Adopting co-creation processes for developing PROTAX solutions

Co-creation is a collaborative process through which stakeholders define an issue and collectively create solutions to address it.

It is a process particularly valuable in developing innovative and harmonious cross-border solutions to tackle tax crime. It has been an integral part of the development of the PROTAX Toolkit to ensure the incorporation of the end-user perspective in the final product.

In the project’s original plan, the PROTAX co-creation workshops would ordinarily be conducted in person, but restrictions to normal working practices during the COVID-19 pandemic means that the project had to be innovative and conduct the workshops in an online setting.

Since September 2020, PROTAX partners have been hosting virtual workshops presenting three innovative toolkits to promote cooperation and alignment of the policies and law enforcement between the EU countries.

Below, we give insights on the co-creation process that took place during the workshops, for anyone wishing to understand how the PROTAX Toolkit has been developed.


The first stage fundamentally asks, what is the problem for which we are identifying a solution? During co-analysis, we got participants to brainstorm and explore possibilities for creating a unified framework to combat tax crime and the findings were recorded.

Specific questions we asked stakeholders during this stage were:

  • What are the potential design problems or issues that you foresee?
  • Who are the most important stakeholders or end-users that will benefit from this solution?
  • What are stakeholder’s needs, goals, values or interests in this solution?

This was important to record for the co-evaluation stage, below.


The primary task of the second stage was to define the main functionalities of the solution in conjunction with experts.

The initial phase of PROTAX workshops focused on gathering feedback from leading experts and practitioners in tax matters, from academics to law enforcement agencies in Italy, Estonia, Romania, Austria, Hungary, Malta and Finland and on fine-tuning the toolkits.

To give a specific example, during the co-design of the risk methodology solution for PROTAX, specific feedback was requested from expert stakeholders in tax crime enforcement roles, such as asking them to produce a list of indicators that may signal a ‘red flag warning’ of a tax crime, and to identify any vulnerabilities in the institutional frameworks of the tax crime enforcement environment across the EU.


The purpose of the third stage is to identify and overcome any conflicting values, purposes or functions contained within the technology or solution or between stakeholders. To do this, we ask stakeholders to produce lists that evaluate the conflicts or trade-offs that have been identified.

In the course of the workshops, participants’ practical experience in combatting tax crimes confirmed the need for a comprehensive exchange of information framework between the tax authorities of the Member States. New ideas and topics emerged during the discussions to facilitate collaboration between EU states.

Co-implementation phase

The final stage focuses on optimising the adoption of the PROTAX solutions on a broader scale, beyond the stakeholders involved in the project.

In this stage, ask stakeholders to identify factors or issues that will influence whether end-users embrace or decline the solution provided. If relevant, ask what factors may influence the public to accept or reject the solution, broadly defined as ‘social acceptability’. Finally, identify information channels that could alert potential users to the solution.

Bringing people together to work through technology solutions during the current COVID-19 pandemic requires additional flexibility, however, by honing in on the actual substance of what working collaboratively aims to achieve, it can successfully be conducted online while we wait for the COVID-19 restrictions to be lifted.

The co-creation workshops will continue as we develop the pan-European network to combat tax crime. Provided that the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted by the end of our project, we will host a final conference in Lisbon, where we will invite all workshops’ participants, as well as stakeholders who are practitioners in the field of investigation and prosecution of tax crime. The conference, yet again, will act as a platform to exchange findings and contribute to increasing EU’s capability to fight tax crime.


Contact us for more information on this research area or the PROTAX toolkit.

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