Our 21 Participatory Design tools & Methods 

These 21 methods indicate a variety of ways in which people can get involved in the design of their built environment. Most of them stem from our experiences working with communities in Singapore, while others are inspired by community practices in other cities. They will continue to evolve over rigorous testing and fine-tuning through real-life projects locally. 


OUR 11 PRINCIPLES FOR DESIGNING WITH PEOPLE

 

1 | Build relationships 

Begin with the smallest possible unit. Instead of organising a party for the whole block, start with the people on your floor. It is often easier to get to know others in a smaller group.

2 | Leverage existing networks

Find a local partner that is already embedded within and trusted by the community. This could be the appointed grassroots leader, or Mrs Chia who volunteers at the seniors activity centre.

3 | Go to where the people are

Most people are not used to attending community meetings or workshops, and some can find them intimidating. But they may be willing to offer their input at the coffee shop. 


4 | Make information accessible 

Allow more people to understand it. Break down complex information with simpler words; communicate ideas visually or tangibly.

5 | Facilitate, not prescribe

Allow people to create and own solutions instead of asking them to ‘throw their ideas over the wall, we’ll deal with them and we’ll throw something back'.

 

6 | Enlist neutral facilitators

Facilitators should be objective, with no stake in the outcome of the activity, and be on an equal level with the participants. 


7 | Test and refine

Make the smallest possible version of a big idea. Find ways to test and improve it with the community. Focus on quick wins and concrete outcomes, while avoiding abstract conversations.

8 | Talk less, do more

Involve people in a hands-on manner by making and building with them. Sometimes people have ideas that they are not able to articulate as well through words.

9 | Do not present a perfect solution

Instead, intentionally create gaps for people to fill. A product that looks finished sends the message that the idea is final and cannot be changed. 


10 | See people for what they are good at

Encourage them to bring those skills and resources to the table. Everyone is an expert in some way, so trust that they know best what they want or need.

11 | Build capability over time

Provide training to develop people’s skills and knowledge on issues around them, and create opportunities for them to step up.

 

WHAT is participatory design?

 

Why participatory design?