Co-design is a transdisciplinary co-operation between Knowledge institutes, Entrepreneurs, Government and Non-government institutes (what we call ‘KENGi’ partners), approaching the assigner not just as a ‘consumer’ of the design results, but as a ‘co-creator’. In this way the ‘tacit knowledge’ of the assigner is unlocked, resulting in a result that gives an optimal fit to the assigner’s needs.
Designing Metropolitan Food Clusters does not focus exclusively on establishing physical structures (‘hardware’), but also addresses the organisational innovations necessary to make newly established plants, machinery and technology actually work. This is established by involving the network of local stakeholders in terms of business development, cooperative structures, and legislation (‘orgware’) and ensuring that future staff is trained to be able to do their job and continuously develop new knowledge and skills (‘software’).
Co-design targets the generation of inventions and interventions that lead ultimately to complete system innovation. System innovation is needed because not only technological development is necessary, but also the relations between stakeholders need a transformation for agriculture to link up with the challenges of globalisation and the network society. In these design processes new scientific knowledge results from an ongoing iteration with the practical know-how of all participants.
For the co-design process it is essential to organise the KENGi partners. Together they need to find new ways of cooperating, as in most cases they have different objectives that should be addressed in synergetic ways instead of leading to paralysing conflicts. Knowledge institutes go for remarkable results in peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. Entrepreneurs aim at profit and continuity of their business. Non-governmental organisations defend the ideals of specific interest groups, while governments stand for the common interest.
The way we organise the co-design process is directed at establishing a balance between these interests, find as much common ground as possible, and as a crucial condition for success create trust between participants. Without trust the unknown paths towards system innovations cannot be explored together, avoiding the pitfalls of vetoing power and entrenched positions, and of ‘not invented here’ or ‘not in my backyard’ attitudes.