Facilitating Distributed Multi-stakeholder Co-creative Innovation Processes A Case from the Media Industry

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7 Δεκ 2013 (πριν από 3 χρόνια και 9 μήνες)

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Facilitating Distributed Multi
-
stakeholder

Co
-
creative Innovation Processes


A Case from the Media Industry

Ebbesson, E.

Halmstad University, Sweden

esbjorn.ebbesson@hh.se

Abstract
.

Facilitating distributed
co
-
creative
activities

within an innovation p
rocess

involving
multi
-
stakeholder perspectives such as diverse user groups, designers and organizational
representatives is a challenging task. The distance on a conceptual level between participants
has the potential to lead to both barriers and opportun
ities for
co
-
creative activities
, while also
changing the role of the facilitator. The paper aim to explore this phenomenon further through
the research question:
How can facilitators work towards
bridging

conceptual distance
between stakeholders in distri
buted multi
-
stakeholder co
-
creative innovation processes?


The researcher investigated the work of facilitators within a co
-
creative innovation process
of user generated content services with the media industry through a case study. A theoretical
framework

center
e
d around communities of practice and boundary spanning were used to gain
an understanding of the
facilitators
work
.

The study concludes that the development of a
shared language, use of boundary objects to aid translation and outer
-
level brokering
before
and during innovation activit
i
es are

important processes that a facilitator use to decrease
conceptual distance.


Keywords:

Co
-
creation, Facilitation, Communities of Practice


1

Introduction

The involvement of everyday users in

the

devel
opment of prod
ucts and services
is a key
ingredient in the growing field of co
-
creation.
C
o
-
creation can be defined as an active,
creative and social process, based on collaboration between firms and end
-
users (Piller
et al
.,
2010). Co
-
creation can take place in both si
tuated and distributed settings over the Internet.
One new approach that supports the innovation processes by involving different stakeholders
in a co
-
creative manner is within a Living Lab. In Living Labs researchers, firms, users, public
partners and sta
keholders of emerging technology collaborate in open innovation processes. In
a Living Lab, IT innovations are
co
-
created and validated in multi
-
contextual empirical real
-
world en
vironments. The individual is focused on in
the role of a citizen, user, cons
umer, or
worker and is seen as a valuable source of innovation (
Bergvall
-
Kåreborn

et al
., 2009)
.

In this paper we are discussing
a
distributed co
-
creative

innovation process

from the m
edia
industry. Within the LoCoMedia project, newspaper representatives,

readers and researchers
have engaged to develop new
user generated content (
UGC
)

services within a Living Lab
setting.

UGC has been defined as content made publicly available over the Internet, which
reflects a “certain amount of creative effort”, and whi
ch is “created outside of professional
routines and practices” (OECD, 2007).

In the case described in this paper, the newspapers are
the service provider
s

interested in co
-
creating a service along with their
readers. A service

which

the readers
later on
ca
n use for the purpose of publishing content they create, such as
f
or example blog posts or photos or other similar user created content.

The facilitation of
distributed co
-
creative innovation processes involving multi
-
stakeholder
perspectives such as diver
se user groups, designers and organizational representatives is a
challenging task.
The challenges a facilitator face grows as the number of stak
e
holders
increase and the environment used for facilitation becomes more complex.

The distance on a
physical, t
emporal and conceptual level between participants has the potential to lead to both
challenges and opportunities for
the co
-
creative innovation process

(Gumm, 2008, Fischer,
2004)
,

while also changing the role of the facilitator
(
Sanders and Stappers, 2008
)
.

Schuma
cher and Feurstein point

out the need for
research on
tools and methods that
supports the involvement of users in these types of multi
-
stakeholder co
-
creation processes in
the most unobtrusive fashion possible (2007).
Følstad

(2008) further concl
udes
, after an
extensive

literature review

that future research within
user involvement in innovation
processes such as Living Labs needs to focus on methods for co
-
creation, and methods that
are p
articulary suited to the charac
teristics of Living Labs.

