Associated with Waag Society, Hortus botanicus Leiden, Balkan Botanic Garden of Kroussia, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, The Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid

Co-creating a Community of Practice

As co-creation is not just a design method, but more of a state of mind, we try to incorporate the principles in as many of the BigPicnic activities as possible. 

Shortly after the Train-the-Trainer Meeting in October, the gardens started their first co-creation explorations by working with users and stakeholders to design exhibitions and science cafes about food secruity. Some tread lightly and take small steps, others jump right in and start swimming. But in both cases, there are lessons to learn, and inspiration to take from each other. 

Buidling models to co-create education projects (credit WAAG)Building models to co-create education projects at the Train-the-Trainer Meeting. Photo credit: WAAG

With this in mind, as the project’s co-creation trainer, WAAG wanted to help facilitate this exchange of experience and ideas – and also provide a safe space to get advice from the experts. Ideally we would all meet face-to-face on a regular basis and work together on the questions and cases at hand.  As we are spread throughout Europe and Africa, this is obviously not an easy option. Then there is the difference in experience, willingness to take the lead and jump in, and the different contexts to consider. How can you create a community that can trust each other, and can exist on its own from scratch?

We figured that you can’t really expect individuals to fully commit to a community if you start with a big group of virtual strangers. This would involve too much coaching from just one partner (in this case WAAG) and not enough knowledge exchange between the gardens. We wanted to make each partner an owner of the community – so they needed to create this community together. 

This is why we built the ‘Community of Practice’ in three intervals – so that partners would slowly get to know each other and create an understanding with each other. 

The first members of this Community of Practice were staff from Hortus Botanicus Leiden, Balkan Botanic Garden of Kroussia, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and The Royal Botanic Garden of Madrid. They planned co-creation activities and meetings within their own context but were also able to get feedback on these plans from the other three Partners and WAAG (as an expert on co-creation and a moderator). Members started to get to know each other, developed a rapport and were able to exchange ideas. After three months five new gardens joined the community and these new Partners were able to make use of the experience and sense of community the first four gardens had established. After another two months, the final six gardens joined the community.

Since we couldn’t meet in person, we opted for the next best thing: a group-Skype call. Members (represented by 1 to 3 people from each organisation) of the community meet on Skype every other Monday for one hour. Each meeting has a discussion-theme decided by the members themselves. All Partners provide ‘activity reports’ beforehand with short descriptions and pictures of their activities to inspire each other. 

For now, the sessions are moderated by WAAG, but the experiences and stories of the partners are leading the community – and eventually the members will moderate these sessions themselves. The Community of Practice will then be the perfect place to brainstorm, design and co-create together with peers.