Power Tools for Participatory Research and Design

Level: New to experienced

Civic design is gaining momentum as a practice that uniquely engages underserved populations. Yet with this growing momentum comes a growing potential for harm. When lacking the appropriate reflexivity and tools, practitioners can fail to recognize how they’re perpetuating power imbalances, and miss opportunities to create equity through the work. This workshop offers a pragmatic approach for navigating power through a project life cycle. We will guide participants through ‘power tools’ that PPL developed to check biases, engage our clients and communities of participants, inform theories of change and evaluation, define participatory methods, and guide product and service development.

The workshop aims to be accessible and pragmatic, rather than merely philosophical, so that participants can immediately begin using the tools in their work. We will provide practical guidance (through case studies, breakout room discussions, and group activities) on the types of capabilities that ethical researchers and designers need in Civic Design, including:

  • Gaining awareness and reflexivity about the types of power dynamics they need to navigate in their work.
  • Knowing how to engage individually and with teams of colleagues to undertake power-based assessments at multiple stages of a research and design project.
  • Being familiar with the processes they can implement to apply the frameworks and tools in various types of projects.
Natalia Radywyl
Research and Evaluation Director, Public Policy Lab
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Chelsea Mauldin
Executive Director, Public Policy Lab
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