No. 42



Opportunities and Lessons of Co-Creation

09 December 2020


RiTo No. 42, 2020

At present, co-creative governance seems to be more complicated than ever before. The crisis that is changing the world contains a billion intricate problems, but there is a lack of trust.

What is the role of community in finding solutions to complicated problems and shaping long-term plans and policies? What has empowered or hindered community co-creation in Estonia? What is the role of technology in co-creative policymaking? In my article, I discuss these issues, look for inspiring examples from across the world and give recommendations.

The citizen culture and rapid development of society in Estonia have common features with other East European countries, and also differences. Like our companions in fate, after the restoration of democratic government we quickly reached the stage of alienation. Representative democracy developed in full swing, carried by ambitious objectives, but political and civic culture that is influenced by historical, cultural and social context needed more time for maturing. The concept of civil society as the driving force of fighting against the government, and not the strong foundation of society, lingered in East Europe for a long time, and this did not contribute to the development.

Estonia has still done well in bringing representative and participatory democracy closer to each other and intertwining them. And although we are in the setback phase at the moment, there are some good examples of co-creation and using the energy of citizens and communities. I am of the opinion that the potential of technology is largely unused in co-creation, it is engaged more in consumer democracy.

The best examples of co-creation in Estonia have been born in the cooperation of communities and local governments.

Cities that are smartly governed make daily investment decisions and shape long-term strategies and local policies in co-creative way. I think it is important to increase the participation of individual citizen and motivate them for co-creation. It is like returning to the “I Decide Today” opinion portal, but with matured community culture, expert knowledge and moderated discussion.

Some recommendations and examples for planning and implementation of co-creation process:

  • The process must be understandable and transparent. Result is important, but not the only important thing. People also need quality of discussion and equal opportunities for presenting their positions.
  • We need demanding participants. The result of co-creation is valuable only if the participants are informed and demanding.
  • More timely nudges. In order to motivate critical and interested participants, they have to be nudged in addition to timely and well-considered sharing of information. Giving of information is often not sufficient for motivating to participate.
  • Playfulness is of help. Playful methods could be experimented with in co-creative policy making.

Corona times have given Estonia a new opportunity to show the way in making the much-praised digital solutions serve the shock that has shaken societies, and use co-creation to solve complicated problems by providing smart solutions that would also shape future policies.