New ways to invite change and creativity into your design or meeting process through participatory design. 

Human-centered design is exceptionally valuable for discovering client-focused solutions, and when it’s incorporated into your design process at an early stage, such as the research phase, the final product can be more inclusive and better aligned with the client’s needs. Participatory Design relies on an approach of cooperative design: incorporating techniques that include the end-user within initial discovery and the subsequent iteration phases of our projects allows for solutions relevant to the user.

Participatory Design is most often used in designing software but it has broader applications. How can we implement this type of thinking into the collaboration culture of our businesses? Usability research transcends products and can be considered when developing stronger, more effective teams. 

We know through studies and surveys of more than 100 leaders in the workforce today that participation and inclusivity are key ingredients to successful and sustainable ideation sessions and sustainable change. Everyone can be an active creator if we find ways to truly unleash the full team. Within remote and hybrid work models, we see that access to the tools necessary to be fully involved in the design process is often hindered due to a lack of equity. We can improve access to opportunity through key decision making, acknowledgment, and actively seeking out diverse perspectives. 

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Origins and principles

Democratic values merged with labor movements to address labor relations and power dynamics, which all brought attention to system designs in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. This is our first traceable evidence of participatory design and pioneered the involvement of the user in the design process. A new and socially active design process brought equity and equality to designers and users alike. Shedding light on the fact that there is an opportunity for us all to learn and grow from each other, a more just system can grow through participatory design. Learning from that base of new understanding invites the question: How do we truly incorporate participatory design to change the way we think about system structures, inequality, accessibility, and responsibility? 

Here are the 8 leading principles of Participatory Design:

  • Participation and Representation
  • Shared Power
  • Equal Expertise
  • Mutual Learning
  • Co-creation and Co-determination
  • Democracy
  • Justice and Social Activism
  • Tools and Techniques

Towards a more just library 

Storytelling is a critical aspect of many Native American cultures. Storytelling is also critical in making informed and collaborative decisions as a designer, business owner, or educator. Towards a More Just Library takes us on a journey where Participatory Design was implemented to bring awareness to a marginalized community, in order to encourage the success rates in higher education for Native American students. Actively listening to the wants, needs, and desires of the community aligned and awoke the community to perspectives that had been underrepresented, and thus socially marginalized. Through Participatory Design exercises like journey mapping, expectation maps, prototyping, and journaling this service design project was able to achieve greater political consciousness with social awareness.

“For participatory designers and Indigenous researchers alike, the practical and the political objectives are united around the common theme of empowerment through participation. Within a participatory design paradigm, power is realized when the participant possesses the ability to create choices and determine decisions. Within an Indigenous paradigm, power is also framed around participation, and is realized when the participant becomes a storyteller.”

Including Indigenous and Underrepresented Voices

Understanding and acknowledging indigenous and underrepresented voices is vital to the progress of our society as a whole. The systemic issue being addressed in ‘Towards a More Just Library’ was the underlying fear Native American students had of even entering a library. Indigenous voices were invited into the conversation, which utilized these 3 participatory design steps:

  • Stage 1: Explorative—exploring topics, concepts, and problems related to the experience of participants
  • Stage 2: Generative—generating ideas and potential solutions around key topics explored in Stage 1
  • Stage 3: Evaluative—evaluating and implementing the most desirable, feasible, and viable ideas generated in Stage 2

Longer-term relationships with the Native community were introduced, and conclusions were drawn to inform decisions about the social structure of the community. Education and reflection on racism, sexism, colonialism, and oppression are critical to this structure. In order to develop lasting change, and invite ideas from underrepresented groups we must first form a protocol that is open, honest, and inviting. 

“With a foundation of education and from a place of reflection, we can pose critical, rhetorical questions that shape and strengthen our research processes and practice areas:

  • How can we improve the conditions of marginalized, underrepresented, and oppressed peoples?
  • How can we engage with and deconstruct dominant stories and oppressive power structures?
  • As researchers, how can we engage more critically with the research process?
  • As practitioners, how can we bring Indigenous voices into our areas of practice?”

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Land acknowledgments 

An understanding of land acknowledgments is a good first step in the direction of Participatory Design, understanding, and inclusion. Before we can invite underrepresented voices into the conversation we must begin to understand the culture and the history of these voices. To pioneer change, we invite everyone to learn about the Native cultures and communities associated with their land and open up the dialogue to inviting perspectives and speakers from those communities. 

Introducing Play into Participatory Design

There are many ways to increase interactivity and creativity in the participatory design process. Here are some tools and techniques to invite a more inclusive and participatory space: 

Exploring new ways to invite change and creativity into your design or meeting process will improve company culture and transparency, and invite every voice into a space where it is honored and celebrated. 

Innovation and Inclusion

We believe that including and unleashing everyone is the foundation of success. With the right tools and training, every enterprise has the potential to influence the future of work. Without diverse ideas, we limit our opportunities for success. We are advocates of sustainable and healthy change, and we are here to help you accomplish those goals. We have found several ways to increase system design and encourage participation. Collaboration and communication are critical to participatory design; check out these frameworks to assist you in your next problem-solving project: 

Contact us if you have any questions, and check out our virtual workshop offerings. We coach and upskill facilitators with online workshops that can be done on your schedule. For teams that need quicker results, we also facilitate custom online sessions. Learn more about our services.

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