I
n this paper these calls for research is adressed by an investigation of methods and tools
for distributed co
-
creative innovation process in a Living Lab from the perspective of

how
facilitators bridge
conceptual distance between stakeholders, through the
research question of:
How can facilitators work towards
bridging
conceptual distance between stakeholders in
distributed multi
-
stakeholder co
-
creative innovation processes?

The paper is structured

as follow
s
: in the next section
the theoretical perspective
s
used
throughout the paper is presented,

followed by a description the

research approach
.
The case
is then introduced, and the paper the proceeds to cover the analysis of the empirical findings
based on key themes from the theoretical framework. Finally
,

a discussion and conclusions
summarize the findings on the subject matter.


2

Related Theory

This section will start with an overview of
participation
in
distributed
co
-
creation involving
end
-
users

and
the challenges that facilitators face in these types of
settings. We then proceed
to present the theoretical framework that we will utilize for our discussion of conceptual
challenges in multi
-
stakeholder projects from the perspective of communities of practice.

2.1


Partic
ipation in Distributed Co
-
Creation

Partici
pation in design through social software challenges the traditional role of the user and
designer, and
blurs

the borders between these roles (Hagen and Robertson, 2009). This can be
exemplified by design processes w
h
ere social software is used as a design
tool to enable the
outsourcing of design work through crowd

sourcing or the opening up of the traditional design
process to allow a form of community design as users and other stakeholders contribute with
ideas and feedback (Hagen and Robertson, 2009). The

latter form, refe
r
red to as Open IT
,

focus
es

on the appropriation of social software to open up the traditional user centered design
process to a wider community. This can be

exemplified by initiatives such as

the Living Lab
where users, businesses and ot
her relevant stakeholders
such as for example academia
engage
in co
-
creation together (
Bergvall
-
Kåreborn

et al
., 2009).

The blurring of user

and designer roles can also be traced to the
role of the researcher in a
co
-
design

p
rocess, who traditionally serv
ed as a translator between the user and the designer
but now often has to take on the role of a more active facilitator (Sanders and Stappers, 2008).
The facilitator role in a co
-
design process is not limited to researchers, but

also designers, who
have to

co
ordinate and guide the design process (Sanders and Stappers, 2008). The facilitator
and the ability to facilitate partic
ip
ation in an efficient manner
become

key in these multi
-
stakeholder design processes since all participants have different languages

and ways of
working (Lee and Bichard, 2008). It is the
facilitator’s

job to guide the co
-
design process
while creating sound environments f
or stakeholders to participate in
, facilita
tion is not about
solving design

prob
lems, but sh
aping environments that
promote

the solving of design
problems by the participants (Howard and Melles, 2011).
The shaping of these
environment
s
that provide

a common ground for all participations to stand on
,

is vital for

distributed design
processes

(Nakki
et al
., 2008; Obendorf

et al
., 2009).

Distributed co
-
design

and development has gained and increased interest over the past
years in the Participatory Design (PD) community in an attempt to address key challenges in
distribution within what has been referred to as Distributed
PD (Danielsson

Öberg

et al
.,
2009). A growing body of work has started to appear in both the shape of contributions
concerning which

tools and methods (Obendorf
et al
., 2009; Warr, 2006
)
can be applied in
these settings and what

dimensions distribution (Gu
mm, 2006) or distance (Fischer, 2004)
have in distributed c
o
-
design.

The two frameworks of distribution and distan
ce share common
characteristics;

they both ad
d
ress physical and

temporal

distribution where
,

for example
,

communication technology can be used

to bridge the gap between participant
s in a design
project. They also cover the organizational or conceptual dimension while
highlighting

challenges and opportunities that distribution might lead to (Gumm, 2006; Fischer, 2004).

The organizational dimensi
on
,

according to Gumm (2006)
,

is related to the structures
people
work in during a design process.

