Running a co-development session

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Running a co-development session 

The concept behind running a co-development session for a professional group was created by Adrien Payette and Claude Champagne in 1997. They explained it as a development approach for people who believe they can learn from each other to improve how they do things.

This type of activity is normally used in coaching to bring a small group of people together to discuss issues they would like to share and explore with others. By using a structured consultation exercise, individual and collective reflection can help to address issues currently being experienced by one or some of the participants.


Benefits of co-development

People join co-development groups for a range of different reasons, however the main objective is normally to share issues with others and get help to agree a way forward. We all see things differently, so it can help to share our issue with people who are not part of our family or social group.

Coaching co-development will help the group develop their listening skills, get experience brainstorming and problem-solving in a group situation, learn to help others and gain the confidence to say when they need help or have a problem.

The group can be made up of individuals who do not know each other, people from the same organization or a team who normally work together. And by having a range of different backgrounds in the group, you can help bring different viewpoints to the discussions, however they should not have any historical issues or unresolved conflicts.

This can be difficult if an organization asks you to provide professional help by setting up and running a co-development session. It may be better to suggest starting with more traditional team coaching or executive coaching to work through any historical issues the group may have. This will get them working together so they can learn to support each other. This may also be the first time they have had an opportunity to find solutions together and work on any issues that may have blocked their progress in the past or stopped them from succeeding.

Tip: If you are asked to work with a team or group from within the same organization, you may find it helpful to talk to a member of HR first. This will help you to better understand their working environment, key personalities and any strategic or corporate objectives they may have.


Key roles within the group

There are three key roles when running a co-development session:

  • Coach / Facilitator – You create a safe environment and support the group to share their experiences and ideas
  • Client – Each member of the group will take it in turns to play the client who sets out the issue they would like to discuss
  • Consultants – All other members of the group will be the consultant and listen to the person chosen to be the client, then share their thoughts and suggestions

The group will have the opportunity to take turns being the ‘client’ and discuss any issue they would like help with. The rest of the group help tackle the issues being discussed and workshop different approaches.


Selecting a client at the session

As the coach / facilitator, you will go around the group and ask if anybody has an issue they would like to share and discuss. You can prioritize who goes first by urgency and ask the group to vote on a chosen subject that should be a real, topical or unresolved issue.

Tip: Check what they would like to get out of being the client. For example, do they expect to be supported, challenged or questioned?


Presenting an issue to discuss at the session

Before they share an issue with the group, it can help to take a short break and ask the person selected to be the client to prepare some notes. This will help them to be clear on what they would like to say, as they will only have about 10 minutes to present their issue.

If possible, they should include an overview of the situation, how it impacts on them, how it makes them feel and what steps they have already taken to address it. It can also help if they can add in any results achieved and what difficulties (if any) they encountered.

Tip: If possible, ask them to think of a headline statement or title (this can be humorous) that quickly sums up their issue.


During the session

You guide the overall process and create a safe environment where everybody has the confidence to share information. It is vital the group get the most out of their time together, so ask everybody to follow SLQU and respect the opinion of others:

  • Silence – No prejudices
  • Listening – Active non-verbal
  • Questioning – Open and supportive
  • Understanding – Different viewpoints, reality and beliefs


Whatever the reason for people joining a co-development workshop, your role as the coach or facilitator is to help everybody get the maximum benefit from the experience. And no matter if they are a group of individuals who do not know each other, or a group of colleagues who regularly work together, they should all gain valuable insight.

This may be the first time they are getting insight from a range of different perspectives or viewpoints and should give them the opportunity to share and explore issues with others in a safe environment, so they can find the solution that works for them.


Further reading:

We provide you with everything you need for running a co-development session in our exclusive toolkit, available now in our online shop:

Kit : Running a Co-Development Session – Coach a small group of people and help them discuss any issues they would like to share and explore. This kit includes all of the documents you need to facilitate, train and lead a co-development session.


We have also published a range of ebooks, games and kits to help you within your coaching sessions:


We constantly add content to the site, so please check our on-line shop and look at the full range of games, ebooks and kits. Or read some of the other blog posts written by our team of international coaches.


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