June 7th, 2022

The opportunity

CSIRO is a world leader in climate research, partnering with industry, community and other researchers to produce innovative climate system science information.

There is a huge opportunity for this research to have a significant impact to inspire climate solutions and actions and build resilience to climate change.

Co-production can lead to more ownership. A better [set of] options for the future, and something that actually will be owned and taken forward by the people who are going to use it.” – interviewee

The challenge

Close engagement with clients, industry, community, and other key partners and stakeholder groups is key to climate science being used to make a difference.

Collaboration is easy to talk about but identifying where to start and how engage with others is difficult. One way to address this challenge in research projects is to break down ‘collaboration’ into distinct modes: co-design, co-development and co-delivery.


This webpage is a concise reference for collaborative research approaches. It aims to raise awareness of different modes of collaboration that can be integrated in research projects (co-design, co-development, co-delivery, or Co-3D for short) for the CSIRO and others. It provides clarity on what these approaches are and when/how to use them.

Enhancing the impact of co-design, co-development and co-delivery (Co-3D)

What makes for good co-design, co-development and co-delivery?

Underpinning principles

To be effective and meaningful, collaborative approaches in research projects should be guided by some key underpinning principles.

Principles refer to core mindsets, values, skills and practices. Figure 1 highlights some principles that have been found to be important for the success of co- design, co-development, and/or co-delivery processes. These are not exhaustive and project teams and partners are encouraged, at the start of a project, to identify what they consider are critical for underpinning and guiding their collaboration.


Examples of principles for supporting collaborative approaches to research

Co-3D and IP

Intellectual Property and how to manage it can be something to consider when deciding on Co-3D activities. For some projects IP will not be a concern, but for others, it may be necessary to clarify at the outset how attribution will be made (with or without contracts) and how outputs and products will be owned and managed. This is part of the ‘setting clear and agreed upon expectations’ principle described in the schematic above.

How to decide if a project would benefit from integrating co-design, co-development and/or co-delivery?

The decisions around integrating (or not) different collaborative modes of research (co-design, co-development, and/or co-delivery) depend on a range of considerations.

  • Modes of co-design, co-development and co-delivery engagement can be mixed.
  • There is not necessarily a single ‘right’ way of doing engagement, rather each mode achieves different aims and thus the outcomes should be intentionally matched to the objectives.
  • It is important to plan for and use skilled capability and recognise these skills – relationship building, trust, communication – as well as the time and effort they take.



Spectrum of engagement goals and co-design, co-production, and co-delivery approaches (adapted from: IAP2 Spectrum of Public Engagement, UK Climate Resilience Programme knowledge brokering spectrum; Hammill et al. 2013)

Asking the following set of questions is a useful way to help identify what mode(s) of collaboration (if any) is appropriate.

1. What is the goal of the project?

There is not necessarily a single ‘right’ way of incorporating collaboration; rather the decision to take a co-design, co-development, and/or co-delivery approach depends on the intended engagement and outcome goal of the project

2. Who is being engaged?

Who is the intended beneficiary or end user, who is the client and the key partners? Tailoring engagement activities to those that have a stake is important and considering diversity and inclusion will help make sure all considerations are captured.

3. What engagement mode is most appropriate?

Depending on the intended outcome of the work, a shallow or a deep engagement mode might be most effective. Deep engagement is not always required and takes more time and resource, so it should only be used if appropriate.

4. What are the key roles of scientists and partners, stakeholders?

Is new knowledge being developed? Is the problem still needing to be scoped and understood? Who is driving the project? How will the outcomes be used?


Capability and resourcing requirements for different engagement goals and linked co-design, co-development, and co-delivery approaches


Insights from recent research at CSIRO

  • Co-design, co-development and co-delivery (Co-3D) are typically not distinct but overlapping stages of collaboration. In any project or body of work, these stages may receive more, or less emphasis, in terms of time, resources and the number of people engaged. For the five projects reviewed, five different combinations of stages were observed. This does not suggest a single ‘right’ way of combining these stages.
  • Consideration of project goals/outcomes and requirements in advance enables project teams to more intentionally match the design of Co-3D. Different collaboration approaches have different strengths and weaknesses. Being explicit (and inclusive) about what you are trying to achieve will help decide which approach is best.
  • The longer the time frame involved in Co-3D, the higher levels of resourcing required. Time and resources are critical for establishing understanding and relationships, and often entails the need to respond to user needs after project timelines have finished, planning and managing longer term expectations are needed.
  • Integrating some form of Co-3D is important. Embedding some form of collaboration in projects is generally regarded as being important, as without it the project risked being irrelevant. Pursuing ‘good’ Co-3D processes is critical to achieving longer term outcomes with clients and researchers, where project outputs continue to be used and trusted relationships persist.
  • There are some key skills and mindsets that are fundamental to Co-3D. These include strong leadership, soft skills, the importance of early and inclusive work to frame the problem, as well as being empathetic, humble and realistic about how climate science fits in with real world decision contexts.


Co-design, co-development and co-delivery (Co-3D) are typically not distinct but overlapping stages of collaboration. In any project or body of work, these stages may receive more, or less emphasis, in terms of time, resources and the number of people engaged.


Take home messages

1. Collaboration is key to impact! But awareness is low

Many research teams may be aiming to work in a co-design-development-delivery method, but they may not have the experience or time. Examples will help guide them in their research approach. There is a lot of confusion about the different terms and how each is best used. This guide can help.

2. No single ‘right’ way to collaborate

The goal that the project aims to achieve should drive the decision on which modes of collaboration should or need to be integrated into a research project. There is no ‘right’ way, except what works for stakeholders and the project scope. Being explicit, intentional and inclusive about these decisions is important.

3. Clear expectations

Establish collaboration expectations early and check that they match intended project goals, timeframes and resourcing. Keep checking in as things change over the project duration.

4. Building capacity to integrate collaborative approaches in research is key

Build capacity among climate scientists, and build project teams with diverse and complimentary skill sets.

5. Value and reward critical skills

Interpersonal skills will be required to work in a Co-3D manner as there is significant listening, knowledge sharing, and facilitated thinking that will occur across the teams. Negotiation of client needs and realistic outputs will also have to be frequently discussed. Reflexivity, patience and humility are all valuable skills for Co-3D.

6. Take a longer term view

Collaboration takes time and requires relationship building, mutual learning and listening. Time requirements should be factored into projects and expectations about how outcomes will be maintained after projects end need to be explicitly addressed.


Further reading

There are many resources to support co-design, co-development and co-delivery. Here are some to explore:

Fleming et al. 2023, Perceptions of co-Design, co-Development and co-Delivery (Co-3D) as part of the Co-Production process – insights for climate services | Climate Services

IAP2 spectrum

The Co-production ladder Ladder-of-coproduction. COPRODUCTION/Ladder-of-coproduction.pdf

Chambers et al. 2021, Six modes of co-production for sustainability | Nature Sustainability

Ten principles for good co-production. A manual for co-production in African weather and climate services: Home https://

Knowledge broker spectrum


Download two-page Co-3D factsheet


Download seven-page Co-3D factsheet





For further information

CSIRO Land and Water

Aysha Fleming