Giving the space for people to talk, don´t confuse participation and collaboration

April 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm 3 comments

Frame 1: projects I carried out at Procorp, Santiago, Chile 2008. We involved the communities in defining solutions for a municipality project.
‘Ninety five percent of the world’s designers focus all of their efforts on develop­ing products and services exclusively for the richest ten percent of the world’s customers’ (Polak 2007:19)
. This reality is followed by what is exhibited in design journals for the design community, or publications made for the general public. We should reflect in the impact design could make in people’s lives, yet, it should move towards a socially respon­sible field. How can we integrate communities to the process? Amy Smith at MIT D-Lab has said “I believe very strongly that solutions to problems in the developing world are best created in collaboration with the people who will be using them”. Though, as I mentioned before, I don’t like using the “developing world” terminology. Collaborative research [see Lassiter for collaborative ethnography] can be used in applied work for achieving several objectives. For example, it can make a difference to ad­dress a Community Development project. As the authors in Community Building in the 21st Century argue it is important to involve the local com­munities in the research processes for achieving sustainability, long-term impact and self-effective communities. When the community is involved and invests effort and resources, the individuals participating become part of the change. Thereof they are more likely to embrace it and contribute to future development and challenges. Throughout my experience, I’ve come to firmly believe this. I have seen this in Community Development problems related to: poverty, public health and estate housing. These pictures are from some projects that included individuals in the design process. In different degrees of collaboration. In the private sector, we can also say that collaborative research is useful to take charge of all the different views and requirements of the people “touched” by the project. In the case of organiza­tional change assessment, it is important to understand the “uncovered” relations, goals and expectations of the people involved. There are things that can be elicited just under a collaborative point of view. If people feel represented in any way by the interventions, if they feel that they were “heard” it is more likely that they welcome change. You need to give the space for people to talk.
Frames 2 & 3 show a research for pre-investment report done for the integrated protection system for early childhood in Chile: “Chile Crece Contigo” , which has been indicated by the United Nations Economic and Social Council as a development strategy that works [Go to source]. Our group, in charge of understanding and proposing the parts of the public policy that defined the products that could be recommended in a maternity, integrated the different communities that would be “touched” in our process. [Go to Report] Participation of midwives Hospital Clínico U.Chile & Consultorio Talagante.

So what is collaboration? Or may I say, what is REAL collabora­tion? Today collaboration and collaborative methods may be considered buzzwords. How much is to really work with people because their contributions shape the project they are intended to? There are lot of “participations” that are ethically incorrect, overall when they are used as a mean to say that end-users were included in the process when they weren’t. You can say that you involve people just by asking them 3 questions about a project. In my opinion, there are different intensities of collaboration. We shouldn’t confuse ourselves that; by asking a few questions to our participants, we are achieving full collaboration. That might be called participation, which is mainly instrumental. It is the typical ways in which we, in design leaded projects, engage with audiences. And that is if we do it. Sometimes “designers or policy makers” won’t even ask the audiences involved in the project what are their ideas. We SHOULD integrate communities. Full-extent collaboration is hard, overall when fighting budget and time constraints. Yet, it is fully desirable when looking for a sustainable social change outcome.

Frame 4 shows the project of student Rocío Santander, when developing educational material to teach pre-school kids about Mapuche culture.

A project can be more or less col­laborative in its research, but it should be minimally seeking to achieve multivocality. This primarily for two reasons:
1) To achieve viability and effectiveness of the implementation
2) To be appropriate (to the context, the culture and the individuals).

These are, for me, the two main charac­teristics that achieve multivocality, overall in bottom-up problem solving. I believe “Convivial Tools” , as Psychologist Liz Sanders PhD, has defined, is one of the areas that designers and policy makers could explore in order to integrate individuals or users. Nonetheless we have to acknowledge most of the applications are not achieving full collaboration yet a certain degree of participation. They are in a “multivocal” dimension. We might think more about them, looking for research rigor and creativity in their application.


Entry filed under: Design Research, salud/ health, Social Design.

Design for the First World, the rest “saving” the West Methods: Some tools to communicate in entertaining ways with individuals

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contact + citing (CC license)

Constanza Miranda PhD(c) design.anthro
* Currently @ DILAB
* Ex.VR @ Stanford's Center for Design Research [DesignXLab]
* Ex.Instructor @ PUC Chile [Design+Engineering]
Use citations ¡Citar es ético!
Creative Commons License
Design for Social Innovation initiative by Constanza Miranda is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at