Democracy, Participation and design

Proceedings of RSD6, Relating Systems Thinking and Design 6
Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Oslo, Norway  18th-20th October 2017
Keynote relevant for this session
Michael Hensel
Plenary relevant for this section
Section content 

Natalija Fisher and Jenny Whyte: 
Nova Agora: How an online platform deconstructs policy disputes to inform deliberative democracy

Niloufar Gharavi: 
Design With / For Now, Co-creation among design students and refugees. 

Giada Pezzi, Marco D’Urzo and Cristian Campagnaro: 
Systemic design and social marginalization 

Marie Lena Heidingsfelder, Florian Schütz and Martina Schraudner: 
Who participates in participatory research and innovation?

Michael Arnold Mages: 
Designing for Civic Conversations



Designing more democratically, deliberating more systemically: A conversation between Systemic Design and Democratic Deliberation
David Kahane and Alex Ryan
Systemic Design
Democratic Deliberation
Civic Involvement
Energy Systems
Climate Change

Systemic design is a practice for innovating in extremely complex situations. One of the authors recently implemented a systemic design approach to develop a 30 year energy strategy for the Government of Alberta, which has the third largest proven oil reserves in the world. The future of energy development and energy use in a province of 4 million people is not only complex, it is political. Democratic deliberation is a field of theory and practice aimed at improving political decision making and action by engaging diverse citizens. It emphasizes the norm that what touches all should be decided by all, uses mechanisms of selection and representation that reflect this norm, and works with a broad repertoire of method for designing and facilitating group processes. The other author convened the Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD), a place for citizens to pool diverse perspectives, weigh trade-offs, and set goals in deliberations that have informed climate action and government climate change policy, including the City of Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy. 

The application of systemic design and democratic deliberation to these two highly complex and entangled challenges of energy and climate prompted the two authors to bring the two fields into conversation and mutual exchange. Seen from the perspective of systemic design, the field of democratic deliberation misses opportunities to engage citizens more deeply in examining and critiquing the systems within which they are embedded. It engages citizens in dialogue, but not in generative co-design and co-production of a more desirable future. Conversely, when seen from the perspective of democratic deliberation, systemic design is elitist, engaging small non-representative groups of participants in decisions that affect millions of lives. With its emphasis on prototyping early and often, systemic design can be fast and loose on propositional argumentation and validation, making it difficult to justify why particular ideas were selected over others. 

This conversation resulted in framing two questions with the potential to advance both fields: 
* How can we make systemic design more democratic? 
* How can we make democratic deliberation more systemic? 
In September 2016, the authors helped to convene a small group of leading international practitioners of democratic deliberation and systemic design to address these two questions over a three day retreat at Brew Creek. The retreat examined both the practical and axiological compatibility of the two fields. It included a sharing and mashing up of the toolsets of the two fields as a response to the two convening questions. Three teams were then formed to develop a synthesized approach to the challenge of designing a multi-stakeholder design lab to engage stakeholders and citizens on energy futures in Alberta. This provided a concrete vehicle for testing how to design more democratically and deliberate more systemically. In this paper, we share some of the progress made during the retreat as well as open questions that remain important for us to engage.


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Nova Agora: How an online platform deconstructs policy disputes to inform deliberative democracy

Natalija Fisher and Jenny Whyte

Polarized discourse
Generative conversation
Deliberative democracy
Digital peace building
Flourishing democratic societies

The art of discourse is being lost. Policy controversies, such as debates on abortion and immigration, have become intractable disputes. The more positions polarize, the more a simple policy dispute moves towards policy conflict and ruptured public discourse. The 2016 American election is a prime example of polarized policy discourse which follows an upward trend of populist outcomes in Europe i.e. Brexit. A lack of diversity or mobility, filter bubbles and targeted advertising amplify polarization through feedback loops. 

Nova Agora is platform that deconstructs policy disputes by reframing how issues are expressed and interpreted, from positions to values, thereby facilitating connection, catharsis, and understanding. It provides a platform for deliberative democracy with a digital meeting place for people to be heard, to build empathy, and to transform. 

