Lessons in Community Participation

The US has a complicated history of designing services that fail to have the intended effect, because the target users/communities are not consulted.

However, simply engaging a community in the design process doesn’t guarantee a successful outcome either, nor broad and accurate representation of the target community.

To get a better sense of how community participation can impact our design process, what examples or resources have you come across that successfully implement this co-design element? What are the considerations to always keep in mind (both to embrace and avoid) in the context of these collaborative exchanges?

@getachew, @Jcosta, @OlgaG, I wonder if you have any insights on this for us?

Thank you for joining the community, @RBarragan and @mkooistra! I’d like to ask for your thoughts on this question as well. What lessons can you share?

Nick, hope you are well.
I don’t have a lot of time at the moment given all that is happening here in King County but did want to at least get this rolling with a set of essays that can really shed some light on this from NACEDA, an org. I serve on the board of. THANKS Marty

Thank you for sharing, @mkooistra, and good luck!

@samanthasuppiah I am very interested something you said in another discussion:

“…the discussion could possibly come back around building regulations and the embedding of co-creation within the current design process.
So I would say the great potential in this particular track is to focus on developing a process to respond to the US system.”

Independent of the particular details of a specific country, how would you create a co-creation design process for target communities? Where are there natural “breaks” or junctions to incorporate community input?

@nmgraham interesting question. My answer would be that it’s iterative. Typically co-creation should happen very early on, e.g. project feasibility stage, to inform basic/common needs or goals that should be addressed in the design process.
Further, each design stage tends to land at some sort of client consultation. E.g. typically in Europe there is a “planning stage” where the proposals are submitted for planning approval before the detailed design work begins.
The co-creation process could be held in parallel to these cycles or stages, with different co-creators at each design stage as is relevant.

Thank you @samanthasuppiah! @stevenfallon and @Rwyse, you both commented on our discussion around digital processes for community participation - is there anything you might like to add here about participatory design more in general?

Community participation is a difficult topic to master, especially since it hasn’t really been mastered by anyone yet, as far as I know. Apart from what I mentioned in the digital processes thread, there aren’t many groundbreaking solutions or concepts out there right now, to my knowledge.

It’s especially difficult for the reason @nmgraham points out here:

I think my only advice is that there has to be a balance between what the community wants and expects, and what the professionals know is going to work. These are architects, engineers, planners, lawyers, and finance professionals that all went to school for years to learn what works and what doesn’t. That goes without saying, though, that we should not stick to and only to the words of the professionals. Otherwise, this very competition and other similar ideas wouldn’t have any effect, and likewise, community members wouldn’t have a say, which sometimes goes a long way. They are local, and projects that consider its location and context are often more successful than not.

I recall a few architects/projects where the community was more involved in the construction process of a building, educating community members on what goes into designing and building our cities, and it could be said a more informed public will tend to make better decisions than an uninformed one. (I can’t find/locate the specific projects I’m referring to currently.)

Something not entirely related but definitely involves the community: designing and building “half” of a neighborhood, and letting the community design and build the other “half.” It takes the participatory idea to its extremes, and doubles down on the concept of affordable housing, but has the potential to really bring together and establish communities and neighborhood bonds that we seem to have lost in modern cities. The end result is debatable to designers. Some outcomes are better than others, based on individual budgets and design decisions, but some argue that’s how neighborhoods become unique and identifiable.

‘Lessons in community participation’ I want to refer this community to two examples that I really like, from the earlier mentions, mainly;

  1. “Everton Football Club’s record-breaking public consultation for a new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock and a community-led legacy at Goodison Park has been shortlisted for a national planning industry award”. I do think this participation was at design stages.

  2. “Built InCommon uses new technology to build networks of small, neighbourhood-owned factories. Facilitating local fabrication of homes, knowledge exchange, and the ability to share capacity”. I also think there is a great opportunity to master community participation within the Built InCommon Model.

While reading through these reports I realised we have very solid examples that can be iterated on. Curious to learn of any remarks and improvements to these blueprints, I think mastery is very close!.