We created this map based on our own experiences of starting, developing and codifying participatory healthcare clown activities when engaging with autistic children and people with dementia.
The principles of this map can be applied in many different contexts in terms of where you want to build co-creational processes.
You can begin from different points on the co-creation map, but it’s important to visit all the areas to experience every aspect of the collaboration.
From our experience, exploring the different areas of the map can increase your confidence to engage in the last step – to engage in participatory, creative, playful and humorous activities with your audiences in their environments.
This map can be explored chronologically, but you can also select specific topics to dive into.
In order to keep activities tailored and adapted to the audiences’ needs, it’s important to revisit chapters regularly as people and their realities are constantly changing and evolving.
We see this as an ongoing journey of learning and creativity. The co-creation map was designed to guide and inspire you throughout this journey.
Knowing and understanding our audiences and their realities – co-creating a meeting space.
This refers to the first encounter with the audience and developing an understanding. The artist and the audience meet, connect and get to know each other.
The clown artistic approach starts with emptiness. No assumptions or preconceptions. No therapeutic intent or desire to ‘change’ the audience. Only acceptance, acknowledgment, affirmation, and validation.
Breathing, sight, sound, touch, physicality, space, rhythm, and emotions are the tools for human contact and understanding. In this shared space the strangeness of the clown infuses reality with imagination.
The clown comes into being only when they meet another person’s eyes.
This chapter of the co-creation map invites you to explore deep levels of empathy, openness, and authentic curiosity about your audiences.
By reflecting on the following questions, you can prepare for your first encounters with your audiences and frame the space of exploration.
Notice the very first encounter. What do you see?:
Now, look a little deeper:
Now, consider how you might relate with them:
When you’re getting ready to be fully open and relaxed, it’s important to take a moment to let go of any stress, preconceived ideas, thoughts, or everyday worries that might be on your mind.
Try sitting quietly for a little while and taking some deep breaths to calm your thoughts.
Imagine a personal mental picture where your everyday concerns and thoughts float away, and your preconceived notions about your audience dissolve.
Picture a peaceful, softly-lit space inside you, free from judgment, and open up for your first interaction.
Consider starting your personal project diary. Use journaling as a way to capture and reflect on your own feelings and changes in your state, emotions and approaches.
If you note that you might need the help or support of fellow artists or people in the environment of your audience (staff, family members etc.), be sure to communicate your needs to them.
Knowing and understanding the house rules, routines and circumstances of the house, in order to have a smooth encounter, respecting all inhabitants (staff, relatives, and audiences, etc.).
This is the physical place we meet with our audiences and their network of support.
We enter the door, see the rooms, feel the atmosphere, explore where and how their everyday lives work.
Usually, institutions serve as the space where we join our partners for co-creation. Initially, we act as guests, and begin with observing and accepting the house rules.
This process requires physical presence, genuine encounters, and time. Our intention is to maintain comfort, foster openness for cooperation, and build trust.
Based on our experiences, it’s crucial to engage both staff and relatives as participants and observers. We should actively seek their feedback on their experiences and observations.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that they are dedicating their limited time to be with us, necessitating mindfulness and flexibility in our planning and schedules.
This chapter of the co-creation map invites you to explore and become familiar with the elements of the institution you are working in (schools, hospital, assisted living homes, etc.) which are relevant for you and your artistic goals.
The following questions will help you to orient yourself in this new context and create the building blocks needed for strong co-creational partnerships.
Take a close look at the space you are working in and consider what stands out for you and how this might be relevant to your work:
Now, consider how the professional team works in and manage the institution
The people supporting your audiences are also an important element of the group dynamic.
Consider that there may be other people who are involved in the lives of the institution that are relevant to your work.
Make a mind map of your partnership with the institution.
1. Start with a central idea: Write “Partnership” or “Co-Creation with Partners” at the centre of your page.
2. Add main branches: Draw four main branches coming from the central idea, representing key aspects of the partnership that are most relevant for your goals. (For ex. “Cooperation”, “Hierarchy”, “Family members”, “Staff”)
3. Create layers of sub-branches: Break down each main branch into sub-branches for detailed components (“Open” – “cooperation”, “Involved” -“family members”, “Understaffed” – “Staff”, “Important” – “Hierarchy”)
4. Use keywords or images: Instead of sentences, use concise keywords and images to represent ideas.
5. Connect and organise: Use lines to connect related ideas
When considering your mind map, explore questions like:
Understanding different professional approaches. It’s about showing our work and sharing knowledge.
There is a lot that we, as clowns, cannot see on the surface.
By only looking at the surface, we will see a reflection of ourselves; our own intentions, our own goals and plans and our own preconceptions.
To really discover and understand the context we’re operating within, we need to dive deeper. We need to see beneath the surface to see others better. Only then can real co-creation can happen.
By cooperating with the mental care/special education/healthcare/social care professionals, we can understand each other’s approaches and working methods. These elements can enrich the co-creational work and our artistic approaches.
From the artistic perspective, we need higher consciousness to define our profession, possibilities, borders, and the tools we are working with. We need to continuously redefine our art as healthcare clowns.
This chapter of the co-creation map is about developing mutual understanding among different professionals working together in the same field.
It requires honesty, deep conversations, and flexibility.