The tool will be developed in two phases. Phase one will allow users to explore and share linked positions and values. Phase two will allow people to connect online over shared visions and values. The platform can be viewed at





Design With / For Now, Co-creation among design students and refugees. 
How can design help the refugees to be considered resourceful instead of needy and provide solutions to value and boost their capabilities?

Niloufar Gharavi

desgin students
design schools

Figures from the UNHCR (2015), revealed that in the first six months of 2015, 137,000 refugees and migrants attempted to enter the EU, a rise of %83 on the same period in 2014.
As the UNHCR, notes this has placed enormous pressure on the European country’s infrastructure and made it increasingly difficult for refugees to access, work, shelter and education. On the other hand, the problem of refugees’ unemployment puts lots of pressure on the host countries to provide their everyday needs, despite them being capable of doing it themselves. Consequently, finding solutions to activate their wasting capacities and potentials is a demanding field to look into.
Therefore, this project aims to explore how design qualities and approaches could be applied to the specific context of refugee camps and how it could improve the everyday life of the facilities’ inhabitants. In particular, it intends to investigate how collaborative making and handcraft activities could be used as a way to bring together diverse actors, especially the refugees and design students, within camps and encourage them put into play their personal abilities in designing and building products for the camps.
As a collaboration among humanitarians and design schools, project is formed to benefit from the inclusive perspectives and tools of co-design and system oriented design in mapping and structuring the complex data in this field and designing series of workshops upon. In addition, the borrowed approaches from the in-transit studio which already demonstrates the values of such combinations, support the project with extended knowledge and understanding of the field.





Systemic design and social marginalization – Mapping and assessment of projects for the empowerment of people experiencing social exclusion

Giada Pezzi, Marco D’Urzo and Cristian Campagnaro

social marginality
social exclusion
design for social innovation
wicked problems
capabilities approach
This paper presents an application of the systemic approach for the mapping of projects that address the issue of social marginalization seen as object involved in the process of participation, social cohesion and economic development. 
The concept of marginality refers to an organization of society characterized by inequality in which some individuals are not integrated within the system, have little access to resources, and are unable to build strong social ties. For individuals, this condition is a situation close or equal to social exclusion. According to the definition of the sociologist Z. Bauman, who introduced the concept of “human waste” (Bauman, 2003) the marginal subject may be identified as unusable by society and thus relegated to its margins, like any other inanimate material waste meant for the landfill. 
In accordance with the Capabilities Approach developed by A. Sen and M. Nussbaum, for a person to be able to deeply express his/her existence, he/she must be recognized in their full complexity, with respect to both needs and potential. In this sense, anyone who is in a position to completely live one’s life and exercise their agency, is a resource not only for oneself but for society as a whole. This shows that people who are socially excluded may become key for the activation of virtuous processes both at individual and collective level. 
Starting from this view on marginality, we analysed how the fundamental principles of Systemic Design (Bistagnino, 2009; Jones, 2014) in the context of the approach to complex problems (Buchanan, 1992) can be an effective tool to investigate the issue of social exclusion and its possible solutions. 
In fact, Systemic Design highlights the distinctive features of the natural processes according to which there is no such thing as waste: any waste (output) within a system becomes a resource (input) of another system, starting new virtuous processes (Bistagnino, 2009). Similarly, an individual placed on the margins of society, from our point of view must be seen as a person full of resources and potential, whose abilities, skills, characteristics can be rehabilitated and positively reinserted into the community, instead of considering him/her as an “unnecessary, useless and unwanted person” (Bauman, 2003). 
The study was conducted through a desk review and the subsequent mapping of projects confronting social marginalization. While defining the specific field of research, we focused on today’s increasingly solid relationship between precarious and atypical working conditions and the creation of marginality. This relationship has led us to identify, as the field of analysis, the issue of poverty resulting from chronic unemployment or job precariousness within the European context. In this field, we looked for experiences that, beyond their specific purpose, could represent a starting point for the development of new community policies addressing social marginalization. 
We have therefore defined an analysis tool to highlight the impact of the projects on their contexts and also to enable a comparison between the different cases studied. It allowed us to: •Map (tangible and intangible) flows and the nature of relationships generated by the projects. The mapping exercise involved both the marginalized individual’s point of view and that of the community in which the project is developed. Throughout the whole process, we highlighted the connections between material culture, social fabric and the production and environmental characterization of the territory. •Identify those factors that allow the project to develop and remain self-sustainable from a social, environmental and economic perspective. Relatedly, determine factors that allow marginalized subjects to develop tangible and intangible resources that support the ability to attain self-sustainability during and after the participation in the project. •Evaluate the connections that the project activates within the territory, while particularly highlighting to which extent and how the characteristics of the context have determined the orientation of the project and, conversely, to which extent and how the project has affected these characteristics. •Evaluate the project’s ability to enhance the specific characteristics of those involved, to provide them with new skills and knowledge and to reintegrate them into society, allowing them to express themselves in their whole being. Additionally, assess the social, economic and environmental impact of the project on the community. The characterisation of the project outcome was also analysed for each project, with reference to the four design domains identified by Jones and van Patter (2009). These four are defined as “design for the creation of:” 
• Artefacts and communication 
• Products and services 
• Organizational transformations 
• Social transformations Within such analysis, the role played by the designer in the different project phases was highlighted, defining the level in which his/her competence has intervened in conceptual, organizational or productive terms. In conclusion, we observed how systemic design could represent an approach that enables a holistic view of the projects analysed, by allowing to a comprehensive elaboration of their complexity related to the involved individual and to the context within which the project is developed; generating an exhaustive insight into the whole process. 
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Who participates in participatory research and innovation? Requirements, motivating factors and expectations with regard to design-driven participatory approaches in agenda-setting processes

