Citizen Makers Workshop at the 20th Anniversary National Gathering of Imagining America

I presented and ran a new engagement workshop with conference attendees titled Citizen Makers in Community Design Intervention + Action at the Imagining America 20th Anniversary National Conference this fall in Albuquerque, New Mexico, October 18-20, 2019.

This collaborative and interactive workshop introduces participants to a citizen-inclusive design process that applies an open, participatory model for community engagement in design intervention and action projects. The workshop is based on a framework from my research and practice, called the Blended Perspective (see Figure 1 below), that merges social impact assessment (SIA) guidelines from the social sciences with a human-centered design approach to improve methods for assessing social impact as a major outcome of design work. [1]

Figure 1. The Blended Perspective. Copyright, Normoyle, C., 2019.

[1] Read my most recent publication in the FOURTH issue of the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) DEC (Design Educators Community) open-access scholarly journal, Dialectic Volume 2, Issue 02 (V2, I2) called A Blended Perspective: Social Impact Assessment in Graphic Design. To view the entire publication, click here:

The Citizen Makers Workshop is a tool for teaching this method of community engagement in design intervention and action projects to a wide range of audience types in an interactive and experiential way. The workshop explains how designers can work with (not for) communities through all the phases of a project. This particular strategy emphasizes the community’s ability and responsibility to actively contribute to the implementation and monitoring phases of a design intervention and action projects. This central idea, inspired by the DIY (do-it-yourself) movement, enables citizens to become producers versus consumers of their communities. Designers serve as researchers, systems thinkers, and activists for change, while community members find ownership and authorship in the work they produce. 

The workshop can be used in the classroom to teach students or in the field to teach community and city members, professionals, and others. It is an active approach to learning that provides opportunities for participants to co-create hypothetical design intervention and action projects, based on unique issues that are relevant and unique to them.

At the conference, eight participants completed the workshop. They worked through a series of activities to learn about this method of community engagement in design intervention and action projects. An overview of the workshop activities is listed below.

  1. Identify an issue of concern based on experiences and/or interests relevant to you and your community.
  2. Identify characteristics of your communities.
  3. Brainstorm design intervention and action projects for your community.
  4. Identify community members for participation.
  5. Identify community member interests, skills and knowledge for integration.
  6. Integrate community participation into design intervention and action projects and refine solutions.

The workshop lasted about an hour and a half. Feedback from participants has been reviewed in order to refine the workshop further, and I plan to run this workshop with students at ECU this spring to test and develop the workshop curriculum further.

Some other highlights from the conference included the film screening of From Here by film maker, Christina Antonakos-Wallace (Check out as well for more details about her work). The film shared the stories of four protagonists from different parts of the world who struggle to find a sense of belonging and self in the places that they call home. We screened the film at the Imagining America conference, but the film will go on tour across the states in 2020. I am working with another colleague to setup a screening at ECU for next fall. We hope to invite Antonakos-Wallace and one of the protagonists to ECU to screen the film and run a workshop with the School of Art + Design students (perhaps other ECU organizations who may be interested as well). We plan to run additional programming next fall that will align with the concepts and concerns that the film brings to light.

Another highlight of the experience with Imagining America was the opportunity to represent ECU (and Eastern Carolina in general) with my colleagues while at the conference. Angela Wells, Associate Professor of Photography in the School of Art and Design and Mark Rasdorf, Senior Associate Director for the Dr. Jesse R. Peel LGBTQ Center also presented work at the conference about their collaborative and on-going project, the True Colors Exhibition, a photography exhibit in celebration of LGBTQ History Month. The two have worked together for the past three years planning and implementing this show with students at ECU.

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