D
istribution on the organizational level can be
exemplified by a multi
-
stakeholder project where people from different organizations,
departments or business
es work together with user groups towards a common goal.
Distribution on

the organizational level
might lead to issues when it comes to commitment
and a shared vision of what is important in the design process (Gumm, 2006)
. Fischer (2004)
has similar exper
iences when it comes to challenges relating to conceptual distance between
what is refer
r
ed to as communities of interest,
i.e.

different overlapping
communities of
practice

with a shared inter
est but different perspectives.

Working with a wide set of

stak
eholders
has the potential to create an open dialogue with
a strong sense

of participation
(Nakki
et al
., 2008) while leading to a shared vision between
all
stakeholders (Obendorf
et al
.,
2009).

2.2

Communities and Spanning Boundaries

For the purpose of unders
tanding how facilitators work towards decreased conceptual distance
between stakeholders to create a common ground while also letting stakeholders learn more
about each other’s needs, wants and offerings in a distributed multi
-
stakeholder project
,
a
comm
un
ity
of pr
actice perspective w
as

adopted.

A
community of practice

can be described as a practice where there is enough mutual
engagement in pursuing an enterprise together to share some significant learning (Wenger,
1998). The concept of community of practi
ce is very scalable and can be applied to a wide
array of groupings of individuals ranging from organizational units to groups of friends or
families (Wenger, 1998). It has however seen the most use in organizational settings where
the concept has been def
ined as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a
passio
n about a topic, and who deepen

their knowledge in this area by interacting on an
ongoing basis” (Wenger
et al
., 2002). A community of practice within an organization is
complex t
o develop and maintain, it is more about fostering an environment that promotes
participation between previously unconnected pockets of expertise that
are

open for
negot
i
ation than simply developing traditional organizational structures (Wenger
et al
., 200
2).
Project based work, with defined deliverables
and a clear start and end point,

also differs from
a community of practice, since a community of pra
c
tice is something

that evolves over time
with bo
th short
-

and long
-
term value (Wenger
et al
., 2002).

The

formation of a project, can however be seen as the formation of a community of
interest, where the project stakeholders are seen as representative from different communities
of practice. Communities of interest are characterized by a shared interest (Fisc
her, 2004,
Obendorf
et al
., 2009
). The interest in turn can be a shared interest in software development,
or a group of everyday users or expert’s interest
,

in for example
,

improving media services or
e
-
healthcare to improve quality of life for elderly.

Co
mmunities of interest are similar in
nature to what Wenger (1998) refer
s

to as a boundary practice in that they act as a zone
between overlapping communities of practice enabling key members from different practices
to meet. A difference between the two co
ncepts can be seen in how communities of practice
foster the negotiation of meaning between individuals within a specific practice over time
(Wenger, 1998) w
hile communities of interest have

been seen to focus on the shared
understanding of individual part
icipants from different communities of practice (Obendorf
et
al
., 2009). The concept of communities of interest is therefore wider in the sense that the only
prerequisite

to engage in the community of interest is a common interest, and is not bound by
a lo
ng term engagement in a practice.

The interaction with the outside from the perspective of a community of practice is taken
care of by what Wenger (1998) refer
s

to as brokers, during the process of brokering. Brokers
are a form of participants with a multi
-
membership that makes connections between
communities of
practice
, to enable coordination, and if they are good at what they do
then they
open

up new possibilities for participatio
n. Wenger further note
s

that the

process of brokering
is complex and involv
e
s

the translation, coordination and alignment of perspectives.

In a community of interest, brokers play an
important

role when it comes to bringing back
new ideas and perspectives into their community of practice. In the context of a co
-
creation

project
this can be illustrated by how a designer
,

through participation alongside end
-
users or
other community members
in co
-
creation
,

learn
s

more about the user perspective on the
product or service being designed that then is brought into the
designer’s

communi
ty of
practice. Wenger (1998) further highlights the importance of the broker’s legitimacy to
influence practice, m
obilize attention and address

conflicting interests.
Wenger is not the first
scholar to highlight the importance of brokering and the role of

individuals that spans the
boundaries between practices.