Marie Lena Heidingsfelder, Florian Schütz and Martina Schraudner.

Interdisciplinary research
public engagement
participatory agenda-setting
participatory design
empirical social research

Technology and society are intertwined, mutually dependent, co-evolutive and co-constructive. Involving societal actors in the development and the design of new technologies and new “socio-technical systems” (Ropohl, 1979) is thus a fundamental task and challenge in democratic societies. The current speed of technological advancement and the transformative potential of new and emerging technologies reveal the relevance of public input and the necessity for the development of new methods of public engagement (e.g. Jørgensen et al., 2009; Loveridge and Saritas, 2009). In response, international research funding agencies have increasingly prioritised projects that promote social responsibility and encourage participation of the public in research and development (National Science Foundation, 2008; European Commission, 2011, 2013). 

In this context, methods from participatory design can be used to integrate laypersons into the otherwise mainly expert-driven process of technology agenda-setting (Heidingsfelder et al., 2016) They encourage public reflection on potential ramifications of technological advances and equip social actors to fulfil a more fundamental role in the entire technology development process. 

Based on these assumptions, we realized a research project – Shaping Future – that aims at fostering public engagement in research and innovation. The main purpose was to enable laypersons to articulate their needs and expectations with regard to technological advances and to utilise their input in research-planning and agenda-setting processes. The project was realised and evaluated in an interdisciplinary team of designers and social scientists and included methods and techniques from both disciplines (such as storytelling, material speculation or prototyping from design research as well as quantitative and qualitative analyses). 

To address one particularly interesting aspect of democratic participation and policy innovation, our contribution will focus on the evaluation of fifty interviews with laypersons who participated in our project. What factors motivated them to bring in their perspectives? How did they experience the use of different design methods? Which requirements are important for participatory processes? And what kind of impact do they expect? To answer these questions, we conducted a qualitative content analysis (Mayring 2010) and identified different types of participants. 


European Commission (EC) (2011), The Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions: Horizon 2020 – The Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, Brussels. 

European Commission (EC) (2013), Options for Strengthening Responsible Research and Innovation: Report of the Expert Group on the State of Art in Europe on Responsible Research and Innovation, Brussels. 

