Hub researchers contributed to the UN Decade course on co-design 

By Senia Febrica and Mia Strand

In May 2024, the UN launched a new, freely accessible, online training course on ‘Co-design for the Ocean Decade’​​, as part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development 2021-2030 (‘Ocean Decade’). One Ocean Hub contributed to content development for the course, with inputs from Hub researchers, Mia Strand (Nelson Mandela University, University of Strathclyde & Ocean Nexus, South Africa) and​ ​Bernadette Snow (Scottish Association for Marine Science, UK). Their contributions stressed the importance of equal partnerships in co-design​ with non-academic collaborators​, various ways of knowing, and asymmetrical power relations in knowledge co-production

The course is designed to equip participants with a fundamental understanding and practical skills in Co-design methodologies, particularly in the context of the United Nations’ Ocean Decade initiative. It aims to extend the reach of Co-design training to a global audience, enhancing the capacity of various ocean communities to effectively contribute to collaborative ocean research and policy-making. 

The self-paced 18-hour course offers six modules that provide participants with ​a ​comprehensive introduction to Co-design concept​s​, objectives, and​ potential​ phases of the process. It introduces them to key elements needed to identify relevant stakeholders, formulate sustained engagement strategies, design equal partnerships, and impact monitoring plans. The aim is for participants ​to​​ ​develop joint vision​s​ and goals for Co-design projects​,​ and prepare a conceptual Decade Action proposal. 

Hub researchers Mia Strand and Bernadette Snow present as part of Module 5 of the course, focusing on “Equal Partnership and Collaboration: Insights into ensuring equal partnership and collaboration in Co-design initiatives.” Their inputs discuss crucial considerations ​for equity and equality in Co-design processes with non-academic  collaborators, ​such as ​the coming together of ​various ways of knowing ​the ocean ​and ​inherent ​asymmetrical power relations in knowledge co-production processes. Key points of consideration explored include: 

  • The difference between partial and comprehensive transdisciplinarity, where the latter have greater aspirations for equal partnerships.  
  • Key challenges to equal partnerships, including time, resources and languages. 
  • The importance of asking ‘for whom is this project conducted’. 
  • The opportunities equal partnerships provide in shifting power dynamics and advancing ocean equity

This course is part of the UN Ocean Decade efforts to promote Co-design approaches, including Call for Decade Actions No. 06/2023  with a focus on the co-design of Decade Actions in Africa and Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS), and a pilot edition of the Ocean Decade Co-design training course for African stakeholders was developed with ZMT in late 2022​, to which Mia and Bernadette also contributed.​​  The course was developed under the Ocean Decade Capacity Development Facility, in collaboration with the Ocean Teacher Global Academy (OTGA) of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – UNESCO (IOC)/ International Oceanographic Data and Information Exchange (IODE) Project Office and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT). It is funded by the Government of Ireland through its Marine Institute, UNESCO/Flanders Fund-in-Trust (FUST), and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).  

Learn more about Co-design in the Ocean Decade in this publication and news piece

Related SDGs:

  • Quality education
  • Reduced inequality
  • Life below water