Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

'Institutioning' Participatory Design within International Development Agencies

Lookup NU author(s): Sara Armouch


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


Participatory design (PD) stems from 'democratic' and 'participatory' cultures, especially as it is rooted in Scandinavian settings. It revolves around empathy, creativity, politics, ethics and criticality in the design of contextual and sustainable digital technologies to respond to pressing needs and social issues. In contrast, international development agencies often mimic existing hegemonic power dynamics when working with local communities. Approaches and processes adopted are mostly top-down even when it comes to innovation and do not necessarily echo the needs of community members. While social innovation might be already occurring within the local contexts in question, such agencies often fail to acknowledge and build on this when thinking about digital innovation. As a result, pushing for a PD agenda can be problematic and comes with its own set of challenges and tensions. The essence of PD relies on building a network, which brings in multiple stakeholders around common values and ethics, to ensure more structured and sustainable social innovation through digital and offline mediums within local communities. In this paper, I discuss three case studies conducted with youth volunteers from national organizations in Ethiopia, Lebanon and Denmark, which fall under the governance of an international development and humanitarian agency. While these contexts are strikingly different, they reflect parallels when it comes to challenges around participatory culture, with their own set of distinct features. From these case studies, I extrapolate key lessons for establishing a PD culture within such agencies and highlight tensions and limitations.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Armouch S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 17th CIRN Conference

Year of Conference: 2019

Pages: 35-42

Online publication date: 08/11/2019

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

Publisher: Community Informatics Researchers Network (CIRN)


Library holdings: Search Newcastle University Library for this item

ISBN: 9780648518815