Heidingsfelder, M.L., Schütz, F. and Kaiser, S. (2016), Expanding participation participatory design in technology agenda-setting, PDC 2016 Aarhus, Denmark. 

Jørgensen, M.S., Jørgensen, U. and Clausen, C. (2009), The social shaping approach to technology foresight, Futures, Vol. 41 No. 2, pp. 80–86. 

Loveridge, D. and Saritas, O. (2009), Reducing the democratic deficit in institutional foresight programmes: A case for critical systems thinking in nanotechnology, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Vol. 76 No. 9, pp. 1208–1221. 

Mayring, P. (2010), Qualitative Inhaltsanalyse. Grundlagen und Techniken, Beltz, Weinheim.

National Science Foundation (NSF) (2008), Broadening Participation at the National Science Foundation: A Framework for Action. 

Ropohl, G. (1979), Eine Systemtheorie der Technik: Zur Grundlegung der Allgemeinen Technologie, Suhrkamp, Frankfurt a. M. 


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Designing for Civic Conversations

Michael Arnold Mages

material interventions

Decreased perception of the importance of a democratically elected government has created a moment of crisis for proponents of liberal democracy. (Foa, Mounk, 2016) The recent rise of factually impoverished, emotionally overabundant political discourse in recent elections in the United Kingdom and the United States has infected the discourse of several major governments in Europe and the Americas. In spite of this concerning recent history, when examining discourse at the level of the individual, civic engagement events have shown that citizens can be trusted to discuss issues, share reasons and come to conclusions (Fishkin, Luskin 2005). Yet, the production of civic engagement events frequently neglects the influence of the system of stakeholders, and the power of material interventions in facilitating deliberative conversation. 
Civic conversation is a key precursor to civic change, and successful civic change requires engagement across a complex network of actors. A civic conversation is a key place for knowledge transfer, a moment where citizens are able to come to an understanding of the needs of the greater community, and a moment where they can articulate the challenges faced by their communities and the needs that these challenges entail. Citizens have the opportunity to hear the needs of their neighbors, and perhaps place their own needs in the context of a portfolio of need across the entire community. The moment of the civic conversation is where government actors have the opportunity to collate critical information to guide policymaking, and to develop a better understanding of the needs of the communities they serve. This understanding serves as a framework or heuristic to guide the creation and application of policy. 
There is an ongoing tension between the ideals of argumentation and commitment-making. Jeff Conklin (2006), following Horst Rittel (Rittel, Webber, 1973), has developed an understanding of the political conversation as mappable argument. Terry Winograd, Fernando Flores (1986) and Hugh Dubberly with Paul Pangaro (2009) have examined commitment-making between actors as a designed(able) system and social practice. Further, the challenge to Jurgen Habermas’ (1995) consensus-based deliberative democracy by Chantal Mouffe’s (2000) agonist democracy – an argument taken up more recently in the design discourse by Carl DiSalvo (2012) – leaves discourse lost in the gulf between the positions of conflict and consensus. However, civic discourse need not be framed as arguments, commitment-making, consensus-building or contestation. Looking to newer models of political discourse, protocol-structured conversation (Cavalier, 2011) deliberative community polling (Fishkin, Luskin 2005) and storytelling (Young, 2000) point to this fertile middle ground. The challenge of a contemporary design practitioner designing civic discourse is to create a conversation that evokes the richness of the lived experience of the participants, while maintaining a reflective distance such that participants are able to share their present needs, their hopes for the future, what they feel is the narrative that supports the positions that they hold. The civic participation event is the point where some of that richness can pass into the polity. 
Citizens involvement in civic life, and their ability to articulate need (Max-Neef et al., 1991) in a way that can inform policy creation is influenced by their experiences with organizations that are more a part of their everyday life than the more abstract construction of ‘government’. The needs of citizens are aggregated, focused, filtered and fixed through citizens’ involvement in neighborhood associations, community groups, churches, community and economic development corporations, business associations, community based and corporate news organizations, and the views of political agents at all levels. So developed, the individual’s understanding of civic life and the articulation of their needs intersect with the capacities of public authorities, public agencies, and government entities that provision for those needs. At the scope of municipal government, marshalling these mid-level actors – the trusted organizations – facilitates access to citizens and helps to ensure those citizens are motivated to participate. This set of complementary processes that influence the formation of attitudes, values, beliefs and policy are a dynamic system, and these event-based participations are a critical point of feedback within that system. 
This presentation will detail a set of three related case studies implementing an iterative approach to developing a design framework for deliberative community engagements through the lens of a model that I have developed: the high-stakes conversation. In the ground between the agonist approach of contestation or the approach of deliberative consensus, these engagements rely on deliberative techniques — structured protocols, prompts for reason-giving, storytelling, and conversation — and material interventions to support behaviors: planning, convening, orienting, informing, conversing, conflicting, reflecting, deciding. These engagements attempt to evoke a spectrum of thought that characterizes the convened communities’ thinking on a particular issue. Rather than treat the issues as disconnected from the network of community organizations, participation was actively sought in the framing of the issues from a wide network of community organizations, and organizers relied upon these organizations as partners throughout the process. Further, in an unintended consequence and beyond the scope of the event, this multilevel process has catalyzed further collaborative work in the participating organizations beyond the creation of the forums. 
These case studies examine the following projects through a reflective account of practice as a designer and the convening agent of these engagements. MyVA Communities is a collaboration between the United States Veterans Administration and a regional board of directors tasked to assess veteran’s needs in Southwestern Pennsylvania, develop a plan to increase coordination among the region’s nearly 1300 charitable organizations providing veteran’s services, and increase the sense of connectedness between veterans and their communities. Nearly 30 organizations were involved, with 16 contributing resources and viewpoints. The Environmental Charter School convened staff, faculty and administration in a deliberative engagement to redesign their compensation system. The Environmental Charter school engaged people at every level of their organization, as well as Human Resources and Social Justice scholars at two regional universities, and several local and national not-for-profit organizations. The City of Pittsburgh’s Affordable Housing Task Force convened citizens to determine where areas of greatest need were within the city, and what solutions citizens wanted to see in their neighborhoods. Participants included city council members, and representatives from 22 area businesses and not-for-profit organizations. 

