Engaging with Innovation - Co Designing a Rural Grants Program

The 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium will be held this month over 15-17 October at the Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania.

Joining us at the conference is Ms Marianne Zangari, Senior Project Officer at Queensland Health who will present on ‘Engaging with Innovation - Co Designing a Rural Grants Program'.


The Tackling Regional Adversity through Integrated Care (TRAIC) Program tested a co-design methodology by engaging rural communities to design and shape programs that fit with the TRAIC grants objectives - build community resilience, promote suicide prevention and improve help seeking behaviour and referral pathways as well as respond to community needs.

Co-design involves a shift in the locus of responsibility and control so that clients, stakeholders or service users become active partners in designing, shaping and resourcing programs or services, rather than being passive recipients of a pre-determined program.

The person-centred approach of co-design– where service providers understand the experience of service or program from a client’s point of view provides an opportunity to ‘walk in their shoes.’ The TRAIC team travelled 11,200 kilometres throughout Queensland conducting 11 co-design grants workshops in regional but mainly remote communities.

Co-design starts with a desired end rather than trying to fix what’s wrong with the program. The project aimed to actively engage stakeholders in exploring, developing and testing responses to shared challenges.

The presentation describes the co-design process that was undertaken, the principles underpinning co-design approach, the challenges, outcomes and lessons learned. This process is a departure from previous open tender approach to procure grants where rural stakeholders were often the passive recipients of the program.

Using co-design generated more innovative ideas, fostered a sense of cooperation, allowing local ownership and buy-in of program development. Eleven unique projects were developed, each responding the different needs and issues identified in the workshops. The projects will be completed by the 30 June 2019, so ultimate success remains to be seen. The process offered the TRAIC Project team based in Brisbane, an opportunity for the to ‘walk in their shoes’ providing profound insights into the challenges faced by communities in rural Queensland.

Key Learnings:
1. The role stigma plays in preventing rural people seeking help for mental health issues - this was the underlying premise of most projects.
2. Targeting communities and inviting organisations dealing with local adversity meant everyone was on the same page.
3. Some challenges dealing with those who had a solution or project in mind. More preparation around the co-design prior to the workshops process is important.


Marianne Zangari's background is in health promotion, policy and program development. Her work experience is varied working in social marketing programs during the Swine Flu outbreak, a Dengue Fever outbreak, the National Partnership Agreements program addressing chronic disease and more recently in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mental health and rural mental health. Working on the Water Fluoridation project to introduce the legislation in Queensland is a career highlight. Marianne has Master of Health Science, with a major in Health Promotion.

For more information on the upcoming 2018 Australian Rural & Remote Mental Health Symposium please visit anzmh.asn.au/rrmh

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