Co-Create Solutions

During the co-design phase, you’ll support Challenge participants to design or adapt solutions with relevant stakeholders. Along the way, you’ll provide the capacity building necessary for them to design systems-informed solutions and create systems change.

Co-creating systems-informed solutions involves bringing together various stakeholders to design, gather input, and iterate collaboratively. This process should include:


Challenge participants to come together to co-create solutions.


Challenge participants collaborating with identified systems stakeholders, such as government departments, policymakers, private sector companies, or other relevant actors, to design solutions or receive input.


Challenge participants to engage with those directly impacted by the solution and those closely involved in its implementation.


Challenge participants receiving support from coaches or short-term advisors to facilitate the process.

To be implemented effectively, it’s important to recognize that human-centered design, co-design, and systems thinking require expertise and experience. Some participants may already be familiar with these topics, while others may encounter these concepts for the first time. 

Training is crucial in integrating human-centered design, systems thinking, and co-design into the innovation process. Assess the skills and knowledge of your cohort, identify the skills they need, and strike a balance between capacity building and practical action (i.e., time spent on co-design).

While training is necessary, more is needed! Coaching is critical for participants to apply what they’ve learned. Assigning paid coaches to teams yields significant benefits, with participants often citing coaching as the most valuable part of the program. Alternatively, if coaching is not feasible, hosting “office hours” can provide opportunities for participants to receive 1:1 or small group support, apply the tools and practices taught, and receive feedback on their progress.

Innovation competitions have long relied on short-term advisors and rapid input from a wide range of experts. However, AI4 found longer-term coaches and mentors to be far more impactful and appreciated by participants. The WFP Innovation Accelerator came to a similar conclusion
Our experience shows that the matching process of innovation teams and mentors is quite time-intensive. In addition, we decided to steer away from one-off short mentoring sessions (30–60 minute sessions) with several mentors to replace it with a model where the same mentor meets multiple times with the same team. Even though we use a smaller pool of mentors, this design ensures that the ultimate contribution of each mentor to their innovation team is more significant.”

Allow participants to choose their path. Each participant and team will have varying levels of expertise and specific needs. Some may already possess knowledge on certain topics and can skip capacity-building in those areas, while others may require personalized 1:1 support to grasp the content entirely. Furthermore, teams may need to emphasize different aspects at different stages of the competition. Some teams may invest more time in understanding user needs, while others prioritize extensive testing. Give participants the flexibility to co-design their experience in the competition to the extent possible.

The WFP Innovation Accelerator came to a similar conclusion on creating a flexible curriculum: 

“To maximize the outcomes of the programme, our design team created flexible curricula for mixed cohorts that allow innovation teams to choose specific areas of focus and exercises that fit their topic and maturity. This approach was tested in our most recent innovation bootcamp and received highly positive feedback from innovators.”

Participants bring valuable skills and expertise to the table! Here are some ways you can leverage their capabilities:


Technical Expertise

Participants often have specialized knowledge in various sectors or local contexts. Create opportunities for participants to volunteer to lead sessions, sharing their expertise with the cohort.



Some participants may have prior experience in human-centered design, co-design, or systems thinking. Tap into their expertise by inviting them to co-facilitate sessions or share examples from their work.


Alumni Engagement

Alumni participants who have previously completed the program can serve as coaches, facilitators, or even judges for new cohorts. Their firsthand experience allows them to provide valuable insights and support to the next group of participants.


Peer Feedback

Design multiple opportunities throughout the program for participants to share their progress and challenges. Foster a supportive environment where participants can provide practical feedback to one another.


Program Feedback

Establish a mechanism to receive quick participant feedback about how the program is going. This feedback loop allows you to pivot and adjust your approach for aspects that may not work.

Though more interactive sessions are generally preferred and well-received, rolling blackouts impacted AI4R participants to participate in longer, larger sessions. We pivoted mid-program to recording videos to introduce new tools, concepts, and methodologies and relied on 1:1 and small group coaching and feedback sessions to accommodate internet and power outages. WFP Innovation Accelerator came to similar conclusions, noting the importance of getting feedback on both topics and format from participants was critical.

Decisions that will set your direction

  • How much capacity building will you provide to participants, and what topics? What formats will work best for the busy schedules of your participants?
  • What activities or outputs will you make mandatory?
  • How will you provide coaching or feedback?
  • How will you create time and space for the co-design of solutions, particularly with stakeholders?

People you will need to find your way

  • Challenge Manager

You’ll need an excellent project manager to keep everything running smoothly. This person does not require technical expertise but should be able to pivot quickly.

  • Trainers/Facilitators

You will need trainers/facilitators who can adapt or create a curriculum for your program and lead engaging sessions with participants. These trainers/facilitators should have expertise in systems thinking, human-centered design, co-design, and training and facilitation in general.

  • Coaches

Teams will need a coach! Often teams will have similarities and can be grouped under one coach. Coaches can also facilitate and strengthen inter-team collaboration.

  • ICT Support

If you plan virtual or hybrid sessions, provide ICT support for participants and the challenge manager. ICT support will significantly improve the experience for everyone.

  • Communications Specialist

Continue to engage a communications specialist to promote the profile, activities, and achievements of the participants and lessons learned in implementing the challenge.

Review your plan for these critical elements

  • Have you built-in flexibility for participants to dive deeply into relevant areas and skip tools or topics less relevant to them?
  • Have you identified committed coaches that can engage longer-term with teams?
  • Have you designed a mix of self-guided learning, group activities, expert-led learning, and participant-facilitated learning?
  • Have you created smaller incentives or mini-challenges along the way?

See the warning signs first

  • There will be too many topics and possible tools and methodologies to cover. Choose wisely.
  • Lean heavily into the most practical content and tools. Systems thinking tools, in particular, can be difficult to learn and implement for beginning learners.
  • Participants typically have full-time jobs already! Provide the maximum possible flexibility and limit requirements to the minimum. Providing spaciousness between sessions and deliverables is one way to provide support.
  • Be ready to experiment and pivot with format, technology, and participant preferences.
  • Use short-term advisors with caution. Opt for longer-term mentorship and coaching when possible.

These resources can help you on your journey

Are you looking for training materials to support your co-creation? Draw inspiration from GKI’s Accelerating Innovation for Resilience (AI4R) Bangladesh program:

Read more from Frontier Incubators on how many accelerator programs build their curriculum. Learn how to co-design with those impacted by the problem with Elrha’s Humanitarian Innovation Toolkit.

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