What is Participatory Design?

By Ndiga
  Published 31 Jan 2014
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It’s a practice that actively engages non-designers in co-design activities. Non-designers could be users, stakeholders, developers, or others (like marketing, sales, or engineering professionals), all with different backgrounds, experience, and functions on your project. There are many different methods to engage participation in the design of your project, technology, or system. “Although ‘Participatory Design’ as such has not been a prevalent term in Africa, ‘Participation’ however, is a familiar concept in Africans’ every day activities and deeply anchored in the Southern African philosophy of UBUNTU, recognizing principles of relationships between people. Besides, societies all over the world have acknowledged profound links between people and their environment for many centuries. … By ‘reflecting connectedness’ in participatory design, we acknowledge influential relations across continents, societies, people, disciplines and time, beyond the direct involvement of stakeholders. We recognize the value of accumulated experiences elsewhere and over time to enrich the field of Participatory Design. We further engage in critical debates of what it means to design within and for a multilayered network, such as the on-line world versus off-line interactions, the blurring distinction of designers and users, researchers and artists, design and research ‘in the wild’, designing for social justice, inclusiveness, and sustainability.” The above is an excerpt from the 13th Biannual International Conference for Participatory Design(PDC 2014) to be held in Namibia (October with the stated theme “reflecting connectedness.”) Why use PD? When creating technology, it is good to consider your technology users. Participatory design goes beyond simply considering users, and involves them in actual design activities. When used as a User Experience (UX) approach, Participatory Design (PD) tools, techniques, and methods engage users directly in the process of designing technology so your final design is more appropriate than when designing technology without it. Participatory design practice is also valuable for its political values too. Its history stems from increasing employee participation in system design for factory automation in a complex power context. Participatory design is increasingly used by ICT4D projects to engage all project stakeholders, as well as give voice to typically marginalized groups in technology projects.Participatory projects and research are happening everywhere, such as some exemplary work in southern Africa for constructing indigenous knowledge management systems for use in sustainable development in sectors such as health, agriculture, and animal husbandry sectors [you can read the project write-up here]. Wanna Learn More about Participatory Design? Please, join the next Nairobi Research Buzz on 6th February 2014 from 5:30 pm to 7:00 pm to learn more about PD practice, methods, and to try it out! In this talk, one of our visiting iHub Research Fellows, Samantha Merritt, will present a little of the ‘about participatory design’ and offer a few of these methods for you to use in your work. Kindly RSVP here.
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