"The act of taking part in an activity or event"
(Oxford Advanced American Dictionary)
Participatory Design (PD) is a design methodology that attempts to actively involve all stakeholders (e.g. clients, users, public) during the design process to help ensure the result meets their needs and concerns.
Rather than design “for” people, Participatory Design emphasis on design “with” people. It focuses on the process and procedure of design where the design solution is derived from the participatory process.
While this methodology was originally rooted in Scandinavian labor unions in the 70s, to democratically empower workers and allow workers to determine the shape and scope of new technologies introduced into the workplace, it gives rise to an alternative movement of determining our built environment and how citizens can involve in the making of the city.
Placemaking, co-creation, co-design are popular terms that are originally derived from the term “Participatory Design”.
“Participation without redistribution of power is an empty and frustrating process for the powerless. It allows the powerholders to claim that all sides were considered but makes it possible for only some of those sides to benefit. It maintains the status quo.”
– Sherry R. Arnstein
(Sherry R. Arnstein’s “A Ladder of Citizen Participation,” Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 35, No. 4, July 1969, pp. 216-224)
A ‘deep’ participatory process engages participants in all stages of a given activity, from identification to decision-making. Such a process can remain ‘narrow’, however, if it only involves a handful of people or particular interest groups. Equally, a ‘wide’ range of people might be involved, but if they are only informed or consulted their participation would remain ‘shallow’.
This usefully highlights the intersections between inclusion/exclusion and degrees of involvement.
Optimum participation is to get the balance between depth and inclusion right for the purpose at hand.
For a deep and extended participatory process in the production of architecture:
PD & Community Building
PD & Public Engagement
PD & Research