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Towards a heart and soul for co-creative research practice: A systemic approach

Nicholas, Graeme; Foote, Jeff; Kainz, Kirsten; Midgley, Gerald; Prager, Katrin; Zurbriggen, Cristina


Graeme Nicholas

Jeff Foote

Kirsten Kainz

Katrin Prager

Cristina Zurbriggen


The language of co-creation has become popular with policy makers, researchers and consultants wanting to support evidence-based change. However, there is little agreement about what features a research or consultancy project must have for peers to recognise the project as co-creative, and therefore for it to contribute to the growing body of practice and theory under that heading. This means that scholars and practitioners do not have a shared basis for critical reflection, improving practice and debating ethics, legitimacy and quality. While seeking to avoid any premature fixation of orthodoxy, this article offers a framework to support researchers and practitioners in discussing the boundaries and the features that are beginning to characterise a particular discourse, such as the one that is unfolding around the concept of cocreation. The paper is the outcome of an online and face-to-face dialogue among an international group of scholars. The dialogue draws on Critical Systems Heuristics’ (Ulrich 1994) questions concerning motivation (revealing assumptions about its purpose and value), power (interrogating assumptions about who has control and is therefore able to define success), knowledge (surfacing assumptions about experience and expertise) and legitimacy (disclosing moral assumptions). The paper ends by suggesting important areas for further exploration to contribute to the emerging discourse of co-creation in ways that support critical reflection, improved practice and provide a basis for debating ethics and quality.

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2019-08
Print ISSN 1744-2648
Publisher Policy Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 15
Issue 3
Pages 353-370
APA6 Citation Nicholas, G., Foote, J., Kainz, K., Midgley, G., Prager, K., & Zurbriggen, C. (2019). Towards a heart and soul for co-creative research practice: A systemic approach. Evidence and Policy, 15(3), 353-370.
Keywords co-creation; participatory research; boundary critique; Critical Systems Heuristics
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Copyright Statement
This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

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