Cohen and Levin
thal (1995) use the term gatekee
per to describe
individuals that act at the interface of an organization and the outside world, or between sub
units with an organization with the purp
ose to bring in new information and translate it into
something that the recipients can
assimilate
. A similar role is described by Levina and Vaast
(2005) in their work on boundary spanners and their relation to boundary objects. The
spanning of boundaries

that these individuals do, and the brokering leading to knowledge
sharing between communities of practice is a ver
y complex and difficult process. A
ccording
to Hislop (2004) two of the most important reasons for why this is so difficult is the lack of
con
sensual knowledge and
the
diverging sense of identity that exist
s

between different
communities of
practice
. Effective knowledge sharing therefore requires the development
of

trust
and understanding of each other’s

perspectives through a process of perspec
tive making
and taking (Hislop, 2004
; Boland
and Tenkasi, 1995
).

Bol
and and Tenkasi (1995) describe

the
perspective making as a process whereby a community strengthens its own knowledge dom
ain
and

practices. They describe

the process of perspective taking
as an exchange, evaluation and
integration of knowledge
that others possess
.


The facilitation of the perspective making and taking process in a multi
-
stakeholder co
-
creative process
is
referred

to as inner
-
level brokering by Johansson and
Lunh
Snis (2011)
,
who also identified a second type of brokering, refer
r
ed to as outer
-
level brokering. The
purpose of outer
-
level brokering is to facilitate smooth inner
-
level brokering between different
members f
rom the communities of practice. I
n the case investigated
by Johansson and
Lundh
Snis

(2011) the outer
-
level brokering was taken care of by a group of researchers from a
Living Lab with experience in facilitation.

The inner
-
level brokering is in turn reliant on trust between the members
of

the different
communit
ies, which in turn leads to a higher degree of engagement. During the inner
-
level
brokering
activities

the members from the different communities participate in group
activities

supported by boundary objects that aid the translation of knowledge from one c
ommunity to
another. The concept of boundary objects have been used to describe a wide array of objects
ranging from scenarios or user s
tories and polls (Johansson and
Lundh
Snis, 2011)
to
computerized systems and can be defined as objects that are plastic

enough to adapt to local
needs while also being able to maintain a common identity across several different
communities (Star and Griesmer, 1989). They carry different meaning
s

in different social
worlds but their structure is strong enough to
be
recogniz
able in more than one world, which
enables them to act as translators (Star and Griesmer, 1989).


3

Research Approach

To investigate our research question we

needed to gain an in
-
depth knowledge of the
interactions between stakeholders in a co
-
creative desi
gn

project. The
interactions between
stakeholders in co
-
creation projects are highly social in nature and consist

of ongoi
ng
negotiations of perspectives. T
o enable us to explore
these interactions

we therefore decided
to carry out an interpretative case s
tudy (Walsham, 1995).

The co
-
creation

project (City district blogs) that we chose to investigate was a part of a
larger two year long
research

project called LoCoMedia taking place in a Living Lab setting
(
Bergvall
-
Kåreborn
et al
., 2009). In the

LoCoMedia
project, researchers, newspaper
representatives

(managerial, marketing and designer levels)
and users/readers were working
together to
:

a) come up with ideas of new UGC services for the newspaper industry, b) design
the services and c) evaluate the service
s.

The mix of stakeholders, distributed nature and clear
facilitating role of the researchers created a good fit between the city district blogs project and
the research question that we set out to explore.

The data collection process was carried out
after

the city dist
ric
t blogs project was finalized and consisted of data logs from the online
platform used during the project,
workshop

summaries, project reports and interviews with
readers, newspaper staff and facilitators to aid in the understanding of the

facilitators work.
The collected data cover
s

the start up of the project, in the shape of pre
-
meetings with the
newspaper staff, the kick
-
off
workshop

that officially launched the project and all the ongoing
interactions on the online platform used by the

facilitators during the co
-
creation

project.


