Co-creating ‘In the Field’

Co-creating ‘In the Field’

Last week saw the opening of an exhibition at the Macquarie University Art Gallery titled “In the field” which celebrates the intellectual and aesthetic genesis of creation. The exhibition is about how an idea happens, discovering what lies behind the creative process. Drawings and field notes form the initial documentation, the raw data; from which emerges new ideas and discoveries, imbued with the hands, thought processes and personality of the maker.


The exhibition features our river drawing created at a workshop held in Kipovo, Sabah in February 2016. The river drawing tells the story of a co-creation journey that is a result of an ambitious two-year project that aimed to co-create curriculum materials with eleven PACE international community-based organisations from seven different countries. During a co-creation workshop in Sabah, partners contributed to the river by mapping their personal and collective experience of the co-creation process.


The following narrative accompanies the river and will be made into an animation to be released later this year.

The co-creation journey:

We began this journey of co-creation in order to develop curriculum resources that would better support students undertaking international mobility programs. At the heart of this process was recognising the valuable expertise, knowledge and skills of our international community partners.

In co-creating a curriculum, we had to embrace the unpredictable, emotional and personal realities of bringing together diverse ideas, perspectives and people. We had to be open to more creative ways of engaging. This resulted in many challenges and opportunities.

The first challenge was sharing the aims of the project and communicating what co-creation might mean. This was difficult, because we each imagined co-creation differently. Some could not imagine it at all. Others understood the concept immediately because it is what they do everyday in their organisation…and they helped pull everyone along.

We found that building meaningful relationships were key to the co-creation journey. This involved making space to be together through a face-to-face workshop in Sydney. Alongside formal sessions to discuss the themes for curriculum development, were opportunities to connect with each other over meals and excursions.

After the workshop, time apart back in our own workplaces and personal lives meant other priorities took over and continuing the co-creation process was difficult. The most successful of a number of virtual media platforms that helped was the establishment of a Facebook group that allowed us to share memories of our time in Sydney together and it gave us insights into each other’s worlds. It is these insights that made the more formal process of curriculum development over virtual platforms possible and effective.

Because the building of personal relationships was so crucial, it was unsettling when team members changed, but it also created opportunities and an influx of new ideas.

Despite these challenges everyone felt the pull to come together again to continue and build on what we had begun. We came together again in Sabah, Malaysia where we consolidated our friendships, shared stories and worked together in new and exciting ways. Being responsive to, and valuing, the spontaneous, serendipitous and in-the-moment aspects of the relationship building process brought life, learning, and reciprocity to the co-creation process. These included, learning to play the drums, swimming and dancing together and sharing the preparation of a meal.

Ultimately, co-creation is about the synergies, taking time to bring together people and ideas to create something new.

About the project:

The ‘Classroom of Many Cultures’ project was inspired by conversations with international partners who felt that they could contribute directly to the educational program, not merely as hosts for overseas students involved in work-integrated learning, but also as co-teachers. Funded by a generous Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT) grant, Macquarie University academics and professional staff came together with our international partners to co-create a curriculum that included partner perspectives and concerns in pre-departure, in-country and re-entry educational programming.

Partners are as follows: Arbitration Council Foundation (Cambodia), Bahay Tuluyan (Philippines); Deaf Development Program (Cambodia), Legal Aid Cambodia (Cambodia), KOTO (Vietnam), PACOS Trust (Sabah, Malaysia), Peru’s Challenge (Peru), Pravah (India), Restless Development (India), University of the South Pacific (Fiji) and WSD Handa Centre (Cambodia). These organisations partner with Macquarie University and receive undergraduate students on work-integrated learning placements through the Professional and Community Engagement (PACE) program.

In the Field
In collaboration with the Department of website6Biological Sciences
Curatorium: Brian Atwell, Rhonda Davis, Elizabeth Eyre, Kate Hargraves and Leonard Janiszewski
Technical Curator: Iain Brew
Cadet Walanga Maru: Joshua Charlier

Where Macquarie University Art Gallery Building E11A