Cavalier, R. (2011). The Conversational Turn in Political Philosophy. In Approaching Deliberative Democracy: theory and practice (1st ed., pp. 9–29). Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Mellon University Press. 
Conklin, J. (2006). Dialog Mapping. John Wiley & Sons. 
Disalvo, C. (2012). Adversarial Design (1st ed.). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press. 
Dubberly, H., & Pangaro, P. (2009). What is conversation? How can we design for effective conversation? Interactions Magazine, 1–9. 
Fishkin, J. S., & Luskin, R. C. (2005). Experimenting with a democratic ideal: Deliberative polling and public opinion. Acta Politica, 40(3), 284–298. 
Foa, R. S., & Mounk, Y. (2016). The Danger of Deconsolidation: The Democratic Disconnect. Journal of Democracy, 27(3), 5. 
Habermas, J. (1995). Reconciliation Through the Public use of Reason : Remarks on John Rawls’ Political Liberalism. The Journal of Philosophy, 92(3), 109–131. 
Max-Neef, M., Hopenhayn, M., & Elizalde, A. (1991). Human Scale Development. Conception, application and further reflections (1st ed.). New York, New York, USA: The Apex Press. Retrieved from 
Mouffe, C. (2000). Deliberative Democracy or Agonistic Pluralism? Political Science Series, (72), 17. 
Rittel, H., & Webber, M. (1973). Dilemmas in a general theory of planning. Policy Sciences, 4 (December 1969), 155–169. Retrieved from 
Winograd, T., & Flores, F. (1986). Understanding Computers & Cognition. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Corporation. 
Young, I. M. (2000). Inclusion and Democracy. (W. Kymlicka, D. Miller, & A. Ryan, Eds.) (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press Inc.


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