Online platform submissions (polls, posts)

335

Datasets from polls on the online platform

2

Interviews
with readers

5

Interview
s

with newspaper staff

4

Interviews with facilitators

1

Group interviews with

newspaper staff

1

Official Project Report

1

Table 1:

Data sources used from the City District Blogs Case


Finally, when carrying out interpretive research two different roles

can be identified, the
outside
observer and the involved researcher (Walsham,
1995). The two different roles offers
both benefits

and shortcomings. A
s an involved researcher you gain access to data and
nuances in the interaction

between the actors that might not appear to the outsider, meanwhile
an outsider might observe and

reflect

upon said data from a wider perspective.

During the case
study of the city district blogs, the
researcher acted as an outside observer.

The interviews were all recorded and later on transcribed to enable coding of the material.
During data analysis, the t
hemes from the theoretical framework
on communities of practice
and boundary spanning
was used to code data (
Saldãna
, 2009) and identify episodes in the
empirical material that w
as
used for theoretical el
a
boration in the discussion.


4

The City District Blo
gs

The city district blogs project was a multi
-
stakeholder
co
-
creative

project that began in the end
of October 2009 and spanned over four months. The purpose of the project was to design and
launch city district blogs in Västerås in Sweden to let the read
ers of the newspaper help

out
with coverage of news.

Theoretically the city district blogs project will be viewed as a
community of interest, where overlapping communities of practice met during the course of
the project.

The project group consisted of
th
ree

different groups of stakeholders
,
referred

to here as
three different communities of practice
. The newspaper community consisted of
practitioners

from a newspaper with different roles ranging from reporters, advertising sales, web editor
and project le
ader
for new

media services. The reader community consisted of readers

or
potential future

bloggers in mixed age

groups (20
-
75 years old). Finally, the third

group
consisted of two

researchers from Halmstad University with
prior
experience in facilitation.


There
were

two major events where
the c
ommunities met during the project. An initial
meeting and a
workshop
w
here 13 readers and 9 newspaper representatives worked together to
come up with initial ideas, and a longer process running over
four

months t
aki
ng place at an
online
platform over the Internet.


Phase 1:
Face to Face
Workshop

The project was initiated by a meeting between the newspaper staff and the facilitators and a
larger workshop where the d
ifferent communities of practice could meet to learn
more about
each othe
r

and the boundaries of the project.

The
workshop was finalized with
the introduction of the online

platform that would serve
as a community platform where the readers and newspaper staff could continue the design
process of the city b
logs.

All the participants in the face to face workshop were invited to the
online platform.

Phase 2:
Online Platform

The online platform that was used during the project was based on the open source content
management system Drupal. The platform provided
basic forum functionality, with the
possibility to attach images and video to discussion threads. The platform was modified to
also
accommodate

polls, user pr
ofiles, private discussions,
easy

access and contribution
s
.

Invitations to the online platform w
er
e

sent out to all the participants of the
workshop,

who
were also
asked to supply a photo and short presentation to be placed
on
the
ir

profile

page at

the platform. The co
-
design work at the online platform was kicked off by follow up
discussions on what w
as discussed during the face to face
workshop
.
The discussion
were
brought

online t
o allow participants to continue the discussions,

but also
to

give room to the
less outspoken participants that might not have had the opportunity to voice their opinions
du
ring the
workshop
.

4.1

Findings from the City District Blog Case

The

empirical analysis revealed both inner and outer leveling brokering taking place as the
different
communities

engaged in a process of perspective making and taking. The following
section wil
l exemplify
these findings by presenting significant episodes from the case study
identified during the empirical analysis.
These episodes illustrate

how the facilitators played
an active role in creating a common ground where the other communities could m
eet an
d
engage in activities together.

