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Protect collective contributions

To build trust, participants should be clearly informed of their rights and terms of participation.

Prior to engaging in a co-design process with the community, organizers need to clearly outline the terms of participation for all those involved and define how their contributions will be shared and used by others. This is particularly important in collaborative settings as several people contribute to the generation of ideas.

In a co-design process, participants should be able to retain the ownership of their work and their contributions should be licensed under an open license, such as Creative Commons. This approach allows others to legally reuse their work, build upon it, and share it with anyone else. This would also help maintain transparency throughout the project and prevent any confusion on the part of the contributors.

Here, we briefly define a few key terms that are important to understand for people who are organizing or participating in co-design events:

  • Ownership: In collaborative settings, all group members own the generated ideas and the physical expression of those ideas.
  • Copyright: Ideas cannot be copyrighted, however, the original expression and authorship of those ideas, such as notes, prototypes, sketches, and other artifacts can be copyrighted.
  • Licensing: In the spirit of collaboratively and collectively working, open licenses should be used. Creative Commons licenses offer a number of licenses for materials that allow creators a level of specifying how the material can be reused. All those involved should be clearly informed that depending on the license they choose, they can provide different levels of permission for access, use, modification, distribution by other users.
  • Contributor License Agreements (CLAs): Before engaging participants in a collaborative activity, It is important to provide all participants with a CLA, which outlines the terms of their participation and the ownership of their contribution. Individuals who choose to not sign a CLA won’t be able to participate in a collaborative activity, as every participant’s permission is required to be able to openly license the contributions.
  • Group Attribution Forms: it might be difficult to attribute several people every time their contribution is used. To address this issue, people can give their group a unique name and individually sign it. Thus, every time their work is used, the credit is attributed to their group name.