Deconstructing community-based collaborative design: Towards more equitable participatory design engagements

Christina N. Harrington, Sheena Erete, Anne Marie Piper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

216 Scopus citations


Participatory Design (PD) is envisioned as an approach to democratizing innovation in the design process by shifting the power dynamics between researcher and participant. Recent scholarship in HCI and design has analyzed the ways collaborative design engagements, such as PD situated in the design workshop can amplify voices and empower underserved populations. Yet, we argue that PD as instantiated in the design workshop is very much an affluent and privileged activity that often neglects the challenges associated with envisioning equitable design solutions among underserved populations. Based on two series of community-based PD workshops with underserved populations in the U.S., we highlight key areas of tension and considerations for a more equitable PD approach: historical context of the research environment, community access, perceptions of materials and activities, and unintentional harm in collecting full accounts of personal narratives. By reflecting on these tensions as a call-to-action, we hope to deconstruct the privilege of the PD workshop within HCI and re-center the focus of design on individuals who are historically underserved.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number216
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW
StatePublished - Nov 2019


  • Community-based participatory design
  • Design equity
  • Design workshops
  • Social action research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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