The project w
as

initiated with
two meetings
, where the facilitators used their legitimacy as
facilitators

to influence the actions of the newspaper staff participating in the project to create
a common ground for eng
a
gement. Compared to the reader community
the newspaper
commun
ity had a stronger position
.
Because

they were the
ones that would
develop and
launch the new service and secondly
be
cause they were official project par
tners. The
facilitators addressed this imb
alance
by
advising

the newspaper community to take a more
withdrawn role during the upcoming
workshop

in order
to make room for a user driven
approach.
They were asked
to

have an open mind about the

project and
prioritize

the
readers’

needs, instead of a m
ore technology driven approach.

It was
challenging to get the newspaper to work in a different way t
han

they were used to,
there was a lot of
grumbling due to the user
-
driven nature of the process (Berit,
Facilitator).

The expectations
, however,

from the n
ewspaper staff were

very high, and they all looked
forward to meeting the readers to discuss their
view on

the upcoming city blogs. T
hey were
also aware that it is not that common to discuss these issues with their readers.

“I think it
’s going to

be really

interesting to learn more about what people [readers] think.
Sometimes we know [what the readers think] but not always. We think we have a pretty
good idea, so it’s gonna be interesting to hear [what the readers think]”

(
Mats,
N
ewspaper representative)

Du
ring the
workshop

and upcoming activities on the online platform the facilitators steered
the discussion towards topics such as value and of the general concept of “blogs”
. This is
exemplified by the topics used during the
workshop

on topics such as “what
is the value of
reading a blog?” or “what type of content is suitable for a city district blog”
.

The initia
l
workshop
discussions between readers and newspaper staff on what was considered to be
important issues regarding the city district blogs
,

was later

used
by the facilitators to guide the
topics discussed in the online community
.

Discussions started by readers or newspaper staff were rare, however, when a facilitator
started a new thread it often got many replies from both readers and newspaper staff w
ho then
started discussing among themselves. Th
is can be exemplified by the discussion on the topic
of “tone of voice” that should be used in a blog that ended up in a
discussion

where readers
and newspaper representatives discussed their views back

and fo
rth

on topics relating to tone
of voice and the number of bloggers per city district until reaching a consensus.

The next question is how many bloggers we should have before we launch a blog. There
has been talk about 5
-
10, but I think that is to set the b
ar too high. I think we can start
when we have 3 bloggers. Hopefully that will attract more bloggers when it is up and
running. We at VLT can of course help to make the content a bit wider. (Peter, Newspaper
Reporter)

I agree, with too many bloggers it's g
oing to be messy. Start with 3
-
4, with different
interests and ages. If it gets too one
-
sided it can't be that problematic to increase the
number of bloggers. It would be good if the professionals at VLT interact with the bloggers
on a regular basis to try

to push for new topics that will help keep the interest high. Would
be nice if they can be a bit provocative to stir up discussions (Thomas, Reader).

Great idea to have the VLT staff to "stir up" and provoke if it gets too one
-
sided, I'm not
convinced tha
t there should be five to ten bloggers per city district either, it will be too
messy, 3
-
4 is a better number. (Agneta, Newspaper Reporter)

The same type of back and forth
dialogue

took place in relation to discussions
such as

features
and functionality th
at the blog platform should provide,

and
what type of rewards or
incentives should be used to engage bloggers and several others.

Most of the discussions on the online platform
were

initiated by the facilitators,
but some
users, both readers and newspaper
representatives
,

start
ed their own discussion threads.

However
these threads did
n
ot generate as much response as the facilitators’ discussion
threads. After the project ended some users expressed that they would have preferred the
newspaper staff to be mo
re active and “provocative”. This opinion was not shared by
everyone, some of the users thought that the newspapers level of engagement was a good
balance.

The newspaper staff should act as a partner that you can bring up ideas to, they shouldn’t
take up t
oo much room, but always be there for discussions (Nils, Reader).

The readers also noted that the engagement varied between the different representatives from
the newspaper, stating that some of them were better at listening and being active than others.
A
ll of the readers were however pleased with the newspaper staffs involvement and claimed
that they clearly could see that the majority of their feedback
and ideas

had made it to the final
version of the city district blogs that went live.

