From Design as Artifact to Design as Process: Applying an Open Model to Community Engagement in Social Design

I recently attended Cumulus Hong Kong 2016 Conference, Open Design for E-very-thing and presented work about community engagement in the design process. The theme of the conference was openness and what that means in a field that has historically been conflicted between design that is inclusive versus exclusive. There were six tracks of exploration: education, empathy, ethnography, engagement, experiment, and environment. I presented in the engagement track, a design model that opens the design process to the community, expanding the role of the residents from participants to makers.

The model introduces the designer as strategist and systems thinker in the context of social design projects, while the community takes on the role of participant and maker. This central idea, inspired by the DIY (do-it-yourself) and open-source mentality of residents creates a workforce of critical makers, especially useful in locale endeavors with limited budgets. The model includes the roles and responsibilities for all phases of work—research, strategy, concept, artifact, and management—for both the designer and community member. Designers serve as strategists, systems thinkers, and activists for social change; community members serve as makers, which empowers them as they find ownership and authorship in the work they produce.

At the conference, I explained the model and how it worked through case studies that I led in Memphis, TN.

The paper will be published with the conference proceedings late spring.