Involving Community Members in Planning

Guide for Community Involvement


It is helpful to involve members of the community or organization in the early stages of co-design planning, with the aim of getting their input from the start of the process, as well to allow time for leadership to emerge as members learn more about the process and possibly become interested in facilitating co-design sessions.

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Since community members are most familiar with the context and culture of their community, they can help to plan appropriate activities, ensure that the sessions are accessible for their community, and encourage other community members to get involved.

When participants have a stake in the process from the beginning it can make it easier to find participants, increase community engagement in planning the co-design sessions, and support outcomes that are more likely to address the community’s needs and desires.

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It is a good idea to invite or request the presence of a variety of community members at the initial planning meetings. Explaining your intentions at the start of the process (i.e. to encourage community involvement) can help the team come to a shared understanding of the goals of the process.

Who to reach out to

Any interested member of the community can be involved, in particular, it could be useful to bring in:

  • members in positions of leadership in the community,
  • members who have facilitated community groups in the past or have a desire to do so,
  • members might be most in touch with community needs and desires, who perhaps have been in the community for a long time or who have strong relationships with community members.

Ways community members can be involved

The following are a few ways community members can be involved in the co-design process. This list is not exhaustive - leaving room for other roles, tasks or interests to emerge over the course of your planning sessions is a good idea.

Facilitating co-design sessions

Community members who have experience facilitating or who are interested in facilitating can be encouraged to do so. It is not necessary for community members to have previous experience in facilitating or co-design. However, it is important to work together as a group to determine what support they may need to facilitate the sessions. This can sometimes take the form of several advanced planning meetings.

Planning the activities and materials

During the initial planning sessions the following may be covered:

  • Suggested facilitation approaches,
  • Co-design activities and schedule, tailored to the community’s particular context, interests and needs.

It may be the case that community members have their own ideas about how they wish to structure the sessions and don’t require a lot of input or support. If members are willing, talking through their plans and activities can be a great learning experience for designers and others on the project, while respecting the independence and autonomy of community members by taking their lead.

Planning the logistics of a session

Community members can take on the logistics of planning the co-design, and are often well-suited to do so because they’re more familiar with potential venues, the best dates and times for members, and local services.

Inviting other community members

Community members have their own ties within the community, so they are well-suited to help find additional participants for the co-design sessions and planning effort.

Barriers to participation


It is important to compensate community members for their time whenever possible. Rates should be comparable or greater than what members might make at their job or at similar or typical jobs of fellow members.

Logistical barriers

There may be other affordability barriers to participation, such as the need for transit, food, or childcare. Consult with community members, if you can, on what these needs may be. Here is an example of a few things that could help remove these barriers:

  • Providing transit pre-paid tickets or tokens,
  • Providing food and beverage during the meetings,
  • Offering free childcare at the venue.

Letting members know that this support is available from your first meeting will inform members’ decision to participate or not and make it easier for them to request it.

Accessibility needs

Ensure that the required accessibility services or technology are provided at your meetings whenever possible, such as ASL, captioning, translation, remote participation, wheelchair accessible spaces, etc.

Refer to our Accessibility for Co-designers guide for more details.



Holding meetings at times that are convenient and accessible for everyone is important. For example, if many community members work from 9-5, you may need to hold meetings in the evenings or on weekends. Compensating members for attending meetings can make it easier for them to get there during working hours.


Whenever possible, meet participants where they’re at. Check out local gathering spots (parks, community centres, community services), and use community events (forums, meetings) as potential meeting locations.

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