When it was time
to make decisions on what city districts were supposed to get blogs, polls
were

used to gather feedback on
which

city districts were the most important to focus
development efforts on.



Figure 2: Poll used by facilitators to gather feedback on city dist
rict blogs.

The poll (see Figure 2) presented the ability for the readers to select the most important blog
and provide a motivation to why it is an important district to cover; the readers were also able
to select the second and third most important city
districts.

A large district that might make it easier to find potential bloggers that can generate a lot
of readers. (
Motivation from th
e

reader
Eva).

This is one of Västerås more lively city parts, this area is the one which will most likely end
up in a s
ucces
s
ful blog. (
Motivation from th
e

re
ader Anders).

When gathering feedback through the polls, the facilitators consulted an additional group of
34 readers, on top of the readers that were participating in the ongoing work on the
community platform. The f
acilitators used the submitted reader feedback (32 poll replies) in
two ways, firstly to provide rich data to the newspaper when

they decided what blogs to
com
mit to, and secondly when illustrating for the readers what city districts that the
newspaper had

decided to focus development resources on.

T
he majority of the members in the reader community prefer
r
ed the online platform over
the face to face workshop in the sense that they thought that it
were

a lot easier to express
themselves and get their point
across. According to the reader community online the more
well articulated and “verbal” participants got to share their view on things. They also thought
that the online discussions was very open and provided a lot of room for themselves to share
their vie
ws on things.

During the workshop, only the more verbal participants got to talk, on the online platform
the rest of us had more space to share, some of us needs a bit more time to reflect on things
(Reader, Mary).

T
he community members from the newspaper
initially

thought the facilitators was very
engaged in the co
-
design process, but that they as the process grew longer stepped down and
took less of an organizing role.
This created confusion of
whose

responsibility it was to
organize
activities

and drive
the process forward.


I think it was misunderstanding between the newspapers representatives and us, they
thought we were going to take care of everything and not “just” facilitate the participation
(B
erit
, Facilitator)

The co
-
design project finally ended
by the launch of the city district blogs that the readers had
helped shape, by a formal invitation from the newspaper staff for the participating readers to
now become bloggers on the portal.

Some of the readers that participated in the co
-
creation
process

took the step to become bloggers, while the majority of the bloggers on the platform
in its current state were recruited through advertising and voluntary sign ups.


5

Discussion

In this paper we have
analyzed
a case of distributed multi
-
stakeholder co
-
des
ign

to explore the
research question
of

how facilitators work towards
bridging

conceptual distance between
stakeholders in distributed multi
-
stakeholder co
-
creation

innovation processes
. The empirical
material
indicate
s

that the development of a shared lan
guage,
balancing of strong stakeholders
perspective
s

to create a common ground
,

and efficient use of boundary objects in a distributed
setting
,

can hel
p
bridge

conceptual distances.

Creating a common ground for participants is a vital part of carrying out
distributed co
-
creative

design
(
Nakki
et al
., 2008; Obendorf
et al
., 2009
). Common ground was

created
through two means in the city district blogs project, firstly the
facilitators

steered discussions
towards themes that were easy for the different stakeho
lders to grasp
,

the concept of value w
as

used as a starting point for many discussions which in turn generated a lot of activity and
interaction between the newspaper staff and readers. The use of value as a step towards
developing a shared language is als
o proposed by Obendorf
et al
. (2009) who used it to bridge
conceptual distance by different types of users of a groupware system. Secondly, the general
concept of “blogs” was used as a starting poin
t on discussions
determining

what a commercial
user genera
ted content service should look like, for example, no one had any experience what
a city district blog should look like and what services
s
hould be offered, b
ut

the general
concept of blogs and blogging was familiar to everyone involved. In this sense the
concept of
blogs and value acted as boundary objects (Star and Griesmer, 1989
) that

had different
meaning to different stakeholders but were similar enough across the two communities to
provide a starting

point for
discussions.

