Participation and Practice

At the beginning of this MDes, my practice was heavily influenced by social entrepreneurship - a blend of market-centric methodologies such as Customer Development and Lean Startup (Blank, 2003 [69]; Reis, 2011 [70]), and more participatory methods such as generative research (Sanders & Stappers, 2012 [71]).

When working on complex challenges, I believe deeply in enabling participation of people who will be affected by the decisions. Within the concept development phase, I was able to delve somewhat deeper into methods such as design ethnography and iterative prototyping approaches based on stakeholder feedback, however I was expecting to be able to use more participatory and collaborative approaches.

I was limited in this endeavour due to the majority of this phase coming at a time of great turbulence in my life. Having lost my father suddenly in the last 9 months of my studies, I still decided to pursue my research as a means of catharsis and to maintain a focus on the work I find deep purpose in. However, I found that the truth in the statement “The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor” [72], in that I underestimated my grief and its effects. I didn’t have the emotional or cognitive capacity or the inclination to operate in the authentic, relational way, that I feel is vital for meaningful participation.

In the course of my research, new articles and books were published by the likes of Adrienne Maree Brown (Emergent Strategy), Arturo Escobar (Design for the Pluriverse), and Peter Jones (The Systemic Turn), all of which gave me greater insight and language for some of the methods and practices which I had been discovering or grappling with.