top of page
  • Writer's pictureElla Kirby

What is Participatory Design?

Participatory design is a power move. A shift of power from the architect, designer or funder to the people who will connect, grow, work or live in the space.

Through conversation and collaboration, we believe that we can build better outcomes for everyone. When we journey together the result is a much greater reflection of each person’s needs and wants.

We think participation design, collaboration, listening and sharing is the foundation of good design. By intentionally creating time to recognise the different priorities for different individuals and communities we can better understand what a good design looks like and feels like to the people who will use it.

What does participatory design look like in practice?

It looks different for every project. Each process has a unique approach that best suits the people involved, whether that’s tailored time frames or ‘out of the box’ meeting styles. Being able to participate means that you actually need to be able participate. This means both designs and the design process has to be inclusive and accessible.

Traditional ways of engaging people in the design process don’t work for everyone and can leave people feeling excluded, so the resulting designs don’t necessarily serve everyone they need to. We want to make creating spaces together accessible by removing any barriers people may face where we can.

How does it work?

Shifting the power from those who would usually be called ‘experts’ means valuing lived experience. Every person has lived experience; the challenges they’ve faced, the stories they have, their knowledge and learnings. Respecting what each person brings to the tēpu is crucial. Sometimes that might mean not meeting around a table at all, but doing things a little differently.

All together the culmination of our lived experiences can help us to shape better spaces and places by co-creating and refining designs. Designs which we hope will help us all to thrive.


bottom of page