Our Story on Co-Design

According to the Merriam Webser Dictionary to design (something) by working with one or more others : to design (something) jointly. (Webster, 2019)

The Healthy Families Far North team along with 8 other sites from across the country has been working hard with the Innovation Unit on a project called Kai Stream Community of Practice. The project aims at developing co-design skills while working with our communities on kaupapa that means something to them.

Our Far North team has gained a lot from the process. Going through co-design learnings proved to be very challenging at the start when the team was trying to get their heads around what it really means ‘to design jointly’.

Let’s go through a quick walk through of what we learned and how it all happened.


Well that was exactly what we thought when we along with Healthy Families Teams from across the motu met at Ngā Kete Wānanga Marae in Ōtara earlier this year.

A very brave Innovation Unit took on the challenge of taking people who knew next to nothing and show them what co-design and social innovation is. If anyone was to ask the team what they learned everyone would’ve said, ‘I’m more confused now than before’ which is exactly what everyone was saying.

Beyond the confusion was a mission, a challenge to try our utmost to use the tools we were being taught to help our communities come up with their own solutions to the things they believe could use improvement.

So we took our first tool. One that came pretty easy to a bunch of Māori from the North – We talked to our people.


The Healthy Families Far North team carried out an exploratory co-design process to help build an understanding of what gets people excited about kai in Kaitāia . We did this by getting out of the office and talking to people where they live, work, learn and play.

We talked with people of different ages and backgrounds. We talked to tamariki, to parents, to students and to community members asking them about what makes them excited about kai. We asked questions to help us understand what people eat, why they eat it, if they enjoy it and if they get excited about it. We called this Kai Town.


We took all the kōrero from the community and pulled it together to get a clear picture of what the Kaitāia community loves, wants and needs – and it was GREAT.

We took our insights back to our Kai Stream whānau and they thought they were great too!

This led us into our next phase.


Customer Labs describes prototyping as “A simulation or sample version of a final product, which is used for testing prior to launch.” The goal of a prototype is to test products (and product ideas) before spending lots of time and money into creating the final version of the sellable product. (Customer Labs, 2019)

This is the fun stuff. This is when we had the opportunity to play, experiment and see the community use their creativity without restrictions and this is what we did with our Kai Town whānau. We brought together a diverse group of people to inform the process and everyone shared in kai, kōrero and creativity.

Our team will be working with our Kai Town whānau to see if we can take the prototypes to the next phase…TESTING.