Engagement Methods

An inclusive and transparent path toward project goals is vital to an informed public interest design practice. Determining appropriate ways to engage stakeholders and community participants can help ensure agency during a project. Through the potential of participatory action, communities are empowered to join in democratic decision making to establish their priorities, define their goals, and build consensus.The designer or design team can function as a facilitator to engage participation. This role requires neutrality—respect for an unbiased and objective process that honors the social and cultural context of the community or audience. Affording stakeholders ways to contribute to a meaningful process of inclusion that acknowledges the diversity of voices and differences of opinions is essential to a public interest design practice.Available time and resources will often dictate methods used. Adapting methods to fit the needs of the project through scale or priority can provide opportunities to reinvent processes. Helping communities envision change is at the heart of these efforts. Synthesizing the outcomes of participation is required to discover connections, patterns, and, ultimately, preferences and needs embedded within the multifaceted design problem.

The following are some of the methods listed in our book Public Interest Design Practice Guidebook. They are grouped according to ways of promoting interaction. Chapters and case studies that utilize methods discussed in this book are cross-referenced and offer a more in-depth and contextually expanded discussion.

Block parties
Group meals
Local happening (chapter 15, pages 129–32)

Community Assets
Asset-based design/development
Community hiring (case study 13)
Job fairs (case study 13)
Minority-owned businesses (chapter 12, pages 115–20; chapter 21, pages 157–61)
Skills development (chapter 12, pages 115–20; chapter 23, pages 167–71; case
study 16)
Workforce training (chapter 21, pages 157–61)

Demonstrations (case study 6)
Symposia (chapter 18, pages 143–6)
Workshops (chapter 17, pages 137–41; case study 6, 7, 12, 23, 26)

Games and Play
Board games (chapter 15, pages 129–32)
Card games (chapter 14, pages 125–8)
Online gaming tools (chapter 11, pages 109–14)

Localized Activities
Community action planning (chapter 14, pages 125–8)
Community-embedded design team (case study 15)
Community gatherings (chapter 15, pages 129–32)
Cultural activities (case study 4)
Home visits or home stays (chapter 24, pages 173–7; case study 8, 11)
Neighborhood picnics
Neighborhood walks (chapter 15, pages 129–32)
On-site/field observations (case study 23)
On-site project management (case study 18)
Problem tree exercises (chapter 14, pages 125–8; case study 2)
Street-team canvassing (chapter 11, pages 109–14)
Street-team meetings/advocacy (chapter 17, pages 137–41; case study 30)