Asking these questions of each other can help you and your partners find common ground and work closer together.
You have the opportunity to foster an environment where your partners share expertise with you and vice-versa, promoting open and transparent communication, collaboration and learning.
Structuring the conversation
Co-reflecting on the answers
After having deep conversations with your partners, find opportunities to practically learn from each other, create spaces for seminars, workshops, and discussions.
Seminars and workshops are great tools for you to bring your partners closer to artistic logic and give experimental examples of your approach and intention as an artist.
This exercise will help you and your partner gain a visual representation of your partnership, emphasising individual strengths and shared objectives.
The exercise promotes understanding and alignment within the partnership, leading to enhanced collaboration and the advancement of your goals.
1. Take a moment to reflect on your partnership with your partners.
2. Label the two overlapping circles: “Your Contribution” and “Partner’s Contribution.”
3. Identify Common Ground:
4. Use this diagram to further deepen your relationships with your partners.
This element considers a broader area of expertise, co-discovering new inspirations and approaches beyond the institution you work with, and becoming a part of the expert community.
When we arrive to the field, we discover open space with lots of possibilities and room for gatherings where we can learn safely.
We get the chance to learn together and meet other experts in the field, using their knowledge to help us grow.
This way of working not only helps us learn more but also makes us feel like we’re part of a community in the field.
By connecting with other professionals, we build relationships that go beyond just learning together.
These relationships can lead to sharing ideas, insights, and resources, which benefits all of us and helps us grow together.
This chapter of the co-creation map explores the process of co-discovery and learning.
There are certain mechanisms of learning you can use for yourself but most importantly, you can learn from your own experience and from other players in the professional field.
As a starting point we explored six learning questions that guided our project:
You can also explore questions like:
Explore different learning activities (Click).
We suggest starting with “How change happens”. This learning tool can help you to map what causes change in your activities, what happens as a result, and how they are connected.
It is a useful method to collect and analyse data about the needs of audiences.
This is the piloting phase and can support you in navigating and finding your way together with your partners.
When we arrive to the forest, the atmosphere changes from being very open to becoming very specific.
We can’t see far – the forest is close and surrounds us, so we have to start making choices, consider contexts, pick our partners and start forming a path.
It can be both daunting and inspiring to navigate your new environment. The forest can be very dense with circumstances, and we can get lost only to discover new paths again. For some people it can be discouraging, for some it’s liberating.
The forest is the place where solutions and discoveries emerge – we test our ideas and we find our ways, we practically experience co-creation. On this part of the journey, we take risks, embrace failure, and learn from our mistakes.
The primary emphasis is on cooperation, where our co-creative partners get a chance to not only witness but actively participate. The audiences and their environment join in the preparation, contribute to the planning, and become part of the play practice.
It’s important to revisit our artistic questions and adapt them to our new experiences in this co-creation journey.
During the cocreational process we choose ways and try out different artistic tools. We practice and refine the tools together and discuss the common experiences.
This chapter of the co-creation map invites you to practically test, explore and refine your chosen ideas, try out knowledge you gathered on the way, and form your own path of co-creation.
The focus is on cooperation. During this time, our co-creational partners have the possibility to experience your artistic approaches and give you feedback.
These questions can help you clarify your artistic intention:
You also need to understand the intentions of your professional collaborators (see the Lake of Deep Diving):
After clarifying your joint intentions,you should now consider how to design the activities and plan the schedules:
You will also often have to work with given parameters and circumstances and adapt your ideas accordingly. Therefore, it’s important to consider the current state of your audiences.
Furthermore, consider specifics such as:
Consider the conditions and contexts in the moment:
Make sure to design these element in your activities:
Explore our artistic tool collection (Click).
Get inspired by what we discovered. You can choose a specific area of artistic tools and an area where we worked (autism or dementia).
You can adapt these tools to other audiences too.
Establishing the best conditions for co-creative freedom.
The playground is a familiar space for safe and enjoyable play. This is what we discovered along the way and tried out in the forest.
We constructed and tested it together so it suits everyone’s needs.
It’s designed to be comfortable for participants, clear in its offerings and games, and provides ample space for everyone to share in the joy of play.
This seems to be the last station on the list, but during the journey with the co-creation map, we can arrive here many times.
Our ongoing additions to this playground will always stem from our accumulated experiences.
In the end of every co-creational journey cycle we arrive back here and this will be the place where we play together.
This chapter of the co-creation map is about artistic freedom, play and finding common joy with your audiences and partners.
Use everything you’ve discovered, learned, and experienced along the way.
This also means you can choose what you keep and what to discard from your journey and emphasise certain elements as you work together to create your special artistic activities.
These elements will help you design you own game:
To channel playfulness effectively, you can use the following key principles:
Start with being present and be sure that you have an open mind and are able to concentrate.
Feel the safety of the space, you are at home in the moment in the house of institution.
Trust that all you have discovered and understood in the lake of deep-diving and all that you have learned in the field of learning is in you and you don’t need to focus on keeping in mind the details.
Feel the support of co-creation, you are not alone.
In the present there is no space for the pain of the past and the fear of the future.
Get out of your head, leave the cognitive work, be in your body, keep the connection and enjoy the play. Enjoy real life!