they can contact if they have questions and concerns about the co-design session.

When to use it

The use of a consent form may be requested by project partner organisations, such as schools or health organisations. Use of a consent form is not always necessary. Consent can be given in different ways depending on the context of the project and the needs of participants and partner organisations.

It might be that participant consent is sufficiently covered by a contributor license agreement. In other cases consent may be covered by agreements that the organisation or community already has in place with its members.

When working with participants who may have difficulty understanding the content of a consent form, but who are legally able to give their consent, you can use an assent form instead. This form includes the same information as your consent form but is written in plain language.

When working with children or others who cannot legally give their consent, a parent, guardian or caregiver may need to give consent on their behalf. However, encourage all participants to voice their own consent or disagreement and respect their wishes even when someone has legally consented on their behalf.

Where appropriate consent can also be documented through formats other than a form, such as verbally, or through a video or audio recording. Facilitators should also be aware of different ways non-verbal participants may give or revoke consent during the co-design process, such as through gestures or facial expressions.

How to use it

Discuss the need for consent forms with your project team and partners in the early planning stages of co-design. Consent forms (or alternative formats) should be created once you have confirmed the details of the co-design activities. Participants need to give their consent before taking part in any of the co-design activities.

Templates and examples

Consent Form Template

Minors Consent Form Template

Media release form

What it is

A media release form asks co-designers:

  • If they are ok with being captured in media (photos, audio, video) during the co-design process
  • What types of media they consent to (e.g. no video, but images are OK)
  • How that media can be used (e.g. for research, for marketing)
  • Who the media can be shared with (e.g. the research team, within the organization, or to the public).

When to use it

If you or others plan on taking photographs or recording any video or audio footage during your co-design sessions.

How to use it

Have participants sign a media release form before beginning any co-design activities in which media will be recorded. You can create one media release form for a single session or for a series of related co-design sessions. Just be sure to make the conditions of the agreement clear in your form so participants know exactly what they are agreeing to.

In some cases, you may ask participants to record the sessions themselves; be sure that everyone is aware of when it’s appropriate to capture media, and how to do so respectfully. In other sessions, it may not be appropriate for any recordings to be made.

Templates and examples

Media Release Form Template

Contributor license agreement (CLA)

What it is

The author of any creative work is automatically assigned an “all rights reserved” copyright of the work. This restricts anyone other than the creator of the work from using it, unless they request and are granted permission. A contributor license agreement (CLA) allows the owner of the work to loosen this restriction and to choose how the work can be used by others. In a co-design session, a CLA can be used to affirm the ownership of participants’ contributions, and to set clear terms on how their work can be used by others


At the IDRC, we use a CLA to ask co-design participants to license their work under an open, Creative Commons (CC) license that allows us (and others) to reuse and modify their work. We license our own work in the same way. This includes several requirements, such as attribution, that allow us to acknowledge a participant’s contributions. A Creative Commons license means that participants maintain control over how the work is used and ensures that their contributions are properly acknowledged.

In contrast, an exclusive license is often the default in conventional workshops. In these cases, participants are asked to assign to the organizers an exclusive, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable license to use, modify, and redistribute the work. This approach is at odds with the collaborative and mutually-beneficial values of co-design.

When to use it

Consider using a contributor license agreement any time tangible work is being created in a co-design session, such as design sketches, drawings, models, maps, diagrams, code, etc. Not all license agreements need to be open or royalty-free. This may only be appropriate when you’re working on a collaborative, community-based project.

In commercial projects, for example, your organization should compensate your participants fairly if you will profit from using their work and want to have an exclusive license for it. An open license is most effective when you want all participants of a co-design session to have the ability to use, modify, and share each other’s work in the future. In this case, your own work should be openly licensed, too.

How to use it

If you choose to enter into a license agreement with participants, walk through the details of agreement with them to ensure that they understand and agree to the terms. Have each participant sign the agreement before beginning your co-design sessions.

If you are asking participants to sign an open license agreement, take some time to explain the reasons for open licensing and to negotiate the terms with them. There may be an agreement that you can come to where they can provide consent to share some part of their work and not others, or to specify ways they agree to have their work used.

Templates and examples

Contributor License Agreement Template

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A note on accessible forms

The language of these forms should be easily understandable and avoid technical or legal terms. It should be provided in alternative formats in advance of a co-design session to allow all participants enough time and resources to access and understand the content.

Consent Form - Case Study

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