© Klaus Mersmann, GIZ

A Partnership of Equals: A Guidance on Co-Design

The MeerWissen Secretariat has recently published the first version of a guidance on “Planning and conducting co-design in collaborative marine research projects”. The co-design guidance was drafted for the purpose of inspiring and guiding all MeerWissen applicants along their endeavours of creating and planning new transdisciplinary research projects attuned to local needs and from a foundation of a strong partnership of equals. The guidance was developed by Dr. Sebastian Ferse, Dr. Marie Fujitani and Rebecca Lahl, research collaborators at the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT)  commissioned by the MeerWissen Secretariat.

The designated guidelines focus on how to plan and implement four elements and objectives that can be considered for a successful co-design phase.These elements include (1) developing a joint vision and common understanding, (2) engaging stakeholders from co-design to implementation, co-production and co-dissemination, (3) supporting partnership of equals through effective project management and communication with partners, and finally, (4) fostering sustainability of project activities and outcomes and maintain momentum with project partners beyond the end of the project. To meet these areas of activity, the guidance gives concrete tools and tips for each of the four parts. Furthermore, a list of recommendations for further readings is added at the end of each chapter and a summarizing handout including the elements of co-design, objectives and potential activities can be found in the annex on page 25.

The guidance on co-design is completely free to use and intended to be shared among colleagues.

Please note that the guidelines are considered a “living document”, which will be supplemented with the insights, experiences, and lessons learned of all successful applicants of the current third Call for Proposals, after these projects have completed their co-design phase.

Since its inception in 2018, the initiative MeerWissen – African-German Partners for Ocean Knowledge has focused on bridging the gap between scientific information and effective policymaking. Currently, MeerWissen, which is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and facilitated by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), is supporting twelve partnership projects in seven African coastal states. In October 2021, a new call was launched, offering further funding opportunities for new projects to increase the knowledge base, improve data availability and science-policy uptake.

At the heart of the initiative has always been a focus on “partnerships of equals” based on the idea of a co-design process ensuring that project partners are jointly setting priorities to achieve outcomes that truly meet local needs. In order to strengthen the Co-Design approach MeerWissen decided to offer future projects a funded co-design phase of up to 9 months followed by an implementation and dissemination phase of 2 years. This guidance supports applicants to develop a partnership of equals to achieve outcomes that meet local needs and can be used by all partners as well as decision-makers.

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