• Doctoral students

Connecting – Collaborating. A designerly mindset for working with places

Keywords: Participatory design, community participation, place development  

The main purpose of my licentiate thesis is to explore how we can approach and work with development processes in the complex nature of places. In a way that allow for an openness and a consideration of the uniqueness of the place, and in a way that allow for an inclusion of all stakeholders that will be affected by a development process. Here I take a stance from the design discipline, aiming to explore what meaning and role a participatory designerly approach can have in such a context. Both in regards to what meaning it has for the place, as well as what role it has in relation and in connection to other fields that are also involved with working with places.

This is done through an active exploration of such an approach in a real setting: the small destination of Dunga Beach in Kisumu by Lake Victoria, Kenya. And it is through this active exploration that the research questions or inquiry have emerged and been altered as we have moved through the process. Where we soon realised the importance of being open minded, to let the context and situation in Dunga: the place, people, timing and circumstances indicate the development of the process.

The process in Dunga has been held as intuitive, open and changeable as possible, in a process of planning, action and reflection (Schön, 1995). To get a holistic view there have been a zooming in and out between actions that involves a large number of participants from the community, to one to one discussions with for example a local tour guide or a craftsman in Dunga. In this particular place the aspect of empowering the community through the process have emerged as important. Where it is the local community and stakeholders that are to take ownership of the process. Which makes it interesting to explore the meaning of design in regards to empowerment and ownership.

The research is conducted in close collaboration with Eva Maria Jernsand (PhD student at the marketing department at the School of Business Economics and Law), and it is in the meeting between the field of design and marketing that the process has taken its form.

My licentiate studies are mainly funded by Urban Futures (MUF), an international center working with sustainable urban development with the aim to develop fair, green and dense cities. MUF has established five Local Interaction Platforms (LIPs) around the world, with the aim to produce knowledge and practical results in close cooperation between academia, and society. One of the LIPs is in Kisumu, Kenya (KLIP). With KLIP as base, senior researchers and PhD students from Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Maseno University and University of Gothenburg cooperate in building knowledge networks with local stakeholders in Kisumu and it´s environs. The overall theme of sustainable urban development has at KLIP been narrowed down to two focus areas, namely marketplaces and ecotourism.

More info here: http://www.mistraurbanfutures.org/en/node/154

Helena Kraff

helena.kraff [at] hdk.gu.se
Research student in Design, Leave of Absence