Co-design in Health

The Widening Digital Participation programme is exploring ways that digital can help those who are most disadvantaged. We have adopted a co-design approach to this programme to involve as many people as possible in the design process

Co-design is the method of involving users (people), stakeholders (decision makers) and practitioners (front line staff) in the process of design. Whether you are designing digital products, patient pathways or both it is important that everyone affected has the opportunity to input into the process.

“Nothing about us without us” has been a mantra used by a host of excluded groups over the past 20 years and it has never been more important than in a digital age where poor design can increase health inequalities by further exclusion.


People co-designed with


Co-design workshops


User research visits

Our co-design principles

1. Design with people, not for them

The whole premise of co-design is including those who will be affected by decisions. They are the experts in their lives and know their world better than anyone else.

2. Go where the people are

Conversations are more open and honest when people feel comfortable and safe. Spend time where they spend time. Don’t ask them to come to a formal building as it shifts the power dynamic. Consider your local community spaces

3. Relationships not transactions

Health is a very emotive subject. People’s relationships with professionals, peers, digital tools and their environment are unique to them and must be taken into account

4. Work in the open

Share your learning. Share your work. Be transparent in your design decisions. Have the confidence to tell people why something has worked and why something hasn’t. It will help others

5. Understand underlying behaviour

Look beyond immediate causes to understand the many different factors underlying behaviour: personal and social, cultural and economic. Be conscious of the assumptions that you might make. We look beyond those that others might have made.

6. Do it now

We learn so much more by trying things. Get it out there and see what works and what doesn’t. This will unearth things that you will have never considered before and make things better

The model and guide

Step 1: User needs

User needs not wants. Spend time with people to understand their needs.

Step 2: Stakeholder needs

Understand their pressures, expertise, view of current system and how things can improve.

Step 3: The thing

Create a set of recommendations to try out. Using things that already exist to prove concept.

Step 4: Iterate

Try it for a while. Take stock. Find out what is working and what isn’t then iterate.

Step 5: Deliver

Deliver and evaluate.


Read our full co-design in health guide

Further Reading