The notion of v
alue as a str
ong point of depa
rture for
co
-
creative design discussions is in part supported by Halloran
et al.

(2009), who
has
previously highlighted the importance of value in the design process of ubiquitous computing,
by noting that
negotiated agreement of values is

essential in a design process, with the power
to drive the
design

forward.

It is also interesting to note that some readers preferred the online
platform
as
the outlet for their opinions, in contrast to the face to face workshop with the
reason that the d
istributed setting provided more time for reflection.

Familiar techniques such as polls were also used by the facilitator to bring

in perspectives
from both participants in the project, but also from outsiders that were not a part of the inner
-
level broker
ing process. The use of boundary o
b
jects in this sense,

were scaled up to also
include
outsider
s

through the online platform
which
were used to gather perspectives from
readers that later could be used both for the purpose of inner
-
level brokering
and

to i
nfluence
the perspective making process of the newspaper representatives. This type of outer
-
level
brokering that exceeds the act of simply facilitating inner
-
level brokering was also observed
by how
one of
the facilitator
s

used her legitimacy as a researc
her and facilitator to advice the
newspaper staff to tone down their own needs, wants and what was technically feasible to do
during the start
-
up phase of the project
,

with the purpose of creating a common ground where
the participants had equal footing. W
hich in turn lead to the focus on the readers needs and
wants during the
workshop

and

the ongoi
ng work on the online platform.
The tactics used by
the
facilitator

to create a

shared language and influence

the behavior of stakeholders can be
interpreted as
a way of
addressing

what Hislop (2004) refer
s

to as the two greatest boundaries
of efficient knowledge sharing between communities of
practice
, namely
consensual

knowledge and diverging sense of identity.

It also
highlights

the importance of the facilitato
r
having enough legitimacy to carry out their work, which can be related to Wenger (1998) who
highlights the importance of legitimacy for brokering.

Looking back at theory on inne
r

and outer
-
level brokering, the empirical findings suggests a
wider view on
what Johansson and
Lundh Snis

(
2011) refer to as outer
-
level brokering
.

T
he
outer
-
level brokering observed in the city district blogs case extends to not just facilitating the
actual inner
-
level brokering activit
i
es, but also to prepare and influence what
perspectives that
the different communities bring to the table even before the inner
-
level brokering begins.


6

Conclusion

The study set out to investigate the research question of
how can facilitators work towards
bridging

conceptual distance between stakeh
olders in distributed multi
-
stakeholder c
o
-
creative innovation processes?

The study shows that the development of shared language
based around familiar concepts such as value enables stakeholders with a high degree of
conceptual distance between them such
as newspaper representatives and readers to engage in
co
-
creative activities

together. It further
illustrates

how facili
t
ators use outer
-
level brokering
and legitimacy to influence
stakeholders’

behaviour

in co
-
design
activities

to enable a
common ground f
or co
-
creation

activities
.
Finally it illustrates how
facilitators

use

different
types of

boundary objects in distributed settings to enable translation between different
communitie
s.

The findings have implications for practice in the sense that it provide
s insight in how
facilitators can work towards creating a common ground for co
-
creation
, where stakeholders
with vari
ed background
s

can engage in co
-
creation
and work towards a common goal.

The study also adds to the ongoing work on communities of practice

and boundary
spanning through extending the knowledge of the facilitators role in boundary spanning
activit
i
es and the process of outer
-
level brokering as a way to influence perspective making
.

Further research is encouraged to focus on the role of value
in co
-
creative design process
es,
brokered

by facilitators and boundary objects in these types of settings.

Finally, it would also
be fruitful to examine how users percieve the differences between co
-
located and distributed
settings during co
-
creative innov
ation processes.


Acknowledgement

This work was funded by
the
KK
-
foundation and the NordForsk LILAN programme through
LoCoMedia and the SociaLL project.
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